The need for qualified professionals to operate and maintain water and wastewater systems is becoming increasingly important as regulations and processes increase in complexity. Proper operation and maintenance of utility systems require personnel that are trained and knowledgeable about drinking water and wastewater disposal systems, as well as the regulations governing their operation. Federal and state regulations ensure that personnel have a certain minimum level of knowledge and experience through operator certification. Requirements for certification vary by State, as well as the size and type of system being operated.
The availability of reliable, safe drinking water is crucial to the operation of many parks that are located in remote areas and far from viable alternatives. There is an ongoing demand for individuals that have the training and skill set to perform routine daily monitoring and maintenance activities, respond quickly to emergencies, be aware of any problems occurring in the system and develop and implement corrective actions.
The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) directed the Environmental Protection Agency to issue guidelines specifying minimum standards for certification and recertification of operators of Public Water Systems (PWS). States generally require a certain level of operator certification based on the size and type (community or non-community) of the PWS and/or the type of treatment, if any, used in the system. Requirements generally include a certain amount of classroom training, on-the-job training and experience as well as requirements for continuing education. As an individual advances, the training requirements also increase. In addition, operator certifications must be renewed after a set time period and the continuing education requirements must be met for renewal. Systems that serve fewer people are not covered by the SDWA, but do fall under NPS guidelines. NPS guidelines are proactive and require disinfection on all water systems. Typically a certified water operator is required to do such work, thus all NPS water operators should have some level of training or state certification to operator NPS water systems.
Wastewater treatment systems are also located in remote areas where municipal treatment systems are not available for wastewater disposal. Operators must carefully monitor all wastewater collection and treatment systems to ensure they are operating as designed. Problems must be identified and corrected before they result in failure that can damage resources or force facilities to be closed. To align with the Organic Act, the NPS mission, and protect employee and visitor health it is crucial that all wastewater systems are properly operated and maintained.
NPS facilities must be installed, operated and monitored in compliance with Primacy Agency requirements. The Clean Water Act (CWA) controls water pollution through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants to waters of the United States. With few exceptions, the CWA and operator certification requirements for wastewater systems are administered by the States. Not all systems will require an NPDES permit, however operator certifications are generally required for those individuals who operate large, centralized wastewater treatment plants and/or collection systems.
Onsite wastewater systems with primary treatment occurring in septic tanks typically do not require operator certification. Because of the Organic Act and NPS mission it is imperative that operators of onsite systems have sufficient training and experience to ensure that these systems are adequately monitored and maintained to prevent failure. Onsite systems are regulated by the States or local jurisdictions.
States must develop certification programs based on the EPA guidelines but may be more stringent. State specific requirements can be found with the drinking water program of each State, which usually falls within the Department of Environmental Quality or similar division. A summary of State and federal resources for operators is available online.
NPS Directors Order 83, RM 83 (A1) provides detailed guidance on compliance with the SDWA as well as additional requirements for operation of non-public water systems.
Information on wastewater treatment in small communities is also available online.
NPS guidelines for wastewater can be found in Directors Oder 83, RM 83 (B1).
Want to know more about the requirements for the job? Follow this link to view the standard Position Description Library, scroll down and click on the “All Wage Grade PD’s.” Scroll down and you’ll find PD’s for Maintenance Mechanics, Utility Systems, and loads of other positions. (Note: depending on a Park’s specific needs these PD’s may be modified for an actual job posting.)
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4 hours Focused on managing the Water Assessment process in Federal facilities, this course assists the Federal Energy and Facility Manager to comply with executive orders and legislative mandates and meet the requirements of Section 432 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This course provides details on a five-step process for conducting, or ...
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Water professionals, public officials and interested citizens can take these online courses on understanding and implementing our water protection programs. To view EPA’s Training Program page click HERE
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