Utah State University’s Utah On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training Progam recently received the Lynn Thatcher Award from the Utah Environmental Health Association at the UEHA
Educational Conference in Layton in October. The award was established to honor an entity outside the UEHA that has made a significant contribution to the field of environmental health.
Since 1998, the training center, located at Utah State’s Utah Water Research Laboratory, has provided training to health department staff, site evaluators, general contractors, engineers, system designers and others in on-site wastewater treatment. In 2001, the state initiated a certification program for on-site wastewater treatment professionals and the Utah State training program has provided training workshops in support of that certification program.
“There is a lack of public education and awareness, as well as installation and operation training that contributes substantially to misuse and failures of on-site wastewater treatment systems,” said Judy Sims, training program coordinator and research associate professor at the UWRL. “There is a need for those involved in the development of new housing sites, including system designers, installers, regulators and city and county planners to be trained in correct principles of planning, design, material and systems selection, and system installation for on-site wastewater treatment systems currently allowed under Utah code.”
On-site wastewater treatment systems, including septic tank soil-absorption systems, collect, treat and dispose of wastewater generated by facilities such as homes, small businesses and apartment buildings near the site of waste generation. The increasing use of these systems and the impacts of failed systems on watersheds have been identified as high-priority by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. On-site wastewater treatment is expected to increase as Utah’s population grows and housing expands into previously uninhabited areas.
According to the state of Utah Nonpoint Management Plan, 40 percent of the total non-point pollution in Utah is due to human activities. Non-point pollution results when natural and human-made pollutants are transported through soils and deposited into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and even underground sources of drinking water.
On-site wastewater treatment systems are used by 30 to 60 percent of households in six of 12 local health department regions in Utah. Overall, 10 percent of Utah’s population is served by on-site systems and approximately 1,600 new systems are added annually. When properly sited, installed, operated and maintained, an on-site wastewater treatment system can be an effective means of domestic sewage treatment, said Sims.
“By properly training and teaching on-site professionals about their roles, we hope that adverse impacts of the systems on the environment will be minimized or eliminated,” said Sims. “Failing systems can result in contamination of surface water, ground water and surface soils in populated areas where the risk of human exposure is high. Groundwater contamination can also adversely affect drinking water sources. This is important because approximately 75 percent of Utah’s drinking water comes from ground water in wells and springs.”
To enhance the training program at Utah State, a physical demonstration site called the Huntsman On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training and Demonstration Site has been constructed on two acres of land owned by the university. Physical field demonstration models of on-site wastewater treatment components and systems are used to supplement face-to-face classroom training with shoulder-to-shoulder field training under controlled conditions. Start-up funding for the site was given by a grant form the Huntsman Environmental Research Center at Utah State.
“It’s nice to be recognized for our efforts,” said Sims. “We have worked hard to develop comprehensive and interesting workshops that provide those who attend with the tools they need to do their jobs correctly.”
For more information about the Utah On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training Center visit the Web site
or contact Sims at email@example.com