Association Insider: Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association Creates POWTS Training & Certification

While it may be true that too much government regulation gets in the way, the opposite state of affairs can bring its own problems that can affect quality of life. Take, for instance, Wisconsin’s lack of protocols for the inspection of POWTS—private onsite wastewater treatment systems—a lack that occurs even though an increasing number of governmental jurisdictions are requiring time-of-sale inspections.

In the face of that glaring shortcoming, homeowners, home buyers, and professionals connected to the onsite wastewater treatment industry can be grateful to the Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association for its ongoing efforts to teach inspectors how to evaluate existing septic systems.

WOWRA, whose 200 members form a statewide association comprised of septic system installers, designers, manufacturers, soil testers, engineers, soil scientists, and regulators, has created a comprehensive training program to educate trade professionals on the proper techniques for conducting evaluations of existing POWTS. 

According to the association’s website, the innovative two-day WOWRA-Certified Existing POWTS Evaluators’ course and certification program “provides much-needed uniformity…for determining whether a septic system is operating properly or is in need of repair or replacement.”

With replacement costs potentially in the tens of thousands of dollars, WOWRA feels Wisconsin’s lack of regulations—currently anyone can perform evaluations, regardless of qualifications—puts at risk those most impacted by real estate transactions.

As Ann Gryphan, manager for the 36-year-old organization, tells Realtors®, “Your clients will want to have their system evaluated by a highly trained professional before the time of sale for their own financial protection.”

Gryphan notes that the two-day program includes both classroom and hands-on field training. The course concludes with an exam and with certification for those who demonstrate the knowledge and abilities necessary to provide this important service. The course covers ethics, policies, and requirements; evaluator/client relationships and responsibilities; safety; and evaluation procedures, from data collection through the drafting of final reports. In addition, procedures for evaluations are presented in three tiers, ranging from recent, well-documented POWTS to “unknown” POWTS identified by available system information.

WOWRA has presented one course per year around the state since the program was initiated in 2007, including one in Sturgeon Bay in September 2007, Black River Falls in May 2008, Minocqua in May 2009, and Waukesha in May 2010.

“To date, seventy individuals have successfully completed the course and passed the exam and are now WOWRA-Certified Existing POWTS Evaluators,” says Gryphan.

WOWRA’s seven-person board of directors encourages members to participate in the monthly board-staff teleconferences, during which they discuss regulatory and legislative issues that need attention, marketing and grassroots campaigns, and planning for their educational programs and their annual convention, which is scheduled for January 27 through 29 in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

“We thought there was need for more uniformity and training for the POWTS evaluations,” explains Gryphan, who adds that WOWRA has been speaking to people who would benefit from protocols; they also recently sent an article to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, trying to create a demand for certification.

“Although many do not require septic evaluations at the time of the property transfer, some seven or eight counties do. As the number grows, it is more important than ever to have well-trained professionals following a uniform protocol to provide this service.”

WOWRA encourages homeowners and Realtors to seek out WOWRA-Certified Existing POWTS Evaluators to be assured of a timely, honest, and professional POWTS evaluation. The listing of certified evaluators can be found on the WOWRA website,

For more information:
Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association
16 N. Carroll Street, Suite 900
Madison, WI 53703



By Anne Biggs

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