Installer Licensing Will Raise Industry Professionalism

Vermont leaders currently license onsite system designers, but are now working with the wastewater industry to offer broader certification and continuing education.
Installer Licensing Will Raise Industry Professionalism
Ernie Christianson 802/585-4884 or

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As things stand today in Vermont, only designers of onsite wastewater systems are licensed by the state. There is no registration or certification of installers or maintenance providers. That could change in 2017, as the Agency of Natural Resources’ Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division is looking at the possibility of licensing installers, according to program manager Ernie Christianson.

Septage haulers are permitted by the Waste Management and Prevention Division. Solid Waste Compliance Chief Barb Schwendtner says it is a fairly simple program with straightforward permitting requirements.

What’s the status of licensing installers in Vermont?

Christianson: We’ve been looking into it for more than a year. We had several meetings around the state with designers and installers, and will continue discussing it with the hopes, if we have the support, of going to the Legislature with a bill in 2017 to have a licensing program. The reaction so far is very positive. They would like to have it be a recognized profession with continuing education. One of the stipulations that I gathered from the meetings is if we go down this road, we need to be able to provide good continuing education classes.

What are the prospects and timeline?

Christianson: I think it’s too early to tell because we need a larger sampling of the installers to get a general agreement. It looks very positive. We still need to go in front of the Legislature. If we do, we need to present a sound proposal prior to the session that starts in January.

So who is licensed in Vermont?

Christianson: We have approximately 300 designers in three classes. Class 1 are professional engineers who have completed a college-level soils identification course. They are licensed by the Secretary of State and the Vermont Board of Professional Engineering and can design any wastewater system.

Class A and Class B designers are licensed by the Agency of Natural Resources. We give the exam and determine the continuing education requirements, which are 12 hours every two years with four of those being field or laboratory courses. Class A can design wastewater systems that do not require site modifications, that will serve a single-family residence with a design flow of 1,350 gallons per day or less. Class B can design systems that may require site modifications or the use of approved innovative and alternative
(I & A) products, that will serve a single-family residence with a design flow of 1,350 gallons per day or less. I & A includes any system designed to lower BOD and TSS. There are also Class Bs who can design systems for more than one single-family residence and commercial systems.

Generally, the homeowner hires a designer and the state approves the design. The homeowner then hires an installer, and the designer certifies the final installation and submits that to the state. I & A systems are also required to have a maintenance agreement. The treatment unit must have a vendor-approved service provider and they are the only one allowed to service it.

Schwendtner: Septage haulers only need to apply for a permit, there is no test. They have to give us information about the trucks they want to register, including VIN and license plate numbers. There is also a background check for the company and key employees, those with financial decision-making roles. There are some violations that prohibit you from getting a permit. If you have more than one serious environmental violation you can be prohibited from getting a permit, then there is a category for the typical felonies like murder, extortion, bribery, and that kind of thing.

Individual drivers do not have to be licensed or registered with the Agency of Natural Resources. If it is a sole proprietorship, the permit is issued to that individual. If it’s a corporation, the permit is issued to the corporation. There are about 400 licensed waste haulers, but that includes all waste transporters, including garbage haulers.

(Disposal of septage is regulated by the Department of Environmental Conservation Watershed Management Division. Septage can be land-applied, sent to a wastewater treatment plant or out-of-state incinerator, or dewatered and landfilled.)

How do you communicate with the licensed designers?

Christianson: I started a quarterly newsletter to inform them of updates, program changes or legislation, and we have a designer page on our website where they can keep up with continuing education courses being offered. They can also access the more recent information on our policies and guidance documents.
What are the big issues for onsite wastewater right now?

Christianson: There haven’t been any, but we are in the process of rewriting our rules. Once we finish, it will go back to our Technical Advisory Committee for review.

The design criteria basically remain the same. It’s more of an update and minor changes, and we’ve added new dispersal methods and technologies, including a provision allowing bottomless sand filters. Manufacturers now can request approval of new systems and technologies under our I & A provision and we can allow them even though they may not be specified by the rule. But a bottomless sand filter is not a proprietary technology with a manufacturer, so it needs to be incorporated into our rules.

If all goes well, we’ll have a new set of rules by early this year.


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