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April 07, 2004   Email to Friend 

ALFA ENVIRONMENTAL HALL DEDICATED AT UWA
Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
April 07, 2004

From left, Alfa Farmers President Jerry Newby, University of West Alabama Environmental Services Director Micky Smith and UWA President Richard Holland unveil a plaque during the dedication of Alfa Environmental Hall.
LIVINGSTON, Ala.-- Training taking place at Alfa Environmental Hall, which was dedicated today at the University of West Alabama (UWA), will help protect Alabama's natural resources and public health by educating wastewater treatment professionals about new technology.

The 5,000 square foot facility is the latest addition to the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Association Training Center in Livingston. Begun in 1996 as a place to test alternative wasterwater treatment technologies, the 20-acre complex has evolved into a hands-on learning center for individuals who install and maintain septic systems.

The Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance Co. donated $250,000 to construct and equip Alfa Environmental Hall. Alfa President Jerry Newby said the money is an investment in the future of rural Alabama.

"The work being done at this facility is great for rural Alabama, great for the environment and great for water quality--not just today, but for years to come," Newby said. "Our organization is proud to be part of this project, and we congratulate all of the partners who have helped make this center a reality."

UWA Environmental Services Center Director Micky Smith, who serves on the Sumter County Farmers Federation Board of Directors, was among the first to recognize the problems associated with ineffective septic systems. He led the charge for creation of the Onsite Wastewater Training Center.

"There has been a world of volunteer time spent out here. It's been fantastic to see so many different agencies, companies and individuals come together for the good of all Alabama," Smith said.

Allen Tartt, director of education at the center, said more than 1,500 septic system installers and pumpers have received licensing training at the center since 2000. In addition, about 600 individuals have completed advanced training on alternative wastewater management systems.

"Our objective is to protect our natural resources and public health through technologies that provide adequate wastewater treatment," Tartt said. "As Alabama grows, a lot of places that once were passed up for septic systems are being revisited. The systems we have here could provide solutions to some of the state's wastewater treatment and disposal issues."

Smith said the 100-seat classroom at Alfa Environmental Hall gives the center a place to conduct training, and its laboratory provides space for UWA researchers to study microscopic organisms found in wastewater.

"Before Alfa came on board, all of the classroom work was done on campus," Smith said. "We had to bus the installers out here, and we were at the mercy of the weather. What Alfa has done is give us more flexibility. The center is now the home base for the wastewater industry in Alabama, and the building gives us an opportunity to create more public awareness about the work being done here."

UWA developed the Onsite Wastewater Training Center in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Public Health, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee and the Tombigbee Resource Conservation and Development Council. In addition, independent contractors and equipment manufacturers donated materials and hundreds of hours of their time to construct working models of onsite sewage treatment systems.

Today, the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Association operates the center in cooperation with UWA personnel. All septic system installers and pumpers must receive licensing training at the center. Continuing education training is provided at regional meetings across the state.

Tartt said the Alabama Onsite Wastewater Training Center is one of only a few such projects in the country and is being held up as a model for the construction of similar centers in other Southeastern states.


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