Fall 2023 President’s Message

The 2023 National On-site Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) Mega-Conference located in Hampton, Virginia was an enlightening educational experience.  Not only did this conference provide excellent networking opportunities, but it also provided new information and positive goals to which we can aspire as a State affiliate.

During the keynote presentations, we heard inspiring stories from Sherry Bradley and the Alabama Blackbelt unincorporated communities and about the challenges of dealing with “the straight pipes” in socioeconomic challenged communities.  Important updates were also given by the EPA and NOWRA’s professional lobbyist, Possinelli, LLC.

After the keynotes, most of the first day was spent in State Affiliate meetings.  We received information on the upcoming EPA workforce grant, state benefit packages, and affiliate tool kits.  It was inspiring to hear from those affiliates who utilize the Executive Director model and who have hired professionals with vast experience in the on-site wastewater industry.  Some groups have preferred to stay with the Board of Directors model to vote and make decisions and have found that this is a more useful method of running their organizations.  YOWA utilizes the Board of Directors model, via majority vote, and it seems to have worked well.

Detailed information was provided on affiliate membership and operations.  I will provide more information at our Board of Directors meeting in December.  You are all welcome to join this on-line meeting for updates and information.  Please reach out to Mary Barry, mbarry@newea.org at the NEWEA office for the on-line meeting link to join the meeting.

Other technical presentations at the Mega-Conference included a research project in Florida on Nitrogen removal, septic inspection standards, and a hybrid version of pressure dosing and pressure distribution described as “Pressure Manifolds.”  I encourage all of our on-site wastewater professionals to consider attending the upcoming annual NOWRA Conference (to be held next in Washington state, October 20-24, 2024).

In addition to NOWRA’s Mega-Conference, YOWA Board Members have attended a variety of recent events. YOWA participated in the Massachusetts Health Officer’s (MHOA) Association Annual Conference held in Falmouth, MA. Past President Dan Ottenheimer spoke at the MHOA Title 5 session. We met many new and old friends, and we hope that some of you will follow through and join YOWA as we continue to work towards our common goals.

As YOWA President, I spoke at the 61st Annual Yankee Conference on Environmental Health in Northampton, MA on September 21st, 2023.  I spoke on Board of Health responsibilities regarding the review, construction, and on-going maintenance of Innovative and Alternative (I/A) on-site wastewater systems.  The different approval tiers within the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) were reviewed as well as the categories of use, including General Use and Remedial Use.  Reference documents from DEP and from local a Board of Health were reviewed. The importance of on-going Operation and Maintenance was emphasized, as well as ensuring that future owners are provided notice of these responsibilities by way of a properly recorded deed restriction. Claire Golden, MA DEP, was present for a later presentation, and she was helpful in pointing out new additions to the DEP website, such as the I/A technology plan review checklist that may be helpful to Board of Health staff. Steve Nelson also spoke on his experience as an I/A system O & M operator.

Please consider running for YOWA office and/or joining our Board of Directors as we continue to endeavor to grow our organization and provide pertinent training to our members and profession. It has been an honor to serve as YOWA President; my term is up at the end of February 2024.

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Alyssa Rusiecki

Alyssa is the Assistant Director of Environmental Health for the Department of Environmental Health & Safety at UMass Amherst. She also serves as the current YOWA President.

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