Why Reinvent the Wheel When It Comes to Onsite Procedures?

Following a proven inspection or operations and maintenance checklist means more effective and efficient performance to benefit your customers and your bottom line.

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We have previously written columns on inspections and operation and maintenance, as well as installation. Following these efforts, one or two people have sent questions about using and obtaining procedural checklists to guide their work. We thought it might be time to address those questions. This is not meant to be a comprehensive look at all the checklists or tools available, but to share an idea of some that we have been involved with over the years that you can look at and decide if they are helpful.

Regardless of specific purpose, all checklists and activities start with identifying your client and gathering as much information and documentation about the system as possible. Based on the information collected, a course of action can be identified and begun to gather or determine missing information.

Two of the most comprehensive sets of checklists were developed by the Consortium of Institutes for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment. In both cases, CIDWT created the checklists as part of an effort to provide standardized educational materials that could be used nationwide for O&M providers and installers.


These efforts were undertaken due to requests from consumer advocates and progressive industry leaders to help define a basic level of service and expected level of knowledge on the part of O&M service providers and installers.

CIDWT started by developing the O&M program, completed in 2005, after an extensive period of working with practicing professionals, university researchers and extension personnel. In addition to checklists, extensive PowerPoint presentations were prepared, a comprehensive O&M manual was developed along with other materials that could be used to develop a comprehensive education program by states or private entities interested in providing the training and education.

A similar process was used to develop materials for an installer program in 2008. Both programs’ checklist series start with a form to capture and record as much information as possible about the existing system, if there is one, household water use practices, site and soils. This recognizes the importance of gathering information about the property and use patterns before any work begins. The importance of continual contact and communication with the client cannot be overstated.

The second checklist in the O&M series involves an inspection checklist for an existing system. During the inspection process, each system component is identified and current operation condition determined, which provides direction to individual checklists for each component of the system. When finished, a service provider has a complete record of the system that can be used to determine O&M or replacement needs into the future.


The manuals, checklists and educational materials are available from Midwest Plan Service at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Visit their website to order materials www.mwps.sws.iastate.edu. There will be a charge for the manuals and shipping. O&M manuals can be obtained from the National Association of Wastewater Technicians (NAWT) also for a charge plus shipping.

The checklists are quite extensive and most are several pages long, which may become unwieldy for the service provider in the field. NAWT simplified the forms, and if you are a member the forms can be downloaded from their website. Many service providers we talk to find the simplified forms helpful.

In 1995, NAWT established an educational program for conducting an operation-level inspection of existing systems, primarily for real estate transfers. The program was developed by practitioners to set the standard for real estate inspections at the request of consumers and real estate agents.

Basic sewage treatment and inspection procedure manuals were prepared, along with PowerPoint presentations and an inspection checklist. These materials were revised in 2007 and are currently undergoing another revision. Manuals and checklists can be obtained either by attending a NAWT class when presented in your area or by contacting NAWT through their website www.nawt.org. There will be a charge for the materials.

We also need to put in a plug for our University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program website. Here you will find information for service providers, installers and homeowners with a variety of checklists and materials. Go to www.septic.umn.edu to find these materials. Check with your state university or regulatory agency because they likely have materials and checklists available, most of which come from one of the efforts described above. There are also materials through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and their website www.epa.gov.

If you have been looking for or trying to develop your own checklists, hopefully these materials will help you in the process.


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