Solid Like a Rock

New Hampshire’s Granite State group promotes a unified front for wastewater professionals when it comes to new regulations and training requirements.
Solid Like a Rock
Contact Deb Hinds at 603/934-3113 or through

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The Granite State Designers and Installers Association (GSDI) is one organization in New Hampshire working to protect the state’s water resources. Besides providing education and information to its 400 members, the group is closely connected to other organizations with similar roles, according to outgoing chairperson Deb Hinds of Hinds Septic Design Service.

Hinds has just ended her second two-year term leading GSDI and is being succeeded by John Ohler of J.W. Ohler Inc. She says building professionalism is at the heart of everything the organization does.

What is the primary role of the organization?

Hinds: The services we provide our members help increase the professionalism of our industry, including education, keeping them informed on changes in the industry, and advising them on what’s going on at the state and local levels.

We represent about 25 percent of those in the industry in New Hampshire; I wish everyone were a member. I really think you have to have some kind of connection to keep up with the changing technology and regulations.

If this is truly your career, I can’t imagine not being a member of an organization because it’s so valuable. It’s just something you really need to do.

Who does GSDI represent?

Hinds: We represent designers, installers, pumpers, evaluators and maintenance personnel, along with others related to the industry, including local regulators. On our board of directors we have a vice chairman of installers, vice chairman of designers and a vice chairman of pumpers.

State regulators are associate members, including those in the DES [state Department of Environmental Services] Subsurface Systems Bureau and the Wetlands Bureau. They get our newsletter, are invited to our board meetings and events, and get all the benefits.

State officials have an open door for us; we can stop in or call anytime. They make time for us and have been really good at listening and working with us. The last time we went through a rule change, they came to us and we went through rule by rule to provide our comments.

How are you connected with other groups with similar goals?

Hinds: There is a smaller group, the New Hampshire Association of Septage Haulers [NHASH], which represents those involved in pumping, maintenance, installation and repair. A lot of their members are members of our association. We have a representative from the NHASH board of directors on our board. Their members also get our newsletter, so we have good contact back and forth.

I am also the GSDI representative to the New Hampshire Water Council, which advises the director of the Water Division, reviews all proposed rules, and hears appeals on department decisions. In addition we have board members who serve on the Shoreland Advisory Committee, the Nitrogen Sources Collaborative Advisory Board and on the Non-Point Sources Management Plan.

What is your most important way to connect with members?

Hinds: We had our 27th annual conference and expo in March; it expanded to a two-day event about five years ago. It is open to everyone whether they are a member or not. We get more than 500 people from New Hampshire and surrounding states: designers, installers, pumpers, local and state officials and health officers.

It offers up to six continuing education credits approved by the DES Subsurface Systems Bureau that people need to continue their designers, installers and evaluators certifications, and also for wetland and soil scientists. We also offer credits for other states: Massachusetts soil evaluators and system inspectors; Maine evaluators, installers and inspectors; and Vermont designers. We also offer continuing education programs throughout the year.

We upgraded our website about five years ago and it has a lot of information. With our blogs, we are able to get information out to members quickly, such as updates to legislation and getting their professional opinions on how we should react to bills.

In 2005, GSDI started the Granite State Certified Septic System Evaluator Program to teach people how to evaluate systems using standard procedures. It is voluntary; there is no standard for evaluators in New Hampshire. What was happening with real estate deals was people with no background with septics were going in and deciding if a system was failed or good.

We run the course twice a year and have certified about 105 people. We promote to the public that if you are going to have an evaluation, you really should have it done by a certified evaluator.

Do you lobby at both the regulatory and legislative level?

Hinds: We monitor all legislative and regulatory activity weekly and report to our Legislation and Rules Committee. The information is sent out to all members weekly and it is posted on our website.

If we are watching a bill, we’ve already talked to DES about their take on it. A lot of times, we go in united with them so that we’re on the same page whether we are going to support or oppose the bill.

One bill we’re [concerned about] would allow someone who isn’t certified in the industry to install systems. For instance, if your brother-in-law doesn’t work in the industry but thinks he can install a septic system, the bill would allow him to install it if he doesn’t get paid. That’s a real strange bill so we’re against it, obviously, and we expect it will die.

Two years ago there was debate about whether you could replace a failed system with the same kind of a system without getting a permit. That was being pushed by the Realtors so homeowners wouldn’t have to wait to go through the permitting process before selling a house. We lobbied against it.

But we also got together with DES and the New Hampshire Association of Realtors and came to a compromise on a rule change. We went in together and everyone was pretty much happy with the outcome. We also kept the matter in the rules rather than making a law. If you want to change a law, you have to go back through the legislature. If you want to change a rule, we can go directly to the regulators and tweak it.

But what really came out of it is that we now have a mechanism to go back and forth and talk with the Realtors. We were able to educate them about the rules and once we did, they backed off on a lot of things. Now we have communication between the two groups that we never had before.

Do you do anything to make such connections with the public?

Hinds: We do classes for people like Realtors, lakes associations or any group who wants to hear us. It’s really well-received. They seem to be shocked by how septic systems treat wastewater; they think once you flush, it goes into the ground and disappears. We’re continually educating people about what they should and should not do with their septic systems.


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