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HomeOWTS Training

Introduction to California Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems 

The Why-What-Where-Which-Who-When-How of OWTSs

August 26, 2024
10AM - 12PM
REHS Continuing Education Contact Hours are available for a $25.00 fee for this Training

Goal: Provide Environmental Health Specialists a solid foundation in understanding the knowledge and skills necessary to regulate OWTSs, ensuring environmental protection and public health safety.


Objective: This 2-hour virtual introductory training session will provide Environmental Health Specialists with essential knowledge of California Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS), enabling them to understand key concepts, regulatory requirements, and basic OWTS design applications to promote environmental protection and public health. Note: this is not an advanced course.


Specifically, by the end of this training, participants will be able to:

  1. Understand Basic OWTS Concepts:
    1. Explain the fundamental principles and purposes of OWTS.
    2. Identify the key components and types of OWTS commonly used in California.
  2. Regulations and Guidelines:
    1. Outline the primary regulations and guidelines governing OWTS in California.
    2. Understand the roles of key regulatory agencies and the importance of compliance
  3. System Design:
    1. Recognize importance of a Site and Soil Evaluation.
    2. Describe basic elements and components of OWTS designs.
  4. Environmental and Public Health Considerations:
    1. Understand the potential impacts of OWTS and the importance of proper siting and design.
    2. Recognize different OWTS types and components, and why they are necessary.
  5. System maintenance:
    1. Operation, Monitoring and Maintenance (OM&M).
    2. Do’s and Don’t’s
Cost: Free to participate. Registration required. Register below.

Cost: $25.00 for a 2-hour REHS Continuing Education Contact Hours Certificate. Requirement: after the training a course evaluation will be available below and a Payment Link will be sent to you after you register below.

A zoom link will be sent to registrants prior to training from Sheryl Baldwin at

REHS CECH Certificates will be emailed to attendees after payment and evaluation is submitted within 2 weeks. Certificates will be emailed by

Register here: OWTS Training - 8/26/2024 


Introduction and Overview (10 minutes) --- Nicki Fowler

  - Welcome and training objectives


Regulations and Concepts (20 minutes) --- Deb Anderson

  - Why we care about Wastewater - Overview of California OWTS regulations


Basic OWTS Design Factors (30 minutes) ---- Craig Paul

  - Importance of Site Assessment and Soil Evaluations - Setback requirements and soil percolation rates


Principles of OWTS design, installation, and operations (30 minutes) --- Bryan Vyverberg

  - Types of OWTSs and why

  - Basic installation / Common issues and troubleshooting


Maintaining an OWTS (10 minutes) – Armeda Simpson-VanDam

-  The practice of operation, monitoring and maintenance – caring for the system


Questions and Dialogue (20 minutes)
  - Interactive discussions and Q&A


Nicki Fowler is a lifelong resident of Monterey County.   She graduated with a Bachelor of Biology from UC Davis and shortly thereafter joined the Monterey County Environmental Health Bureau as an Environmental Health Specialist trainee.  She has worked in the Land Use program throughout her 18 years with the County and currently supervises a dynamic group of 4 individuals that have a wide range of responsibilities involving land use development and onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS).  Nicki played a key role in developing and implementing the Monterey County Local Agency Management Program (LAMP) and amending the local code to incorporate it.  As of January 2024, she joined Darius Haghighi as co-chair of the OWTS TAC.


Deb Anderson is a Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) with over 20 years of experience in the field of Environmental Health at the local level. She graduated from the University of California, Davis (“Go Ags”) with a BS in Human Development with her eye on medical school but stumbled upon the field of Environmental (Public) Health and never looked back.


Throughout her career, she worked in three different counties (Solano, El Dorado, and Yolo) as a district specialist and has worked directly in a multitude of EH programs such as land use, water wells, domestic wastewater, food safety, recreational health, and housing. From 2015 to 2023, she was the Yolo County Lead REHS for the Land Use and the Wastewater Programs, helping to develop and implement the “new” LAMP.


She is currently a Senior Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the CDPH Emergency Preparedness Team. You will frequently see her involved in statewide EHTER [/'e∙tr/] Trainings (EHTER= Environmental Health Training in Emergency Response).


Craig Paul received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agronomy, with an emphasis in environmental soil science, from Brigham Young University. His master’s thesis explored how well desert soils could remediate treated and untreated wastewater.

Craig spent roughly three years as a soil scientist working for a geotechnical engineering firm in Virginia performing site and soil evaluations, inspections and troubleshooting for onsite wastewater systems. Following the housing market crash of 2008, he was hired by the South Central Public Health District in Idaho as an environmental health specialist. Over the next 14 years, he worked his way up the ladder to Environmental Health Director, where he was responsible for all EH activities within eight counties in central Idaho. In 2017, while working as the Land and Water Program Manager for the Health District, Craig was appointed to the National Environmental Health Association Private Water and Decentralized Wastewater Program Committee where he assisted in the development of educational materials to aid professionals and property owners dealing with and recovering from various types of disasters which could affect decentralized water and wastewater infrastructure.

Craig is currently the Assistant Director of Environmental Health and Animal Services for Placer County, a position he has held for 2 years. He holds a Registered Environmental Health Specialist credential from the National Environmental Health Association and is a Soil Science Society of America Certified Professional Soil Scientist.

He currently lives in Lincoln, California, with his wife and three children, and one cat that is still adjusting to indoor life after having free access to the Idaho outdoors.

Bryan Vyverberg, serving as a Supervising Environmental Health Specialist, began his journey from the Midwest to California after graduating college in 2001. With over two decades of experience in environmental health, Bryan has made significant contributions in various areas including consumer protection, land use, and water quality management.

In 2018, Bryan played a key role in the development and implementation of El Dorado County's Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual. He led outreach efforts and conducted trainings for septic system designers and installers, ensuring smooth compliance with the new regulations. Additionally, Bryan has over 15 years of experience teaching food safety manager classes to restaurant owners and their staff.

Bryan holds a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and is a Registered Environmental Health Specialist. He approaches his work with a genuine enthusiasm for public service and a dedication to environmental health.

Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Bryan relocated to El Dorado County in 2003 and has since appreciated the region's natural beauty and outdoor activities. An avid fan of IndyCar racing, Bryan enjoys spending his free time cycling along the American River Parkway or hiking in Coloma.

Bryan hopes to share his experience and expertise to help those attending the training with the core concepts and background needed to understand the basics of septic system design. 

Armeda Simpson-Van Dam is a Senior Environmental Health Specialist specializing in the Wells and Onsite Wastewater program at Napa County. With a tenure starting in 2015, Armeda brings extensive expertise in environmental health and a commitment to ensuring safe and sustainable wastewater management practices.

Having spent her formative years beneath the towering Redwoods and alongside the majestic Pacific Ocean, Armeda's affinity for the environment has been a constant throughout her life. Her academic journey began at Humboldt State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Cellular/Molecular Biology, complemented by minors in Communication and Linguistics. Armeda furthered her education at Michigan Tech, earning a Master’s in Geology with a focus on Natural Hazards, all while contributing to the Peace Corps in El Salvador.

During her time in El Salvador, Armeda navigated the challenges of investigating the source and impact of Arsenic and Boron in a local lake with few resources. From grappling with boiling mud to evading the bites of coral snakes, she demonstrated both resilience and dedication in the face of adversity.

Beyond her Master’s, Armeda's diverse research pursuits have included exploring extremophilic bacteria, delving into the superfund sites of Iron Mountain Mine and Mare Island, and being published in the New Phytologist for her work on breeding barriers in native tomato plants. She has a passion for teaching and has held various roles as an educator throughout her career.

Outside of her professional endeavors, Armeda embraces family life with her college sweetheart while raising their three children. She enjoys training in Shotokan martial arts, writing, kayaking, and spending time in nature.