As operators, we sign many documents and reports. We all know our own operator number by heart and use it daily at work for verifying compliance, and on many other things, including monthly operational reports, discharge monitoring reports, sampling plans, biosolids residuals reports, laboratory compliance sampling, quality control laboratory work, process control data and readings, log book entries, backflow reports, water management reporting, and more.
All of these documents are signed with your name and operator’s license number. The signature and number are a stamp, or seal, of attesting to the results in the report or entry in the logbook. We take pride in using our signature and operator number.
One area where we need to focus our attention when we sign as operators is on someone’s actual experience when he or she is working toward a water/wastewater or water distribution operator’s license. We need to make sure that the experience submitted is valid before signing the application form submitted by that applicant.
Recently, FWPCOA has had some questions come in on what actually counts for a licensed operator’s experience. This is pertaining to water, wastewater, and water distribution operator licenses issued by the Florida
Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) operator certification program.
I thought in this month’s column I would go over the verification of experience needed for a license and remind you of the importance of your review as the signer on the license application. Your signature is everything and is directly tied to your operator’s license when you sign for someone. Some operators are getting confused on what is eligible for experience to count toward a state operator’s license, so I thought some clarification on the subject would be important to us all and keep us all on the same page.
In June of this year, at the FWPCOA state board meeting in Lake City, Ron McCulley of the FDEP operator certification program was in attendance and talked about this very issue. He cleared up a lot of questions operators had on the subject of actual experience, and if you had an opportunity to attend the Florida Rural Water Association (FRWA) annual “Focus on Change” session this year, Ron talked about this topic there as well. A lot of the following information came directly from Ron; the Florida Adminstrative Code (FAC), which is the official compilation of the administrative rules and regulations of state agencies; or from the FRWA meeting I mentioned.
Florida Administrative Code Criteria
The FAC 62-602.250, Criteria for Determining Eligible Experience, is the key to unlocking many questions. It’s the basis for detailing the actual experience that counts for the FDEP operator license process found in 62-602.300, Qualifications for Operator Licensure. Read both rules to understand the entire process for
The current version of 62-602.250 came into effect in 2007; the previous version was in effect from 2002 to 2007. The main difference between the two is that water distribution experience was added to the rule in 2007 when the water distribution operator’s license was added. With this new addition, some water distribution time can now count partly toward a water treatment plant operator’s license (less than one half of the time), but the experience in 62-602.250(1)(a) must be the predominate experience.
Rules for Experience
Let’s look at the rules for experience for treatment plant operators to meet the requirements.
A person working at a domestic wastewater or water treatment plant, or electronic control system, as an employee, volunteer, or contractor preforming process control work, would be eligible.
- Process control actives include operational control tests, and evaluation and interpretation of the test results; preparation of plant process control reports, logs or records; and analysis and disposal or distribution of the water/wastewater plant’s product and the residuals from the treatment process. Also, control of the hydraulic system and necessary chemical adjustments in its operation.
- Water distribution system operation and maintenance as described in FAC 62-602.250(7), sample collection and analysis, electronic surveillance system monitoring, and plant maintenance can be counted for water treatment plant operators, but it would be less than half time.
A person employed in the daily onsite operational control of an industrial wastewater treatment plant can use this experience to meet the experience requirements of the Class A, B, or C wastewater operator license. Industrial wastewater treatment plant means the structures, equipment, and processes required to treat wastewater, primarily organic in composition, in a plant using a biodegradation or physical-chemical treatment process, similar to the domestic wastewater secondary, tertiary, or advanced treatment processes.
A person employed in the daily onsite operational control of an industrial water production process water treatment plant can use this experience to meet the requirements of the Class A, B, or C drinking water operator license. Industrial production process water treatment plant means the structures, equipment, and processes required to treat water in a plant using a physical-chemical treatment process similar to drinking water treatment processes.
Now let’s look at the rules for experience for water distribution operators to meet the requirements.
A person working in a water distribution operator system as an employee, volunteer, or contractor would be eligible. Here, too, the experience listed in paragraph (a) would predominate the experience time for distribution as well.
- Cleaning (swabbing, pigging, scraping, or air purging) water mains; installing, tapping, repairing/replacing, pressure testing, or disinfecting water mains and appurtenances (including fittings, valves, and hydrants); cleaning or disinfecting finished-water storage tanks; operating or adjusting pumps or control valves as necessary to regulate water distribution system flows or pressures; evaluating and interpreting water quality measurements in water distribution systems and troubleshooting to determine causes of water quality complaints; and estimating and justifying water distribution system operation and maintenance budgets.
- Flushing water mains; installing or repairing/replacing water services lines and appurtenances (including fittings, valves, and meters); establishing or implementing a cross connection control program (including installing, repairing/replacing, or testing backflow preventers); testing and maintaining water meters; locating and marking water mains or service lines; operating or exercising isolation valves; testing and maintaining fire hydrants; repairing/overhauling water pumps, control valves or meters; performing water quality measurements in water distribution systems; collecting and analyzing water samples; reading or updating water distribution system maps; and preparing water distribution system operation and maintenance records.
What does not count as actual experience? Again refer to FAC 62-602.250, Criteria for Determining Eligible Experience. Experience for treatment plant operators that does not count includes:
- Experience in wastewater systems where septic tanks, filter beds, or lagoons are the sole means of treatment.
- Experience in water systems used for swimming.
- Experience in construction or design of treatment plants, or well drilling.
- Experience in the installation or servicing of water softening or conditioning devices installed in residences or commercial establishments for the purpose of altering the aesthetic quality of the public water supply.
- Experience limited solely to driving a sludge truck, monitoring an electronic surveillance, facility maintenance, or laboratory work.
- Periods of employment as directors of public works, utility managers, regulatory inspectors, or in other occupations that do not include the experience as defined in the rule section.
Moving the Profession Forward
Be mindful of all of this the next time you are signing for someone’s experience; it could affect your operator’s license if the information is found negligent or false. Remember that your time working in a treatment plant or distribution system directly involved in operations and maintenance is your best bet to gain counted time toward your license.
We owe it to our profession and our future to make sure that this rule is applied effectively and correctly every time you sign on the dotted line. Operators are going to need all the direct experience they can get with new technologies advancing our profession. We wish you the best in your time gaining the wisdom and experience to be successful when getting licensed. Do the right thing, and be ethical in your approval of this time; it makes us all better operators in the long run!