This Isn’t NOWRA’s First Rodeo

NOWRAThe National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) will again host it’s annual backhoe rodeo competition, or National Backhoe Roe-D-Hoe®, at the pumper show. If you haven’t been by their booth during one of the shows, it’s quite a sight. Contractors participate in a series of games to see how well they can maneuver equipment.

“Participants play three games with a backhoe,” explains Eric Casey, Executive Director at NOWRA. “For basketball, they have to pick up three basketballs with the bucket and drop the balls through a net. For bowling, they must thread a dowel attached to the bucket through a grommet secured to a bowling pin and drop it into a bucket. Another game is to pick up a golf ball by a string and sit it on a traffic cone. It sounds easy, but you have to get it to stop swinging.”

More than 200 individuals competed last year. This year, NOWRA hosted several state competitions and those winners will compete at this year’s pumper show as well as others that want to try and make it to the finals. The overall winner will be chosen from the finalist round and will receive a title belt and a $1,000 cash prize.

Although the rodeo is certainly a favorite, it isn’t NOWRA’s only arena. The association has several goals this year to help it’s state affiliates and individual members, which include regulators, manufacturers, operational and maintenance, pumpers, designers, engineers, and installers as well as members from the academic community.

Roughly 80 percent of their members are contractors and most of those are installers. So, one of their goals for 2012 is to expand and optimize their website, which includes a septic locator. This expanded and robust database helps to connect consumers with a NOWRA member. The site will also feature a resource library with a wide range of topics for consumers and industry practitioners.

The association has plans to roll out a distance learning platform which will allow state affiliates access to a turn-key platform for training, public outreach and internal planning with a whiteboard function.

“We are developing an in-person training program as well,” says Casey. “It will have a core curriculum covering the essential elements of system design, but we will be able to adapt the training to comply with specific state regulations.”

NOWRA will continue to be a champion in the DC lobbying arena by representing the industry to the EPA, USDA, and Congress, as well as utilize their strategic alliances with other national organizations. “Our goal is to secure more federal funding for the onsite industry,” says Casey. “Our piece of the federal funding pie is low. Onsite wastewater represents roughly 25 percent of the nation’s wastewater infrastructure, but only gets 2/10 of 1 percent of EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF). Put another way, for every penny our industry receives in SRF funding, the central sewer industry receives five dollars. That needs to change.”

NOWRA and the EPA’s Decentralized MOU Group are developing a position paper on the many benefits of onsite systems. “The audience for this document, which is really more of a marketing piece, is individuals who are involved at the local level in making wastewater infrastructure decisions,” says Casey. “Onsite wastewater technology is highly scalable, so it can be used at the residential, commercial, subdivision and community levels. Right now, it is an underused technology. We’d like to see more local government officials, developers, and engineering firms take a closer look at the economic and environmental benefits provided by onsite technologies.”

The association has partnered with the Water Quality Association to conduct a rigorous, science-based research study on the impact that salt-based water softeners have on septic system operation. “A number of companies that manufacture Advanced Treatment Units strongly believe that salt-based water softeners compromise the ability of tanks to properly treat effluent, reducing their effectiveness,” says Casey. “The results of this study will hopefully bring some closure to this issue.”

Regulatory reform is another arena where they are looking to be a champion. Among the association’s goals for this year is to create a task force to develop a plan of action for working with state and local jurisdictions to encourage them to use the NOWRA Model Code as a basis for their regulatory approach.
“Too many state and local regulations follow a prescriptive approach to regulating onsite systems by defining specific systems that can be used for a specific soil regime,” says Casey. “Even if better solutions exist, they can’t be used if they are not on the “list.” Besides hog-tying the homeowner and system designer, this approach stifles innovation by making it horrendously expensive for industry manufacturers to get approvals for new system designs because they have to get state-by-state approvals.”

NOWRA’s Model Code outlines a performance-based approach to onsite regulation. Under this approach, the regulator establishes the requirements and standards for wastewater treatment, leaving the system designer greater flexibility in designing a treatment regime. “We think this will spur innovation, better serve the taxpayer, and reduce the costs associated with introducing new technologies and approaches in this industry,” says Casey.

With NOWRA flexing it’s muscle in so many arenas this year, it’s members are sure to come out winners. For more information on NOWRA and how it’s helping the onsite industry, you can view their site at www.nowra.org.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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