Join a Pumping Fraternity and Reap the Benefits

As NAWT hands out honors to its members, this is a good time to remind pumpers they’re all winners when they band together in a trade association.

Join a Pumping Fraternity and Reap the Benefits

David Gustafson, P.E., accepts the Ralph Macchio Lifetime Achievement Award. He is joined by Ralph Macchio, left, and Gene Bassett, right.

The pumping industry encompasses a close-knit group of professionals who share the challenging work of handling and hauling liquid wastewater for homeowners, commercial and industrial customers. The job demands long hours, thankless work and a great physical toll for many contractors. Its membership is dominated by a hardy crew of small-business owners and technicians, many of them steering impressive family companies through multiple generations.

Sometimes it seems like — as comedian Rodney Dangerfield would say — pumpers “don’t get no respect.” You tell people what you do for a living and they might ask you why in the world you’d want to do that job. Or they might laugh and come back with a joke about being “No. 1 in the No. 2 business” or any number of tired old one-liners you’ve heard too many times to count.

But there is a fraternity of folks who understand all the hard work you perform day in and day out. They know your commitment to getting up every morning and firing up the vacuum truck — to put food on your family’s table, as well as to help your customers and protect the environment around you. These are your fellow pumpers, the guys and gals who read this magazine and meet up with you every year at the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show.

A group of your brothers and sisters in pumping got together at the WWETT Show earlier this year at the National Association of Wastewater Technicians state association breakfast meeting. Members and officers handed out the top industry awards at that meeting and celebrated the achievements of those honored.

Let’s recap those victories:


The Excellence in Service Award was given to Jeff Rachlin, owner of OnSite Management in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and also a longtime officer of NAWT.

Presenting the award, Tom Ferrero, NAWT secretary, praises Rachlin for his dedication to increasing training opportunities and building professionalism in the industry. He says Rachlin was in the construction and homebuilding industry in suburban Philadelphia 20 years ago when he began to focus on onsite system installation. He has been involved as a trainer for both NAWT and the Pennsylvania Septage Management Association.

“He’s more of a businessman than a lot of us in the industry and very hands-on with high-tech onsite systems,” Ferrero says. “It’s not your father’s septic business anymore, and it shouldn’t be. (Rachlin) has been critical to the focus on training and getting the industry educated.”

Rachlin, who served as NAWT president for three years, says he appreciates the benefits he’s received through his association involvement over the years.

“I probably get back twice as much as anything I ever put into it,” he says when accepting the award.


The Ralph Macchio Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to David “Dave” Gustafson, P.E., of the University of Minnesota onsite wastewater treatment education program. Gustafson has been teaching education courses and seminars through NAWT for 30 years, both at locations across the U.S. and at the WWETT Show. He is known for lively presentations and encouraging active participation among attendees.

“He has proven a sense of humor goes a long way. Dave is certainly a drawing card at any training session. He keeps everybody on the edge of their seats, interactive and involved,” Ferrero says. “He still fills our classrooms. He apologizes every time for being an engineer, but he brings it down to our level and is certainly a worthy recipient.”

Gustafson says the wastewater leaders in NAWT always pushed him to improve the training sessions. He thanks COLE Publishing founder Bob Kendall, who presented the award with Ferrero, for establishing the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo, now the WWETT Show, and fostering professionalism in the industry.

“You get so much more than you could ever give from working with the professionals and the guys and gals that make this a fabulous industry,” Gustafson says. “We need to keep the industry going forward. I think we’re at a place that if we’re not moving forward, we’re going to lose significant ground.”

The award namesake, Ralph Macchio, also thanks Gustafson for sharing his expertise. “You keep us on our toes, and we learn a lot from you by the way you teach. You’re a special educator who has the ability to reach all the people in the room,” he says.


Kendall also presented Macchio, a founding member of NAWT, with a statuette honoring him as the first winner of the award in his name in 1998. At the time, COLE Publishing had not created the statue that has been given to all subsequent winners. Macchio and his wife, Rosalie, regular attendees at the WWETT Show, accepted the award. It was also Macchio’s 80th birthday.


NAWT also announced two winners of the William Hapchuk Memorial Scholarship. The scholarships are awarded to college students with ties to or an interest in the wastewater industry. The winners were chosen based on academic accomplishment and a new grading system. Receiving a $1,500 scholarship are Anui Zhang, a student at Purdue University, and Alex Nolan, a student at the University of Colorado.

NAWT members on hand also selected officers for 2018. They are Gene Bassett, president; Bruce Fox, vice president; Ferrero, secretary; and Rachlin, treasurer.


If you’ve ever thought about joining a state trade association or NAWT as a national organization, now is a good time to consider the move, and for a variety of reasons. The economy continues on an upswing and demand for your services is growing. At the same time, competition for good workers is on the rise. A group like NAWT can help you navigate the many challenges your small business faces in these dynamic times.

A trade group offers many opportunities for networking among contractors working together to figure the best way forward in the wastewater industry. How do you attract workers and offer competitive benefits packages? How do you train those new workers and your existing crew to deal with new technologies and added regulations? What’s the best way to deal with limited disposal options for the wastewater you haul?

You can find the answers to these and many more important questions through active membership in your state or national trade organizations. They offer many certified training opportunities. NAWT sponsors the Waste Treatment Symposium to help pumpers determine if they can treat their own waste streams.

You can get started today. All of the state and regional pumping industry groups are found in our Associations List published in this magazine. And you can contact NAWT to talk about membership by calling 800-236-6298 or visiting website


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