Kentucky Onsite Wastewater Association

An unusual three-acre lot near Frankfort, Kentucky, offers a perfect setting for real-life training. There, on the grounds of the Bluegrass Community and Technical College, are displays that generally aren’t part of the usual school grounds – several septic tanks, a lagoon system, alarm system displays, lateral leach lines, and advanced onsite treatment units. It’s septic system heaven.
The displays have a practical purpose for the contractors and regulators who need annual certification hours. After all, the best education often takes place outside of a classroom, not in one.  These displays at the college form the centerpiece of the Kentucky Onsite Wastewater Association’s training center.
KOWA President Todd LaFollette said several hundred people a year receive required training and certification hours through the association, many at the technical college. KOWA also provides training through the state at health departments and other convenient locations for those who cannot make the trip to the association’s training center near the state capitol.
“Our primary role is training,” Lafollette explained. In addition to holding classes at the center and around the state, each year almost 200 people take advantage of certification opportunities at KOWA’s annual conference.
KOWA claims about 450 members, including contractors, engineers, inspectors, manufacturers and others who deal with all aspects of the onsite wastewater industry, said LaFollette. The association has one employee. LaFollette is President, and David Ward is Vice President. Directors are Doug Feyfried, Lynn Brashear, Randall Carrier, Jerry Slone, Bob McCandless, Chris Edwards, and Jamie Reading.
As the Environmental Health Director for Oldham County near Louisville, LaFollette issues permits, conducts inspections, and handles complaints. The value of an association such as KOWA is that members and others can get the certification and support they need, whether it is through training hours, educational brochures, or other information. For example, KOWA provides homeowners’ guides, distributed through local health departments, regarding onsite wastewater systems. The association also prints and distributes booklets that contain information about state regulations.
KOWA has been instrumental in supporting changes to Kentucky’s onsite sewage industry regulations. In 2002, the onsite code was rewritten, and one of KOWA’s board directors was on the committee. LaFollette said another re-write likely will be done in the next couple of years, and KOWA again will be involved to offer suggestions and support. “We do anticipate being a part of that panel again,” he confirmed.
As for the strength of Kentucky’s onsite regulations, LaFollette stated that they are better than most in that region of the country. “Kentucky has an excellent onsite organization from the state level. The code is actually a very good code.” He continued, “We’ve had people from other states who have told us that Kentucky has some of the strongest regulations in this part of the country.
“For example, our systems are sized very appropriately for the various uses, whether they are residential or commercial,” LaFollette said. “Another thing they like about our code is it does have strong local support. The state regulations are well written, so you don’t have to twist or turn to convince a county prosecutor to pursue a case.
“It’s not perfect; there’s always room for improvement,” he added.
With its training center, state-wide certification opportunities, and public educational brochures, KOWA is a strong presence in the state onsite wastewater industry.
“I don’t think there are any perfect regulations out there,” LaFollette admitted. “But we have a pretty strong situation in the state of Kentucky. We’re pretty proud of it.”

Story by Marie Elium

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