Sourcing Certified Water and Wastewater Operators: Needs vs. Wants

Finding a good operator is similar to finding a good mechanic. You want someone who is professional, knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy. As an owner, you may understand the general concepts around how your car works and ways to maintain it, but in order to get the most out of your property you need someone intimately understands how it functions and best practices for maintenance to increase the longevity. Like a mechanic, an experienced, licensed operator has the proper tools at his/her disposal, including in-depth knowledge of the regulations and the specific requirements to best manage operation of the equipment.

If you are looking for an operator for your water or wastewater facility, it will benefit you to look at more than the minimum certification requirement.

We have outlined “needs and wants” in an operator below, equipping you with the knowledge to make an informed decision when considering your next certified water/wastewater operator to operate and manage your facilities.

Historically the Ontario operator licencing program was voluntary when first introduced in 1986. The voluntary program was used as a way to integrate a mandatory licencing program which was officially developed in 1993 through Ontario Regulation 435/93.

“The change to a mandatory licensing from a voluntary certification program was made by regulation under section 75 of the Ontario Water Resources Act. The program establishes recognized professional standards for operators; gives greater assurance of good and safe drinking water to the residents of Ontario; provides greater protection of the aquatic environment; assures efficient and safe use of operating facility; provides for optimum utilization of public money spent on water and wastewater utilities; and increases professionalism of an important environmental occupation” (source: http://www.watertraining.ca/courses/wt/46.pdf).

Needs/Musts

A certified water or wastewater operator is responsible for protecting the health of the community and the environment. An operator is required to operate, monitor and maintain all aspects of the treatment process – from the quantity and quality of the liquid coming into the treatment facility to the treated liquid leaving the treatment facility, and everything in between.

Operators are responsible for performing duties including conducting operational checks, adjusting pressures/flows/chemical addition rates, testing or evaluating a process that controls the effectiveness or efficiency of the treatment, testing and monitoring the quality of water or wastewater, and conducting sampling in accordance with the Regulations and the terms and conditions in the Environmental Compliance Approval (where applicable). Certified operators are not only responsible for monitoring the physical process, but also reviewing, managing and maintaining data as well as providing reports to the Client, and Regulatory Agencies.

Your facility may require an operator with a specific class, or level, of license, matching the classification assigned by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change or the Ministry of Health depending on several factors including the size (rated capacity) and type of treatment technology of your wastewater treatment system or drinking water treatment system.

The certification or licence class or level of an operator is based on the operator’s experience in the industry as well as their ability to successfully pass a knowledge and skills test.

To demonstrate what you should expect from a “good” operator, let’s revisit the mechanic analogy used earlier – If you walked into a disorganized, untidy and unprofessional mechanic shop to get an oil change you may be discouraged and your confidence in their ability to perform the work may plummet. Although they are NOT mandated to have a clean facility, many feel it reflects the quality of their work. Appearances matter to not only you but to other visitors as well, including unannounced visits by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change or the local Health Department. You also wouldn’t want a mechanic that is only experienced in oil changes to fix your transmission. You want your operator, just like your mechanic, to have experience on various processes and equipment, including multiple makes and models.

Here are some other tasks your operator should do to protect you as the Owner as well as your asset:

Wants

What you want in addition to having a certified operator is an operator:

  • involved with the Client – reporting on how the facility is operating as well as educating the client on their treatment system to promote better understanding;
  • experienced not only with respect to your specific facility technology, but also with how to apply their knowledge and experiences at other facilities to better troubleshoot issues, manage and maintain your equipment;
  • organized and able to provide accessible, up to date data including reports for last-minute MOECC audits with good record keeping;
  • who maintains the cleanliness of the site;
  • who follows health and safety regulations
  • professional in appearance and performance, acting as your representative to both the community and Regulators;
  • knowledgeable and up-to-date with changes/additions to regulations;
  • well versed and up to date in new emerging technologies which may contribute to a solution to issues experienced with aging infrastructure;
  • who completes and manages all maintenance on your facility;
  • who understands the owner’s site specific needs and doesn’t try and upsell them on unnecessary and expensive equipment; and is able to foresee and act on contingency plans; and,
  • who offers true 24/7 support since water and wastewater issues rarely occur between 9 and 5.

Your facility is an expensive investment so it only makes sense that you want an operator that runs your facility like it is there own. To optimize the longevity of the equipment, you want them to treat it with care so that it will remain a cost worthy investment and will run well and last.