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Working As a Waste Water Operator

  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Getting Information
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $34,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Waste Water Operator Do

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators manage a system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Duties

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically do the following:

  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia or chlorine, to disinfect water or other liquids
  • Inspect equipment on a regular basis
  • Monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples
  • Record meter and gauge readings and operational data
  • Operate equipment to purify and clarify water or to process or dispose of sewage
  • Clean and maintain equipment, tanks, filter beds, and other work areas
  • Follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations
  • Ensure safety standards are met

It takes a lot of work to get water from natural sources—reservoirs, streams, and groundwater—into people’s taps. Similarly, it is a complicated process to convert the wastewater from drains and sewers into a form that is safe to release into the environment.

The specific duties of plant operators depend on the type and size of the plant. In a small plant, one operator may be responsible for maintaining all of the systems. In large plants, multiple operators work the same shifts and are more specialized in their duties, often relying on computerized systems to help them monitor plant processes.

Water treatment plant and system operators work in water treatment plants. Fresh water is pumped from wells, rivers, streams, or reservoirs to water treatment plants, where it is treated and distributed to customers. Water treatment plant and system operators run the equipment, control the processes, and monitor the plants that treat water to make it safe to drink.

Wastewater treatment plant and system operators do similar work to remove pollutants from domestic and industrial waste. Used water, also known as wastewater, travels through sewer pipes to treatment plants where it is treated and either returned to streams, rivers, and oceans, or used for irrigation.

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How To Become A Waste Water Operator

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically need a high school diploma and a license to work. They also typically undergo on-the-job training.

Education

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators need a high school diploma or equivalent to become operators. Employers may prefer applicants who have completed a certificate or an associate’s degree program in a related field such as environmental science or wastewater treatment technology, as it reduces the amount of training a worker will need. These programs are generally offered at community colleges, technical schools, and trade associations.

Training

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators need long-term on-the-job training to become fully qualified. Trainees usually start as attendants or operators-in-training and learn their skills on the job under the direction of an experienced operator. The trainees learn by observing and doing routine tasks, such as recording meter readings, taking samples of wastewater and sludge, and performing simple maintenance and repair work on plant equipment.

Larger treatment plants usually combine this on-the-job training with formal classroom or self-paced study programs. As plants get larger and more complicated, operators need more skills before they are allowed to work without supervision.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must be licensed by the state in which they work. Requirements and standards vary widely depending on the state.

State licenses typically have multiple levels, which indicate the operator's experience and training. Although some states will honor licenses from other states, operators who move from one state to another may need to take a new set of exams to become licensed in their new state.

Advancement

Most states have multiple levels of licenses for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. Each increase in license level allows the operator to control a larger plant and more complicated processes without supervision.

At the largest plants, operators who have the highest license level work as shift supervisors and may be in charge of large teams of operators.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must conduct tests and inspections on water or wastewater and evaluate the results.

Detail oriented. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must monitor machinery, gauges, dials, and controls to ensure everything is operating properly. Because tap water and wastewater are highly regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operators must be careful and thorough in completing these tasks.

Math skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must have the ability to apply data to formulas that determine treatment requirements, flow levels, and concentration levels.

Mechanical skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must know how to work with machines and use tools. They must be familiar with how to operate, repair, and maintain equipment.

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Top Skills for A Waste Water Operator

  1. Water Treatment Plant
  2. Lab Tests
  3. Water Samples
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Instituted new computer maintenance management program to track and trend compliance testing and process control testing of waste water treatment plant.
  • Perform lab tests on water to ensure water meets state safety specifications.
  • Collected river and waste water samples around Wilmington, Delaware.
  • Performed field-testing of waste streams as necessary for characterization using pH meters and hydrometers.
  • Worked with instrumentation for controls and upgrading to computer controls for overall plant operations.

Waste Water Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

82.0%

Unknown

11.3%

Female

6.7%
Ethnicity

White

60.7%

Hispanic or Latino

16.8%

Black or African American

12.1%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

72.7%

Korean

9.1%

Japanese

9.1%

Cree

9.1%
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Waste Water Operator Education

Schools

California State University - Sacramento

12.7%

Gadsden State Community College

11.1%

Delaware Technical and Community College

6.3%

Tidewater Community College

6.3%

Crowder College

6.3%

University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

4.8%

University of Phoenix

4.8%

River Valley Community College

4.8%

Salt Lake Community College

4.8%

Solano Community College

4.8%

Ashford University

4.8%

Rogers State University

3.2%

University of Maryland - University College

3.2%

University of Houston

3.2%

Vincennes University

3.2%

Blue Ridge Community College

3.2%

Washington State Community College

3.2%

Trinity Valley Community College

3.2%

Jacksonville State University

3.2%

Louisiana College

3.2%
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Majors

Business

15.2%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

10.4%

Natural Resources Management

7.2%

Environmental Science

7.2%

Criminal Justice

7.2%

General Studies

6.0%

Precision Metal Working

5.2%

Biology

5.2%

Industrial Technology

4.8%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.6%

Automotive Technology

3.6%

Management

3.6%

Engineering

3.6%

Computer Science

3.2%

Chemistry

2.8%

Nursing

2.4%

Education

2.4%

Civil Engineering

2.4%

Public Health

2.0%

Drafting And Design

2.0%
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Degrees

Other

43.3%

Bachelors

19.1%

Associate

17.9%

Certificate

11.1%

Masters

4.1%

Diploma

2.7%

License

1.0%

Doctorate

0.7%
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Updated May 19, 2020