North Carolina Septic Tank Association

Who are your members?

The North Carolina Septic Tank Association (NCSTA) was formed in 1990. According to our Bylaws, only tank manufacturers, installers and pumpers are allowed to be voting members of the NCSTA. Our membership today also includes inspectors, professional engineers and soils scientist as non-voting members. Our membership fee is $300 and we have approximately 200 member businesses currently. Our membership has remained strong during this economic recession. We could probably have a lot more roll call members, but we chose at the start of the NCSTA to make membership a choice by each individual business.

How do you try to help your members?

The most important thing to remember about a trade association is that awareness and communication is a key part of success. Our industry, prior to forming the NCSTA, was always placed in a position of asking “How did that happen?” whenever new rules and laws were passed. We had no eyes or ears, and no voice when changes were being discussed and implemented. Our industry, like in most States, could only react to already passed laws and regulations. Since 1990, we have been the guiding force in making these changes. These changes may come from proposals suggested by our lobbyist, our board of directors, or the general membership. We listen to their concerns and act for the betterment of the industry.

What are your goals as an organization for this year?

Our state was hit harder than most with the economic downturn. Our legislators have been actively seeking to establish regulatory reform measures that will make the permitting process more navigable for the developers and business interests. Their concerns are that the pre-recession regulatory process had become burdensome and businesses and jobs were going to other states. The NCSTA supports their efforts and is working with other business lobbying groups to provide input for these goals. We have already identified several issues in the upcoming legislative session that will impact our industry, such as a possible tax on service contracts. This would affect our operators, pumpers and portable toilet members.

We are also working with our legislative body on rule reviews to make existing rules easier to understand and comply with and to eliminate some rules and regulations that may have become outdated. NCSTA is working with our Department of Labor to clarify certain changes in OSHA codes and routinely offer safety courses for our members and non-members.

NCSTA was the driving force behind the legislation requiring Installer and Point-of-Sale Inspection certification. We felt that this was the best way to make sure the program was industry driven and not the results of a regulatory action. The legislation actually created a state recognized certification board of nine members appointed from a broad spectrum of the industry from academic to regulatory to installer professionals. This board was established by legislation as an independent occupational licensure board within North Carolina, and the NCSTA is proud to support their actions. With the required certification comes required annual continuing education. NCSTA is a major education sponsor, but we offer the same classes for members and non-members alike. The membership to NCSTA is a business membership. Any of our members or their employees can come to any NCSTA-sponsored event for free. Fees for non-members are kept affordable.

This year will be very exciting. The economy seems to be returning, but there is still a lot of work to do to help our members. We need to continue our work with the legislative leaders, especially making sure our role in the infrastructure needs of our citizens is recognized.

We need to make sure that the permitting process improves and we are addressing possible legislative action that would establish a second option for obtaining a wastewater permit, a “privatization” approach. This would enable a citizen to have a choice in the permitting path, either through the local environmental health department or through the private credentials and liability assurance of a professional engineer.

Another critical job will be to make ensure that any regulatory path, even the public sector, will be adequately able to do their roles. The budgets of all our states are weak and in North Carolina, we cannot allow our regulations to be overlooked because of a budget shortfall.

Do you have a legislative presence?

One of the features that makes the NCSTA different from most onsite wastewater associations is a dedicated lobbyist. Our lobbyist actually has experience in the onsite wastewater industry and brings a technical background to his discussions with our legislators. Our members are able to get their voices heard because of the reputation of our lobbyist with our elected leaders. He works with the homebuilding industry, the professional engineers, the state and local regulators and the soil scientists.

Do you offer continuing education to your members?

One of our proudest achievements is our annual convention and exposition in January that serves as a kickoff for the remaining year. While the recession has damaged a lot of other state associations, our convention has grown stronger.

In our last two years, we have opened the doors to our convention with more than 800 attendees and exhibitors from across the nation. We think 2014 will see similar numbers and are excited about the event. Our exhibitors know they can count on getting face-time with large numbers of onsite professionals. Our speakers are nationally recognized and we think this will continue our leadership in the onsite industry in North Carolina and as one of the premier onsite associations in the nation.

For the certified professionals not able to come to the annual convention, we also have regional classes across the state. Last year, we held eight regional classes offering continuing education for installers, pumpers, inspectors, operators and even local environmental health specialists.

The NCSTA decided when we started our education program that we would like our regulators to sit beside our members and hear the same speakers discuss the same issues. We determined that would be mutually beneficial so we have not charged a fee for any local environmental health specialist to attend any of our events when getting their continuing education hours. It’s worked out well.

What are the benefits of an association membership?

One of the benefits of NCSTA membership is our scholarship program. We take applications each year from our members’ children and grandchildren who are graduating from high school and going on to higher education. Last year, we gave out ten $1,000 scholarships and have probably issued more than $35,000 in the last six years.
We also have a website that displays our member services and the counties they work in. This is great for consumers wanting to find industry members in their area.

How does the move of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission to annex areas—forcing homeowners to convert from septic to sewer—affect your local industry?

One of the obstacles that is facing the onsite industry now and in the future is the expanding municipal areas. Cities and towns are actively pushing out their borders into rural areas. The result is that more areas are being placed on centralized sewer and that is not good for onsite wastewater businesses.

And, it’s not always the best choice for long-term infrastructure needs. Most research has shown that properly operated and managed onsite systems are a sustainable solution for appropriate sites. With the cities and towns unable to adequately expand or update their sewer systems because of budget woes, it’s really not smart to marginalize the onsite wastewater technologies. The best solution for our community leaders is to recognize the full options available. That’s a big challenge for our industry and the NCSTA and that gets us back to the most important role for any trade association, awareness and communication.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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