Big Success at Fifth Annual Legislative Fly-In
The fifth annual NOWRA Legislative Fly-In took place in Washington, D.C., on April 11th. Twenty-four attendees from 16 states converged on the nation’s capital to speak with their senators and representatives and advocate for new policies that benefit the onsite industry.
The event kicked off with a morning briefing that included a speech from Rep. Sam Graves of Kansas, one of the co-chairs of the Decentralized Wastewater Recycling Congressional Caucus. Then, attendees were given talking points and infographics about their state’s onsite industry to share with their elected officials during the afternoon meetings.
One of the Fly-In’s main goals was to encourage members of the House of Representatives to join the industry’s congressional caucus. The other was to educate lawmakers about the NOWRA Act and encourage them to sponsor the bill. If passed, the Act would ensure that more Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds were allocated to decentralized wastewater treatment. It would also require those seeking federal funding assistance for wastewater treatment to consider onsite systems as an alternative to a centralized sewer system.
According to NOWRA Executive Director Eric Casey, the event was a huge success on both counts. More than half a dozen Members of Congress pledged to co-sponsor the NOWRA Act, and several representatives expressed interest in joining the Decentralized Wastewater Recycling Caucus. And that’s all thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of those who participated.
“When a constituent sits down with a Member of Congress, it’s fascinating how different their body language is,” Casey says. “They’re so much more engaged. They take more notes. They ask more questions. Having constituents come in is invaluable to getting our message across.”
The meetings also led to some unexpected benefits for some of the attendees, including Charlotte Hampson, President of Colorado Professionals in Onsite Wastewater (CPOW) and Environmental Health Manager for Clear Creek County. One of the representatives that she spoke to plans to send staff to upcoming CPOW events in the hopes of fostering a closer relationship with the state’s onsite industry. Hampson also plans to use what she learned at the NOWRA Fly-In as a template for CPOW’s own lobbying efforts at the state level.
CPOW intends to send representatives back to Washington for the next Fly-In to keep the conversation going, and it encourages other states to get involved as well. “It’s so beneficial to your organization and your membership to advocate for them,” Hampson says. “Talking with your congressional members can have a huge impact and can lead to really positive changes back in your home state.”
Casey expressed a similar sentiment and added: “What happens in Washington does affect our members. This is one of those examples of a rising tide lifting all boats. We are grateful for each and every one of our members who think that this activity is important enough to spend their hard-earned money to come and help us move the industry forward.”