Virginia Onsite Wastewater and Recycling Association

The Virginia Onsite Wastewater and Recycling Association (VOWRA) started sometime around 1995/1996 in response to there being no industry collective to serve the needs of the private sector. Bob Mayer, with American Manufacturing, attended a trade show in Florida. While there, he met with representatives of the National Onsite Wastewater and Recycling Association (NOWRA) and brought the idea back to Virginia where he called a statewide meeting to share his idea. Two hundred people attended that meeting, and the decision was made to start a Virginia chapter. Thus, VOWRA was born.

Association president, Pam Pruett, says the mission of VOWRA is, “To advance and promote all aspects of the onsite wastewater industry.” VOWRA achieves this by actively supporting training efforts for everyone involved in the onsite industry. They hold business and educational meetings with nationally recognized speakers and are cooperating with and assisting the commonwealth in the development of onsite wastewater education centers throughout the state.

VOWRA has 323 regular members, 14 group members and 54 affiliate members. The group members are not eligible to vote, but the group membership enables companies to have more people in the association at a lower membership rate. There are 13 Board Members who sit on VOWRA’s Board of Directors, which is made up of engineers, soil scientists, regulators, manufacturers and contractors. The Executive Board is then nominated and voted on by the Board of Directors.

The state of Virginia now requires mandatory licensing for all onsite systems, which affects evaluators and designers, as well as maintenance providers. From that, a need for additional training became a requirement, and VOWRA fulfilled that need by providing training and Continued Education Units (CEU). Pruett says, “We’re trying to be the go-to group for a lot of that training.”

VOWRA is also involved with the rewriting of regulations and has active input with bills directly affecting their industry. “We’ve chosen to be very actively involved,”
Pruett says proudly. One person even volunteers his time and attends every meeting where an onsite issue is on the table. And Pruett says volunteers are who make VOWRA function—the Executive Director is the only paid member and the rest dedicate their free time toward helping make a difference in their industry.

Currently, engineering is required for all systems, and VOWRA has become involved with the engineering bills that are affecting Virginia’s licensing and maintenance workers. VOWRA are also assisting in rewriting the onsite sewage disposal regulations and alternative discharge regulations.

As it stands now, the Virginia Department of Health evaluates sites and has the ability to issue permits. There is a bill wanting to take the Virginia Department of Health out of the process and put it into the hands of the private sector. VOWRA is assisting with the transfer. They also have a representative who sits on the Virginia Department of Health’s Sewage Advisory Board, which discusses regulations and policies. The VOWRA rep is in place to make recommendations and vote on behalf of the association.

The Virginia Department of Health will also be at VOWRA’s annual conference to give information and updates about licensures and regulations. This year’s conference, held in Richmond, will provide members with a number of networking opportunities, in addition to a significant amount of training. The purpose, Pruett says, “is to really try and rally our organization.”

For more information about VOWRA, visit www.vowra.org or call 540.465.9623.

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