Ohio Onsite Wastewater Association

Ohio Onsite Wastewater Association (OOWA) started in the mid 1990s and now has 154 private and public sector members representing all areas of the industry from installers and engineers, soil scientists and septage haulers, manufacturers, vendors, registered sanitarians, and municipal entities. And that’s only naming a few. Eleven board members meet regularly in a central location in Columbus, Ohio, and the organization’s administrative assistant Susan Ruehl oversees all the OOWA’s communications and activities.

OOWA offers its members an annual conference and expo, a quarterly newsletter, as well as a website complete with links and resources. They also offer two $500 grants awarded annually toward continuing education to one member in each the private and public sectors of the wastewater field. That education can be with
OOWA or another organization, such as the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) or the annual Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo. OOWA also began reinforcing the association’s identity by providing adhesive OOWA membership logos that can be affixed to a company’s vehicles.

“We collaborate well with the private and public sectors,” says Jim Charville, OOWA president. For example, OOWA has a member sitting on the board of the Ohio Association of Waste Transporters. “No other group in Ohio covers the same aspects of the industry that we do,” Charville notes. OOWA also works closely with national groups, staying abreast of current legislation and trends. The educational topics they offer show that advantage.

Charville believes, “Since we have a large diversity of members, we offer a wide variety of educational topics at the annual conference, which is typically a two-day event. We do offer advanced education, taught by professors from Ohio State and other professionals, depending on the topic.” Nonmembers are invited to attend the annual conference as well as any other educational programs the OOWA presents throughout the year. “We try to change from year to year, choosing topics that fit with upcoming new regulations,” he says.

OOWA has been taking a prominent role in the wastewater industry, especially in regards to new laws and their interpretation. In the past year, OOWA stayed on top of the new rules coming down from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) for vehicles that are over 10,000 pounds, which affects most of OOWA’s installers.

Senate Bill 110, effective September 17, 2010, made changes to the sewage law for Ohio and authorized the Public Health Council to adopt new rules for sewage treatment systems. Because rules can be adopted no sooner than January 1, 2012, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has over a year to work with shareholders and interested parties to develop consensus rules for sewage treatment systems that meet the requirements of ORC Chapter 3718 and the new requirements of SB 110. That’s where the Rules Advisory Committee and OOWA come in.

Five OOWA members sit on the 51-member Rules Advisory Committee, Mike Rowan, Jim Charville, Doug Ruehl, Kenny Evans and Joe Gutoskey. “These five are voted on by the board and some of the membership for their industry experience. Taken altogether, the five members represent the viewpoints and knowledge of every aspect of the sewage industry. We’re the OOWA members’ voice,” Charville says.

Both OOWA and ODH are committed to keeping all interested parties informed and involved as the rules formation progresses. In addition, OOWA members are invited to express their opinions on a particular topic or present a paper based on their area of expertise. These may be presented directly to ODH or sent to OOWA, who will forward them on the members’ behalf.

“The biggest issue,” Charville notes, “is probably the difference in rules from county to county. Currently, they could be totally different. There’s a big push for state-wide regulations. Because we’re influential on the Rules Advisory Committee—and that is part of the state-wide rules—we hope to influence that and how they affect the haulers and other registered service providers.” Charville believes that once the new state-wide rules go into effect, and the need for state-wide education becomes apparent, OOWA’s membership will increase.

Besides the annual conference, which is moving to the downtown Columbus Arena
District in 2012, OOWA has a lot to offer. “As an organization that’s diversified throughout the state, we look for strong membership,” Charville says, “We ask for input from our members regarding upcoming events, what they would like to see or do. It works on collective opinion: we vote on everything. We offer a nice venue for our annual conference—and we’re looking, in the future, to be able to set up meetings in different quadrants of the state.”

Sounds like a “hoo-rah” for OOWA.

For more on the Ohio Onsite Wastewater Association:
672 State Route 247, Manchester, Ohio 45144
866.843.4429 or OOWA@OhioOnsite.org / www.ohioonsite.org

Story by Anne Biggs

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