Name: Denise H. Wright
Title: Training Officer
Company: Indiana State Department of Health, Environmental Public Health Division
Q: What is your field of focus and what particular products do you specialize in?
My field of focus is the on-site sewage system industry, where I serve as a state-level regulator. My responsibilities include developing regulatory language, standards and policies; training designers, installers and regulators on the proper interpretation and application of public health laws; working with manufacturers to develop new and improved methodologies for introducing products into the marketplace; and educating any stakeholders – including homeowners – about OSS design, installation, function and maintenance. I commonly work with concrete components in the OSS industry, especially septic tanks, dosing tanks and distribution boxes.
Q: What are the benefits of using precast concrete products, particularly in on-site wastewater applications?
Some of the benefits of using precast concrete in Indiana for OSS include the industry’s familiarity with the product lines and manufacturers as well as industry-wide confidence in the concrete products. Additionally, installers seem to be comfortable with both the installation of precast concrete products in the OSS market and our beneficial relationship with the National Precast Concrete Association. Our state’s local regulators, manufacturers and installers have benefited from technical classroom training and field assistance provided by NPCA staff. Our regulators in Indiana are better informed today than ever before thanks to the cooperative spirit of the NPCA staff and certified concrete manufacturers throughout Indiana. Precast topics specific to the OSS industry have been included in our annual training sessions. These topics include MIC, inspecting for watertightness and precast production quality expectations.
Q: How has the Indiana code regulating septic tanks evolved over the years, and what language do you believe needs to be in every set of septic tank codes?
Our OSS state codes have evolved over the years. Our codes no longer allow for cast-in-place constructed septic tanks. Our current residential code (IAC 6-8.3, effective May 9, 2014) and commercial code (IAC 6-10.1, effective May 17, 2014) set standards for concrete septic tank construction with two of the sections in particular that have served our OSS industry very well. First, for concrete septic tanks, pipe connectors are required to be a resilient rubber type that use an expansion ring, tension band or a take-up device to create a watertight connection between the pipe and septic tank. Second, the lower section of the riser assembly is to be cast into the tank lid or sealed to the top of the tank with the proper materials to provide a watertight seal. Our regulations are supporting the precast manufacturers’ effort to produce watertight components.
I have had the opportunity to talk with many other professionals in the OSS industry, including members of academia, manufacturers, designers, installers, service providers and regulators. After many lively conversations about OSS, I believe there are a few things in addition to the pipe and riser connections discussed above that I would put on my septic tank wish list for OSS in all states. These include:
- Both an inlet and outlet baffle
- A minimum of two compartments
- Fitted with an outlet/effluent filter
- The NPCA certified manufacturer requirement
My wish list items would serve regulators, designers and installers, but most importantly would positively impact the end user of the OSS with a septic tank designed and manufactured to provide outstanding performance.
Q: Your current role at ISDH is training officer. How do you train your inspectors on precast concrete products?
Our Indiana training efforts with local health departments include explaining the intent of the state code, but we go into more detailed training about the technical design specifications and installation inspections. The design state of an OSS project is an opportunity for the designer to explain through a written plan how they are going to meet the demands of the project (flow) and site (space, soils, slope, etc.). Our staff members work with local regulators and designers to assist them in understanding and complying with the requirements of the rule. Indiana codes place the responsibility of developing design plans on the applicant. It is the responsibility of the regulator to confirm that the designs have met the minimum requirements of the rule, standard, policy and/or ordinance.
During the OSS installation, the regulators have the responsibility – required by state code – to inspect the components, installation techniques and OSS performance to ensure and document that the construction permit requirements have been met. This stage of the project is very important because the various OSS components can be viewed and inspected to confirm consistency with the approved design plan, proper installation, product integrity and quality. Our training includes the instruction to document observations. Local regulators are encouraged to utilize checksheets during the installation inspection. ISDH has generated inspection checksheets and we also advise collecting digital images of the components for the project file. We strongly urge local health departments to use Indiana’s Tracking of Onsite Sewage Systems database. iTOSS allows for the project file to identify specific component manufacturers, materials and sizing, and it can serve as a useful tool to track OSS trends among participating counties.
Concrete tanks and distribution boxes have a long history of use in Indiana. Our regulators look forward to continued work with the staff of NPCA and the OSS concrete producers to strive for consistent quality manufacturing of concrete products to ensure a high-quality OSS infrastructure.
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