Florida Onsite Wastewater Association

The upcoming annual convention and trade show hosted by the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association (FOWA) is a family friendly event. The convention will take advantage of exceptional trainers and resources, as well as take advantage of some of Florida’s family-oriented accommodations. And why not? Shouldn’t it be fun for everyone?

“It is very important to FOWA to make its convention family friendly,” says Sherrill Parr, Director of Financial & Business Management for the 500-member association and one of three paid staff members, “So we include events that all age groups can enjoy.”

The convention will be held August 4-6, at the Volusia County Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, kicking off with a fishing tournament Thursday morning, followed by an awards luncheon. Friday is FOWA’s Family Fun Day and dinner at Daytona Lagoon, a water and amusement park right across the street from the convention center.

Daytona Lagoon also hosts the Saturday morning breakfast and annual meeting, which is when the FOWA board members are sworn in. Everyone gathers for a final big bash on Saturday evening to end the convention with a bang. The annual “Band at the Beach” event, held beachside at the Hilton Hotel, offers a live band for dancing and fireworks over the water to dazzle every age. “It’s a very nice way to close out the convention,” says Parr.

She is quick to describe a strong program of panels and courses, lest you think the convention is all fun and games.“This year’s education program encompasses a nice variety of onsite industry topics with a little something for everyone,” she says, “Thursday’s sessions focus on the future of septage, starting with a round-table discussion. That panel is comprised of septic contractors, representatives from the Florida Department of Health (DOH), the National Association of Wastewater Transporters (NAWT) and other industry specialists.”

Convention participants can also attend grease trap pumping demonstrations and a tour of a local site using land application of septage. Presentations on Friday and Saturday include a wide range of topics, including:

• Safety
• Innovative Technologies
• What Is a Qualified Service Provider?
• Proper Pump Design & Selection
• What People Think about Advanced Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems

Master Contractors have an opportunity to earn six CEU credit hours, including a two-hour refresher course on the design of low-pressure distribution systems. “We expect about 400 industry-related guests, plus their families, to visit the exhibit hall and approximately 300 students to attend the CEU courses,” Parr estimates. Of those, she expects 15 to 20 percent to be non-members, who are warmly welcomed and encouraged to attend.

Key Benefits of Membership
There’s more to FOWA than the convention and trade show.“We proactively respond to our members’ needs through education, legislation and communication,” says Roxanne Groover, FOWA Executive Director, “By staying abreast of upcoming trends in the onsite industry, we are better able to bring current, informative and practical classes to our members. By actively participating in ongoing legislation and rule-making, we stay involved in the many aspects that affect our members and their businesses.

Groover knows the importance of providing accurate, up-to-date information to their members, and the association uses email, faxes, newsletters and the FOWA website to keep their members informed, as well as, Groover says, “Allows them to be active participants in the association that supports their industry.”

Statewide courses also allow members to be more active participants, and FOWA now offers many of their courses in locations across the state so that students can attend classes locally and save on travel expenses. The classes are held in DOH offices, extension offices, even a local church, as long as it is convenient and accommodates the students. The association also offers a web-based course with a proctored exam.

Course evaluations completed by the participants assist the staff in revising classes and scheduling new courses that meet the members’ needs, and instructors are a mix of onsite professionals who volunteer their time and expertise. In addition, FOWA offers an education scholarship each year for high school seniors or college freshmen who are immediate family of its members.

Besides discounted education courses, members receive a listing in the printed and online membership directory, free website link or their ad on the FOWA website, industry news announcements and legislative updates, and access to complete FOWA members’ contact info on the website. They also receive ten issues per year of FOWA’s newsletter magazine, The Voice.

Legislative Advocacy
FOWA recently applied for a SR 319 grant through the Department of Environmental Resources in order to develop an onsite management pilot program to help educate homeowners, local government officials and the state legislature as to the importance of septic system maintenance. “Onsite system management has been a key topic in Florida over the last two years,” says Groover, “The state has battled in the legislature on the best way to implement such a program.”

If the grant is awarded, a community of 100 homeowners would receive the pilot and be studied to determine the program’s benefit on the community, Florida’s waters and the homeowner’s investment in their homes. Groover says,“I’m extremely proud of our legislative and rulemaking efforts. By staying active in both of these arenas we are helping to shape the future of Florida’s onsite industry.”

How might Groover improve FOWA if she and her staff had more time and more money in the association’s coffers? “Given the availability of proper funding and staff,” she says, “a larger campaign could be mounted to educate Floridians about common misperceptions regarding septic systems and the benefits they provide when designed, installed and maintained properly. Hopefully, with education would come action: septic systems would receive the same funding opportunities as central sewer systems, homeowners would engage in responsible maintenance of their systems, and legislators would truly understand those systems for which they enact laws.”

To learn more about FOWA visit www.FOWAonsite.com or call 863.956.5540.

Story by Anne Biggs

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