Spring 2022
  • President's Article
  • Upcoming Webinar - March 24th
  • Membership
  • NOWRA Update: 2022 Mega Conference Dates & Call for Abstracts Open
  • One-on-One with Bruce Douglas, P.E., VT DEC
  • Recap from August Webinar
YOWA's 2022 President
Alyssa Rusiecki
As a member of the Yankee Onsite Wastewater Association (YOWA) for many years, I am honored to now serve in the role of your President. I will succeed Dan Ottenheimer, Thomas Groves, and Russ Martin – all dedicated wastewater professionals.

I began my onsite wastewater career while working as an apprentice at O’Keefe Associates, a civil engineering firm in Belchertown, MA. There, I learned all aspects of site engineering, including surveying, soil and perc testing and septic and wetlands plan development. In addition to designing and drafting those onsite sub-surface sewage disposal plans, I learned the fine art of presenting those plans to local Boards of Health. This was my initiation to the state regulations commonly known as “Title 5” the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s “Minimum Standards for the Design and Installation of Sub-surface Sewage Disposal Systems.” Some of those initial presentations ignited in me a keen interest to both navigate the intricacies of the code as well as to uphold basic environmental protective concepts. I eventually bought the engineering business and continued designing plans as a Registered Sanitarian under the name ‘Site Design Associates.’ Working out in the field, with excavators installing on-site sewage systems, was an invaluable learning experience.

As Title 5 evolved and the science of soil evaluating became an accepted and required practice, I re-entered graduate school and obtained a master’s degree in Plant and Soil Science under the tutelage of Dr. Peter Veneman at the University of Massachusetts.

I then began a twenty-year tenure working for Massachusetts municipal Boards of Health as a Health Agent administering Title 5. From Gloucester to Sturbridge, each town had their own unique conditions, soils, and socio-economic needs. Whether working as a private designer, or as a municipal health agent, I have always held the Massachusetts onsite wastewater regulations in high regard.

YOWA and its members endeavor to continue that respect for onsite regulations. But more importantly, YOWA endeavors to provide a forum for information and education for all of our members. We are working in tandem with the staff at the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center to bring the industry world-class training. In the coming year, the Executive Board and I will be working towards strengthening the educational programs; increasing membership; and reaching out to other industry partners. We hope that you will take full advantage of YOWA's offerings in the coming year. Please feel free to contact me with any ideas for future educational topics.

We welcome members from all professions - engineering & design, septic installers, septic pumpers, innovative and alternative technology vendors, and regulators. Please join us in our quest for excellence. 

Alyssa Rusiecki, YOWA President
YOWA Training Update
The YOWA Board of Directors would like to express our deepest gratitude for your continued membership and support. If you haven't already, please take this opportunity to renew your membership for 2022. Renew Now!

Stay at the forefront of the latest industry news, trends and technology and retain access to additional benefits, such as:
  • Reduced registration rates for workshops and trainings
  • Legislative updates
  • Membership in NOWRA and discounts on training such as NOWRA's Installer Academy.

If you have any questions or feedback regarding your experience with YOWA, please contact the YOWA directly.

We look forward to serving you for another year.
The YOWA Board of Directors
NOWRA Update
As we all know YOWA is a state affiliate to NOWRA, the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association.  What most of us do not know, however, is that there are 23 state affiliate groups –YOWA is considered to be one - and this number grows almost every year!

On October 17-21 of last year NOWRA held it’s first in-person conference since 2019.  The 2021 Onsite Wastewater Mega-Conference took place in San Marcos, Texas at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.  With more than 400 people participating in person and nearly 100 attending virtually, by all accounts it was considered to be a rousing success.  The conference featured technical sessions with tracks this year focused on Policy and Education, Installation and Management, Equipment and Advanced Treatment, Challenges in Wastewater, and Funding and Business Management.  Field trips on high-strength wastewater and water reuse provided attendees with an excellent educational opportunity to close the meetings.  The exhibit hall offered the employees of more than 40 companies many opportunities to mix with attendees, and the 2021 National Backhoe Roe-D-Hoe® championship once again wowed both participants and observers.  Michael Braden of LBC manufacturing, LLC of Fayetteville, Texas won the hard-fought competition.  

This year’s Mega-Conference - co-sponsored by NOWRA, the National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT), the State Onsite Regulators Association (SORA), and the Missouri Smallflows Organization (MSO) - is scheduled for October 30 to November 2, 2022, at the University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield, Missouri.  NOWRA is always looking for presenters who have onsite industry-related information to share. Their “Call for Abstracts” can be found at nowra.org/conference/mega-conference/call-for-papers/.  If there is any way you could make your way to Missouri next fall, you really should consider it.  It will most certainly be worth the trip!

NOWRA is our industry’s primary resource for advocacy on decentralized wastewater management.  The news of President Biden’s signing of the infrastructure bill in November of last year was extremely important, as the bill included language that will create the first dedicated EPA grant program for decentralized systems—the Decentralized Wastewater Grant Program. The bill authorizes $50 million of funding for each of the Fiscal Years 2022 – 2026, for a total of $250 million. Eligible households can receive grants up to $15,000. The funds can be used by households “for the construction, repair, or replacement of an individual household decentralized wastewater treatment system.” Funds can also be used “for the installation of a larger decentralized wastewater system designed to provide treatment for 2 or more households.” The NOWRA Board of Governors and its government relations team in Washington, which it underwrites, worked diligently for several years - including participating in several “Fly-In" meetings with individual legislators - to enact this program.  Though a wonderful accomplishment, the work is not done, as Congress must vote each year to appropriate the money to the EPA.  NOWRA and its lobbyists will remain focused on ensuring that monies are in fact appropriated to fund the program. 
One-on-One with Bruce Douglas, P.E.
The YOWA Communications Committee had an opportunity to sit down with Bruce Douglas, P.E., Wastewater Program Manager for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), as he shared his experience with and passion for decentralized wastewater treatment and disposal.

Bruce majored in hydrology as an undergraduate at UNH and worked as a consulting hydrogeologist before heading to Vermont to earn a MS in plant and soil science from UVM. In His first full time job in Vermont was managing a study of nitrogen the density of onsite wastewater systems from a scientific perspective, which served as a springboard to a career in decentralized wastewater treatment and disposal. Bruce moved to regulation of onsite wastewater systems and potable water supplies when DEC first became involved with the management of alternative (I/A) technologies. At the beginning most of these designs were dispersal systems, such as synthetic chambers and sand filters, and each proposal was approved as a “one-off” as they did not fit in to the scope of the existing regulations. 

In 1995 Bruce moved into the private sector, joining Stone Environmental, Inc. One of his first challenges was to design a DEC-funded alternative to centralized treatment for Cabot village in rural Vermont. The project gained the trust of the community by evaluating individual onsite and cluster soil absorption systems, as well as a direct discharge. The ultimate design was a system which utilized a membrane bioreactor to treat the wastewater to a level where it could be directly discharged. He quickly became committed, and sought opportunities, to evaluate alternatives to centralized treatment. In his own words, “Our goal was not to create a bias towards decentralized treatment and dispersal, but simply to create a level playing field.”  In 1995 Massachusetts passed Title 5, and the Bruce’s firm expanded its reach into the state soon thereafter. At about this same time, he joined NOWRA and collaborated with the Decentralized Wastewater Management Consortium, which with the help of federal funding allowed many communities to collect data to support the development of decentralized wastewater treatment solutions, as well as management plans. Bruce cited projects in Duxbury/Tisbury and Vineyard Haven as a couple of excellent examples of how private industry worked with local entities in Massachusetts to solve wastewater treatment and management issues with decentralized wastewater treatment and dispersal systems which met the requirements of the regulations. In addition, he spent 2002-2005 in central and southern California working on decentralized system facilities planning.

In 2005 Bruce returned to Vermont and directed his energies to onsite design and permitting consulting, where he was involved a large, decentralized demonstration project in Colchester. He returned to Stone Environmental in ’08 where he worked in the Pinelands section of New Jersey and addressed phosphorus removal with a demonstration technology system in Greenwood Lake, New York during this interesting period of his career. In January 2012 he joined Natural Systems Utilities where his focus shifted to onsite water reuse, using wastewater as a resource to provide clear water that is safe to use for non-potable purposes. One of the more prominent projects that he and his firm were involved with was the operation of the wastewater management and reuse project at Gillette Stadium, a wastewater treatment plant system which includes nearly 1,000,000 gallons of tank volume to capture the wastewater flows generated by fans, force mains, a 250,000 gallons-per-day membrane bioreactor (MBR) treatment plant that generates water suitable for reuse, and a 500,000-gallon elevated storage tank for reclaimed water use.

Bruce accepted his position at DEC last year and he sees it as “as great opportunity to contribute to the local communities and the state he loves.” In his position as chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for the DEC, he looks forward to being involved with, among other things, the challenge of keeping the state regulations on pace with developing science, engineering and technologies.
Recap of YOWA's August Webinar
The August 5, 2021 YOWA virtual training on Innovative and Alternative System Troubleshooting featured George Heufelder and Emily Michele Olmsted of the Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center, MASSTC.  The presentation was followed by a live panel discussion with I/A system operators: Mark Cottrell of Clear Water Industries; Joe Smith of NSU Water; and Joe Martins of Accu Sepcheck. 

Highlights included the importance of I/A systems, sample and data collection for proper operation, and troubleshooting systems that may not be operating properly.

The use of I/A systems on Cape Cod and its fragile ecosystem was discussed. Protection of groundwater, ponds, streams, and coastal marshes is paramount and the proper operation and service of I/A septic systems adjacent to those resources is also paramount.

Professionals attending the webinar had the opportunity to ask questions of the panel and discuss specific situations.  Real world information was provided regarding design/build as well as operation and maintenance.

YOWA will continue its dedication to new on-site wastewater I/A technologies and will continue to provide training opportunities to our members and partners in the MASSTC communities.  Watch the YOWA website for future topics.