Pumpers & Installers Collaborate Via Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association

In Wisconsin, pumpers and installers work together for the betterment of the decentralized wastewater industry.
Pumpers & Installers Collaborate Via Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association
Reach George Klaetsch and Katie Boycks at 608/441-1436 or info@wowra.com.

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Like many state industry associations, the Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association provides many continuing education opportunities for its members. For those who strive to excel in their profession, WOWRA also offers a two-day course that goes beyond the basics of onsite wastewater and gets into ethics, customer relations and professionalism.

Since February 2012, George Klaetsch and Katie Boycks have managed WOWRA as executive director and association manager, respectively. WOWRA was formed in 1974 to represent installers in the Badger State as well as soil testers, designers, manufacturers and related governmental and education personnel. Through Klaetsch Public Affairs Strategies, the two also represent the state’s Wisconsin Liquid Waste Carriers Association (WLWCA), and Wisconsin Precast Concrete Association (WPCA).

While the groups have individual issues and interests, they usually converge somewhere along the line.

What impressed you most when you took over the management function?

Klaetsch: About five years ago, WOWRA created the Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System [POWTS] Evaluator Training and Certification Program. It is totally voluntary; there is nothing in state laws or rules that require onsite professionals to take the course. It is for those who want to become stronger and build their expertise in the proper techniques for conducting evaluations of private onsite wastewater treatment systems. About 50 people have been certified. We’re now doing outreach to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan because onsite professionals there have expressed some interest.

Boycks: It also helps create consistency when evaluating POWTS. One day is classroom work; the second day is spent out in the field evaluating actual systems. It covers ethics and requirements, evaluator/client relationship and responsibilities, evaluation procedures from data collection through final reports, and procedures for evaluating POWTS. They have to pass an exam to receive certification and an ID card they can display to show customers that they’ve taken the extra step to excel in their profession.

Klaetsch: It was created from the ground up by four WOWRA members: Todd Stair, Rick Apfel, Rich Halverson and Susan Schambureck. They created everything from the curriculum and instructional material to the test and procedures needed to offer 16 continuing education credits to help onsite professionals excel. The certification tells everyone in the housing industry, installers, pumpers, home inspectors and real estate agents, that the resident of that home can be confident and secure in the knowledge that their POWTS is operating correctly.

You are relatively new to WOWRA; what stands out to you at this point?

Klaetsch: The ability of the membership to coalesce during the time of the transition. The board of directors, and a tremendous number of members, were very dedicated and loyal to the organization. It took a lot of time to select a new management firm, move the offices, and do all the work needed like changing checking accounts, transferring the books and website. We had to rely on them, especially President Aaron Ausen. They were very patient and willing to work with us.

What does your WOWRA membership look like?

Boycks: We have 152 members, primarily installers, with a few pumpers. We have 22 associate members who are mainly suppliers. We provide them with an electronic newsletter every two weeks along with a quarterly newsletter that gets mailed to them.

Our annual winter conference is held in January in association with the liquid waste haulers group. Attendees can get a combined 28 continuing education credits for both the Department of Safety and Professional Services and the [state] Department of Natural Resources.

How about the other two organizations you manage?

Boycks: WLWCA has 172 members and there are 55 in WPCA. WLWCA is doing a great job with their summer conference, which is a new approach versus the classroom training they did in the past. For the past two years, they’ve held the conference at trucking companies and received hands-on training on brakes, blowers and doing truck walk-around inspections. They also had stations for continuing education credits on testing, calibrating and logging pH meters and test strips, understanding pH meter temperature correction, and when to repair or replace different types of valves.

WPCA is doing something new this year by providing rigging and signaling training for compliance with OSHA [U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration] regulations. We are bringing in an outside trainer to train company reps who can then go back and train the rest of the employees at their shops.

What are your main membership services?

Klaetsch: The primary services we provide for all three groups are programming, information and legislative representation. Programming for WOWRA includes access to around 60 total CEUs a year that can be applied to maintaining their certifications. Our information resources include what’s happening at the state capital or within the regulatory agencies, and lobbying on behalf of our members. We cover the state legislature and administration, so that includes other issues like worker’s compensation and unemployment. We also have a political involvement program called Wisconsin Industries for Environmental Protection. It is a conduit program; members voluntarily donate money and can direct their funds to the campaigns of candidates of their choice. It is done jointly with the waste haulers and precast concrete groups to represent the entire onsite wastewater community.

It is interesting that you manage all three groups. Are there benefits to that?

Klaetsch: There really are. It gives us a really strong understanding of how the installer and pumper businesses are interrelated and we have a better appreciation of the manufacturers’ side. They were all under the same umbrella before, too. When they made the decision, individually, to transition to a different firm for association management and lobbying, they worked together to create their requests for proposals and did all the screening, interviewing and selection as one unit. They do work very well with one another.


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