WATER AND WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT OPERATORS California Occupational Guide Number 443 Interest Area 5-C 1995
WATER TREATMENT PLANT OPERATORS (Drinking Water) work with equipment and processes used to disinfect, purify, and clarify surface or aquifer water for human consumption. WASTE WATER TREATMENT PLANT OPERATORS work with equipment to remove harmful industrial and domestic pollution from wastewater. Waste materials are transported by water through sewer pipes to treatment plants. Together with engineers, scientists and technicians, treatment operators are responsible for meeting federal and state water quality standards.
Both types of operators are needed in communities or facilities large enough to have a water system and treatment plant. Most are employed by cities, towns, or water districts. A small number work in national parks or private campgrounds.
The job duties of treatment operators vary depending on the type and size of plant. In small plants, one operator may be responsible for all operations. In large plants, operators may perform a small but more complex segment of the processing operation. The skilled work performed by operators involves the operation, control and maintenance of electric motors, valves, pumps, chemical feeding devices and mixers. They use equipment and devices to regulate the flow of untreated (raw) water into treatment plants and the flow of treated water out of these plants. They also monitor flow rates, water level and distribution, and pressure levels. Operators take water samples and do chemical or biological tests. They add specified amounts of chlorine, ammonia, lime, and other chemicals to disinfect and clarify water. In wastewater treatment, they adjust the level of chlorine. Other duties include daily reading of meters, gauges and indicators. They also log activities such as gauge readings and volume of water processed. In addition, operators inspect equipment periodically and perform routine maintenance. Increasingly, they use automated equipment to do their work.
The work may be performed indoors or outdoors. Water treatment plants must be kept clean and orderly to minimize potential hazards from electric shock, moving machinery, and slippery walkways. Necessary protective equipment is usually supplied by employers and may include rainwear, protective clothing, and uniforms. Operators may be exposed to unpleasant odors and noise from electrical motors and pumps. However, modern plants have developed safety systems to prevent exposure to chemicals and chlorine fumes.
Operators may become members of various unions such as Stationary Engineers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Union of Operating Engineers, company employee associations, or specific industry affiliations. In certain areas of the State, the union and government may offer a joint apprenticeship program for water treatment operators that normally takes four and one-half years.
The following information is from the California Projections of Employment published by the Labor Market Information Division.
Estimated number of workers in 1990 2,950 Estimated number of workers in 2005 3,420 Projected Growth 1990-2005 16% Estimated openings due to separations by 2005 1,320
(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover)
Turnover is normally low in this occupation. Efforts to ensure clean water supplies through federal regulations have increased demands to develop "high tech" systems for treatment plants.
The occupation is expected to grow at a rate considerably slower than the average of all other occupations. Most job openings will occur as workers retire or leave the work force for other reasons.
WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS
Salaries vary between areas and public and private employment. The following information lists typical monthly wage ranges for both Wastewater and Drinking Water Treatment Plant Operators.
Entry .............................................$1,030-$3,050 Experienced........................................$1,100-$3,785 Journey Level......................................$1,720-$5,700
Operators normally work rotating shifts, weekends included, and are paid a shift differential for swing or graveyard shifts. Overtime hours may be necessary when emergencies occur and are generally paid at time and one-half or double time rates. Benefits include paid vacation, holidays and sick leave; health, dental and vision insurance; and retirement plans.
ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING
Entrance requirements vary somewhat, depending on the employer. Some employers require applicants to have an associate's or bachelor's degree in water treatment technology. Other employers hire applicants who have a high school education or equivalent. Many employers hire inexperienced but highly motivated applicants and train them on-the-job. Some hire only experienced, certified operators.
All Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators must be certified by one of the two State operator certification program agencies.
The certification process requires both types of operators to have specific amounts of on-the-job training, complete a number of training courses and pass a competency examination for each grade level of certificate (Grades I through V). Operators with no prior experience generally begin as operators in-training and work under close supervision of certified operators. As a condition of continued employment, trainees are required to obtain a Grade I certificate within a certain number of years. Most employers require a valid driver's license.
Trainees receive intensive on-the-job training and attend technical classes after work. They need mechanical aptitude and the ability to read and understand charts and graphs and carry out oral and written instructions.
The work requires frequent walking, standing, and lifting. Employers may require vision and color perception screening. High school education or the equivalent is preferred, including courses in mathematics, English, chemistry and physics. Training courses in waterworks practices and water technology are offered in the following colleges and universities:
--Antelope Valley Mt. San Antonio --Butte Orange Coast --Canyons Palomar --Chabot Rancho Santiago --Citrus Sacramento City --Desert San Diego Mesa --Fresno Siskiyous --Imperial Valley Solano --Los Angeles Trade/Tech Ventura --Modesto
--California State University, Humboldt Wastewater Management--MA degree --University of California, Davis Water Science--MA degree
California State University Sacramento offers two self-study (correspondence) programs: Water Treatment
Plant Operation and Waste Water Treatment Plant Operation. Water plant treatment workers take one of the courses to prepare for the certification test. The program also prepares individuals who are not already working in water treatment to compete for entry jobs. Job seekers may write to:
Office of Water Programs California State University, Sacramento 6000 J Street Sacramento, CA 95819-6025
Water Resources Engineering Degrees are offered at California State University, San Jose; Stanford University; and the University of Southern California.
OTHER SOURCES OF INFORMATION
State Water Resources Control Board Operator Certification P.O. Box 944212 Sacramento, CA 94244-2120 (916) 657-2390
Department of Health Services Operator Certification Program P.O. Box 94234-7320 Sacramento, CA 94234-7320 (916) 322-2308
California Water Pollution Control Association 3050 Citrus Circle, Suite 225 Walnut Creek, CA 94598-9935
FINDING THE JOB
Job seekers should contact one or more of the following job lead sources:
--State, federal, county and city water departments --Private Water Districts --College placement centers --Water Management Associations --Newspaper help-wanted ads --California Department of Employment Job Services --California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards
RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES
Stationary Engineers No. 234
OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES
DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1) Water Treatment Plant Operator 954.382-014 Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator 955.362-010
OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Water and Liquid Treatment Plant and System Operators 950020
Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.