Getting Back to Basics

Delaware Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (DOWRA)With more than 100 miles of shoreline, Delaware, our second smallest state, has numerous regulations to preserve its beautiful beaches and water. Delaware’s beaches have been named “Best Secret Beaches” by Travel + Leisure Magazine.

Delaware only covers 2,489 square miles, and of that, 535 are water. Since the small state is surrounded by so much water, regulations for the onsite industry are stringent. The Delaware Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (DOWRA) works hard to keep its more than 300 members up-to-date on regulations that affect them as well as provide the continuing education hours that they need to keep their licenses.

One of the ways members can get their credit hours is to attend DOWRA’s annual conference at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, October 15 and 16. More than 50 exhibitors are expected as well as a two-tract presentation schedule and numerous break-out sessions to accommodate DOWRA’s diverse membership. Attendees come from several states to learn more about the septic industry and take advantage of the hotel’s discounted rooms and many amenities.

National speakers Jim Anderson and Dave Gustafson will talk about regulations that are affecting Delaware to bring members up to speed. “During the two days of training, we’ll cover everything that has to do with onsite,” says Hollis Warren, president of DOWRA. “The Department of Transportation and OSHA will be there. We will also have sessions on electrical in addition to the break-out sessions for engineers and on soil.”

Dover Downs Hotel and Casino boasts an award-winning casino with nearly 2,500 machines and electronic table games, 41 tables and an 18-table Crown Royal Poker Room. If you get tired of the casino, then you might choose to take in a horse race or play a game of golf. But, if you are looking for a real thrill, come a day early so you can thunder around the Dover International Speedway.

There’s no need to worry about food, because DOWRA is known for the wonderful meals they serve throughout the conference including the nice conference dinner. “Everyone always talks about the food,” says Warren. “Even the vendors talk about the food. We always provide a nice lunch and a buffet dinner with seafood.”

You’ll also want to compete in the back hoe rodeo. Last year, Ricky Webb, the winner of the DOWRA conference back hoe rodeo went on to win the national competition. This year, DOWRA will also feature an open mike session to allow members to bring up topics and make suggestions. “We want to give our members more of what they want and listen to what they want to do,” says Warren.

But, when it isn’t conference time, DOWRA board members are busy attending fairs and trade shows to promote the onsite industry and bring back best practices to members. As past president of the National Association of Wastewater Transporters, Warren had the opportunity to travel around the country and talk to people about the different ways they do things.

This is Warren’s first year as president of DOWRA. “After awhile, you do things the same way for years and it gets stale, so we want to try new things,” says Warren. “We’re looking into working more with suppliers and maybe having them come in to do a seminar and maybe a hands-on demonstration.”

Just like the theme of this year’s conference, “Going Back to the Basics”, DOWRA is interested in focusing on things we learned a long time ago. “For example, being friendly to customers and quality versus quantity,” says Warren. “That’s something we learned, but when the building boom hit, it was crazy. Two years ago, a homeowner might have to wait a year to get a system installed because demand was so high, but now, a homeowner will not only get their system installed, but also hear a wide range of prices.”

Without a sales tax, Delaware became a haven for retirees. “We had a lot of people from New York and Pennsylvania retiring here,” says Warren. “Prices took off and for a ¼ acre of land, people were paying $125,000. A 100-acre farm would go for $10 million. Because the state is so small, you get the best of both worlds. You get to live in a rural setting, but cities are close by.”

“Unlike the rest of the state, the bust didn’t affect the Washington crowd much,” says Warren. “Our guys still try to find work around the beaches, like Rehoboth, where the rich have bought homes.”

When new legislation is proposed that DOWRA doesn’t feel is right for their industry, they inform their members and lobby against it. Currently, there are proposed changes to Delaware regulations governing design, installation and operation of onsite wastewater treatment, and disposal systems. There have been heated debates over the proposed changes and voting will likely be delayed until after the November elections. But, when the debate continues, DOWRA will be there to lobby for the onsite industry and keep members updated.

If you are interested in learning more about DOWRA’s getting back to basics initiative, to become a member, attend their conference, or learn more about regulations, visit site

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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