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Water Education and Technology Transfer


Utah On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training Program

The Utah On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training Program was established in January 1998 in cooperation with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the twelve Utah local health departments to provide classroom and field (hands-on) training to Utah homeowners, regulators, designers, installers, pumpers, and other stakeholders in on-site wastewater treatment systems.

Adequately protecting environmental health and enhancing user satisfaction are achieved through knowledgeable selection, competent design, correct installation, and proper operation of on-site systems. Applying the right technology in the right place depends on having accurate information and up-to-date training. Landowners, homeowners, developers, lenders, installers, regulators, planners, municipal authorities, and elected authorities are all stakeholders in Utah on-site issues and must have current information and training to address these matters responsibly.

Although properly selected, designed, installed, and operated on-site wastewater treatment systems provide high levels of protection of human health and environmental quality, some systems do fail, with most of the documented failures of these systems occurring by discharge of effluent into saturated soils, backup into the house, or wastewater ponding on the soil surface. Systems are also considered to be failing if wastewater effluents high in nitrogen, phosphates, or pathogenic microorganisms reach surface or groundwater resources. Training of all those involved in wastewater treatment and disposal, i.e., those who evaluate a site to see if it is suitable for an on-site system, those who design and install the system, regulators who oversee the system, and homeowners who operate the system, will aid in the prevention of such failures.

Utah will continue to grow, and housing developments will continue to expand into current open space. Such development may include areas of groundwater recharge, shallow soils, or shallow groundwater. Current Utah rules allow the use of conventional septic tank systems as well as three alternative treatment systems that may be installed in areas with soils unsuitable for conventional systems. Training of those involved in the use of alternative systems will ensure that these types of designers, and installers, and the general public with an interest in on-site wastewater treatment.


We continue to provide workshops in support of the mandatory State-of-Utah certification program for on-site wastewater professionals.

On September 27-28, 2005 Judith Sims and Margaret Cashell provided a training program on on-site systems for approximately 40 persons associated with Region 8 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver, Colorado. In June of 2006 in Casper, Wyoming, Judith Sims, Margaret Cashell, and Brian Cowan taught a workshop on on-site programs and alternative systems to about 50 people associated with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. Judith Sims also presented a training program for users of on-site systems in Crook County, Wyoming in June of 2006. During FY 2005, the following workshops in support of the certification program were held:

  • Level I: Heber City, September 2005; Ogden, October 2005; Cedar City, April 2006; Vernal May 2006
  • Level II: Heber City, September 2005; Ogden, October 2005; Logan, May 2006
  • Level III: Logan, November 2005 and May 2006
  • Level 1 Recertification: Cedar City, April 2006; Vernal, May 2006
  • Level II Recertification: Cedar City, April 2006; St. George, April 2006; Vernal, May 2006
  • Level III Recertification: Logan, November 2005 and March 2006

In addition, Ronald Sims provided assistance to the State of Utah with regard to on-site wastewater treatment issues as a member of the Utah Water Quality Board. Ms. Sims served as acted as chairman of the annual UOWA conference planning committee. The sixth annual conference of the UOWA was held in March of 2006 at the Davis Conference Center, with 100 people in attendance. Darwin Sorensen serves as a member of the Weber-Morgan Health Department On-Site Wastewater Treatment Advisory Board.

A state legislative initiative was introduced and passed as House Bill 14s during the 2001 Legislative Session to develop a certification program for persons involved in siting, designing, operating, and maintaining both conventional and alternative on-site systems. The certification program, administered by the Division of Water Quality in the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, involves mandatory training provided by the Utah On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training Program.

The certification program includes three levels, each of which requires workshops provided through the Utah On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training Program:

  • Level I: Soil Evaluation and Percolation Testing
  • Level II: Design, Inspection, and Maintenance of Conventional Systems
  • Level III: Design, Operation, and Maintenance of Alternative Systems

Level III certification expires after two years, so we are also conducting Level III recertification workshops. In 2006 we began providing Level 1 and Level II re-certification workshops, as that certification expires after 5 years. In addition, we are providing leadership in the development of an on-site wastewater treatment professional program (Utah On-Site Wastewater Association (UOWA)) to promote, facilitate, and elevate the professional development of individuals in the on-site industry and also to increase public awareness and education concerning on-site wastewater treatment issues.

Benefits to the State

As population growth and associated housing developments continue to threaten the preservation of agricultural lands in Utah, there is an increased need for accurate and thorough information on on-site wastewater treatment technologies. The Utah On-Site Wastewater Treatment Training Program addresses these challenges through such means as workshops, newsletters, and educational brochures.

Many of the soils in Utah are marginal or unacceptable for use of conventional soil absorption systems due to high or fluctuating water tables, slowly permeable or highly permeable soil horizons, and extreme slopes. Experience with and knowledge of alternative systems that can be utilized on such sites with unsuitable conditions is generally low in Utah. The On-Site Training Program also provides the necessary education to utilize alternative systems in an effective manner that will protect both public health and the environment.

November 11, 2013