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Working As a Wastewater Plant 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

  • $46,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Wastewater Plant 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 Wastewater Plant 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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Do you work as a Wastewater Plant Operator?

Average Yearly Salary
$46,000
Show Salaries
$33,000
Min 10%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$46,000
Median 50%
$63,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
City of Dallas
Highest Paying City
York, PA
Highest Paying State
Rhode Island
Avg Experience Level
4.4 years
How much does a Wastewater Plant Operator make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Wastewater Plant Operator in the United States is $46,493 per year or $22 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $33,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $63,000.

Top Skills for A Wastewater Plant Operator

  1. Lab Tests
  2. Water Treatment Plant
  3. Safety Procedures
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Observe variations in operating conditions, record sensor and gauge readings and perform routine in-plant lab tests to determine process requirements.
  • Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator Responsible for the daily operation of waste water treatment.
  • Understand and adhere to all company health and safety procedures as they relate to essential job functions.
  • Make adjustment to plant operations, SCADA system control, lab samples, service and repair plant equipment.
  • Handled the daily operations of pumps and equipment at a 2 million gallon per day treatment plant.

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Top 10 Best States for Wastewater Plant Operators

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Connecticut
  3. New York
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Massachusetts
  6. North Dakota
  7. New Jersey
  8. Ohio
  9. Hawaii
  10. Delaware
  • (172 jobs)
  • (47 jobs)
  • (196 jobs)
  • (9 jobs)
  • (97 jobs)
  • (46 jobs)
  • (92 jobs)
  • (169 jobs)
  • (20 jobs)
  • (9 jobs)

Wastewater Plant Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

83.6%

Unknown

8.8%

Female

7.6%
Ethnicity

White

63.9%

Hispanic or Latino

17.0%

Black or African American

11.4%

Asian

4.7%

Unknown

3.0%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.7%

Japanese

33.3%

Wastewater Plant Operator Education

Schools

California State University - Sacramento

14.6%

Lewis and Clark Community College

6.3%

Red Rocks Community College

6.3%

Western Piedmont Community College

6.3%

Missouri Southern State University

6.3%

University of Phoenix

6.3%

Florida Gateway College

6.3%

Eastern Arizona College

6.3%

University of Kentucky

4.2%

Tidewater Community College

4.2%

Lamar University

4.2%

Pennsylvania College of Technology

4.2%

Howard Community College

4.2%

Bay de Noc Community College

4.2%

Southern New Hampshire University

4.2%

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

4.2%

Chesapeake College

2.1%

Rose State College

2.1%

University of Southern Maine

2.1%

ITT Technical Institute - Indianapolis

2.1%
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Majors

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

21.1%

Business

14.1%

Environmental Science

12.5%

Electrical Engineering

7.0%

Education

5.5%

Geology

4.7%

Engineering

4.7%

Chemistry

3.9%

Criminal Justice

3.9%

Management

3.1%

Fire Science And Protection

3.1%

Biology

2.3%

Computer Science

2.3%

General Studies

2.3%

Science, Technology, And Society

1.6%

Natural Sciences

1.6%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.6%

Public Health

1.6%

Human Resources Management

1.6%

Industrial Technology

1.6%
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Degrees

Other

35.4%

Bachelors

23.4%

Associate

19.8%

Certificate

12.5%

Masters

6.8%

License

1.6%

Doctorate

0.5%
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What Is It Like To Work As A Wastewater Plant Operator

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June 24, 2019 on Zippia

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Updated May 19, 2020