Virginia Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association Preps Members for New Era

The onsite industry in Virginia is going through a major change as it licenses its constituents. Beginning in 2010, soil scientists, installers, operators and others involved in the industry were given an interim license and 48 months to obtain the required continuing education credits needed to sit for the licensing exam. The changes affect not only VOWRA’s approximately 400 members, but also the entire onsite industry in Virginia.

The test varies depending on which license the person is trying to obtain. It usually has between 60-75 questions. Test-takers have an 1½ to 2 hours to take the test. It is open book and VOWRA gives their students a binder to take with them.

“VOWRA is conducting license exam prep classes to help everyone pass,” says VOWRA President Cody Vigil. “So far, we’ve had about 100 people sit for the test. Not all have passed. There are probably 700 to 800 that still need to take it. One guy had to take it seven times before he passed.” The classes are open to members and nonmembers alike, although members get a discount.

Onsite professionals seem to be feeling the crunch. “At our annual conference last year, we helped 60 or so members prep for the exam. In the last three weeks, we’ve helped more than 100. With the interim licenses expiring, everyone is scrambling to get their training and sit for the test. It’s the biggest change in the state and many of these contractors haven’t been in a classroom environment in a long time. We are even going over basic math because some of them haven’t had to do that either.”

Annual Conference

Members will have the opportunity to attend the exam prep class at VOWRA’s annual conference October 6-8 in Roanoke. “We will have the exam prep class plus three other tracks of classes going at the conference,” says Vigil. “We’ll have tracks for soils and design, installers and operators.”

The conference will feature 40 to 50 exhibitors and the NOWRA’s Roe D Hoe event. “We usually have about 250 attendees and guest speakers from across the country,” says Vigil. “In the past, we’ve had a couple of big prizes. This year, we are going to give away a number of smaller prizes, like cash and iPads, so that more people can win.”

Registration has started and those interested in attending can contact VOWRA to register. The Sheraton Roanoke has blocked rooms for attendees.

Ongoing Education

“We have an upcoming class geared to soil scientists,” says Vigil. “They can go into a field with a back hoe, dig out the dirt and study the soil. We are trying to get more hands-on training as well as more online training in place. All of our members are scrambling to get hours in to set for the test. Some have procrastinated and are still trying to get 10 to 20 hours in before their license expires this month. We try to bring in speakers that will be good and change the topics to keep it fresh and relevant.”

Member Benefits

VOWRA members are included in the searchable directory on the association website so that potential customers can find the professional they are looking for in their zip code. Members also get a discount on trainings and conferences including the test prep classes and continuing education hours needed for the license.
VOWRA keeps members abreast of regulation changes and other beneficial news through email and traditional mail pieces. “We currently reach about 1,000 people with our quarterly newsletter,” says Vigil.

“We have a good mix of people—engineers, soil scientists, operators and installers—which gives us a good voice,” says Vigil. “We reach out to members in their relevant field and get a good feel for what members are wanting. Communication with and among members is one of the biggest benefits.

“We also try to get members to affiliate with other organizations. On our VOWRA board, we have members of the Virginia Department of Health, soil guys that are members of other organizations, a member of the Virginia Well Water Association, and a member from environmental health.

“We also reach out to members who don’t serve on the board to serve on our committees. This also helps foster relationships between different groups. Because of the new regulations requiring operators to be onsite with installers, installers and operators will have a closer relationship. If a pumper is going to an advance system site, but only has regular license, then he can call the installer to partner up and work together. These committees and our association foster those relationships.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

For more information on VOWRA, their conference or how to become a member, visit

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