Pennsylvania Septage Management Association Focuses on Training, Advocacy and Relationships

The Pennsylvania Septage Management Association (PSMA) has put its energies into developing a robust certification program, vital relationships with regulators and lawmakers, and an annual conference and trade show that serves the diverse needs of its members, as well as many nonmembers, across the state and beyond.

PSMA is a 240-member organization of companies and individuals in the pumping, installing, repair and maintenance, distributor and manufacturer industries, as well as inspecting aspects of the septage industry. Headquartered in Harrisburg, the group’s efforts on behalf of its members are overseen by a strong working board of volunteers and a paid professional association management staff of eight led by administrative director Lisa Herron.

“Our members volunteer their time to better the industry by building positive relationships and working closely with industry regulators like the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),” says Herron, “Besides giving us a voice in deciding future regulations, these relationships also show legislators, other industry professionals and the general public that PSMA members are both knowledgeable and trustworthy experts.”

PSMA was established in 1986 by a few key industry leaders in western Pennsylvania who had begun meeting informally on a regular basis to discuss industry issues. Eventually, the group decided that a state-wide association would help join everyone in Pennsylvania in the industry and focus their efforts. Originally called the Pennsylvania Liquid Waste Haulers Association, the name was later changed to what it is today.

Training and Certification
“We run our own certification programs,” says Stacy L. Henninger, PSMA’s Communications Director, “It’s one of our greatest strengths.” Besides an annual spring training in Reading, PSMA holds training programs at January’s annual conference in Lancaster and at locations across the state in July, September and October.

“The board’s education committee oversees the trainings offered by PSMA,” says Henninger, “They are always working to improve them and make sure the training meets our members’ needs.” With attendees’ positive feedback, the support of the state DEP and that regulatory agency’s recognition of PSMA-certified inspectors, the association is confident that its programs are up-to-date, accurate and effective.

While the majority of attendees to PSMA trainings and the annual conference are members, Henninger emphasizes that the annual conference and trade show as well as the Confined Space and Competent Person courses are open to nonmembers. In addition, she says, “New Jersey doesn’t have an association, so we offer training for those people.”

PSMA certification courses include Basic Onlot Wastewater Treatment System Inspection (PSMA/NOF-101), required for new trainees, and Advanced Onlot Wastewater Treatment System Inspection (PSMA/NOF-102). Experienced inspectors who have completed these two certifications and entered the Continuing Education Program can renew their certifications with regular participation in the Standards Refresher, which focuses on changes in inspection standards as well as understanding, interpreting and drawing conclusions from field operations and data. Those who complete Vacuum Truck Technician Training and pass the exam become Certified NOF/NAWT/PSMA Vacuum Truck Technicians. PSMA’s Confined Space Course develops skills for authorized entrants, attendants and entry supervisors for non-permit-required and permit-required confined spaces. The Competent Person Course provides safety and awareness training to those who work in and around trenches, excavations
or construction sites.

Collaboration and Relationships
Henninger says, “Our strong relationship with the DEP is a huge benefit to the association and its members. We are able to help influence policies and have the ear of the industry regulatory agency on a regular basis.”

And the partnerships PSMA has developed have had a ripple effect. For example, Henninger cites a collaborative training for which PSMA is seeking state DEP approval, thus qualifying it as the required training for installers in Pennsylvania.

“PSMA and Pennsylvania Association of Sewage Enforcement Officers (PASEO) have joined forces to develop an Installation of Wastewater Treatment Systems training course,” she says, “Using materials developed by the Consortium of Institutes for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment, students will be qualified to take the Certified Installer of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (CIOWTS) credential, which is offered and administered by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).” Because the training is endorsed by more than one association, it receives greater buy-in across the industry and earns greater respect for PSMA’s entire training program.

Conference and Trade Show
Not to be discounted, are the relationships between members that are forged and renewed at the Pennsylvania Decentralized Wastewater Conference & Trade Show. According to the conference materials, this is where members and nonmembers, alike, come to “learn from experts in the industry, network with their colleagues and re-energize for the new year,” according to Henninger.

The 2011 event was presented by PSMA at the Lancaster County Convention Center in cooperation with National Association of Wastewater Transporters (NAWT), Pennsylvania Association of Professional Soil Scientists (PAPSS) and Pennsylvania Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (POWRA).

An interesting addition to last January’s trade show, where companies show off the best of what they have to offer, was a hands-on activity, the Backhoe Roe-D-Hoe competition, set up by IHI Compact Excavator Sales. Backhoe operators up to the challenge demonstrated their skills by trying to shoot hoops, pick up a spare ball and chip one into the cup—with a backhoe. Henninger adds, “The other big change for this show was that DEP approved, for the first time, the availability of Sewage Enforcement Officer (SEO) credits.”

Other Benefits of Membership
PSMA’s mission is “to protect Pennsylvania’s citizens and our industry through sound management, proper maintenance, and environmentally conscious disposal of wastewater.” Membership in PSMA is more than the trainings, advocacy, networking with other industry professionals for support, and information, and the annual conference and trade show. It also means a listing among other member companies on the association’s website, a quarterly newsletter filled with industry news and updates, as well as announcements and member information, regional meetings focusing on local news and needs, and use of the PSMA logo in any marketing materials.

One important benefit Henninger cites as important to members is the payment of each member’s annual $100 dues to the association. Another benefit that members rate highly is the association’s payment of members’ annual $100 dues to the Pennsylvania One Call System, the non-profit organization that helps protect underground facilities from excavation. “All of the board members are volunteers who are in charge of different committees,” says Henninger, “The membership committee’s sole job is to put a plan in place for recruiting members, as well as people to serve on the board and its committees.”

“The greatest aspect of working for an association like PSMA,” adds Herron, “is being able to see the passion and dedication that our members convey every day for what they do and the industry as a whole. PSMA is a strong, intelligent and industry-focused association.”

For more information contact PSMA at 717.763.7762 or visit

Story by Anne Biggs

Please follow and like us:

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Follow by Email