Proposed updates to Washington State Department of Ecology’s Wastewater Operator Certification Program reflect new treatment technologies, create opportunities for professional growth, and establish a new fee schedule. The state’s approximately 2,000 wastewater treatment plant operators play a vital role in protecting public health and clean water from the contaminated wastewater that leaves homes and businesses.
“We’ve heard from operators across the state who are concerned about succession planning,” said Heather Bartlett, Water Quality Program Manager. “We’re adding ‘Operator-in-Training’ categories to help people enter the profession and gain experience so our wastewater infrastructure continues to function properly for decades to come.”
Ecology’s program ensures operators are properly trained to keep treatment facilities running smoothly. The program evaluates required education documents and operator certification applications, reviews training programs, oversees the annual renewal process, and revokes certifications when necessary. By law, certification fees are required to fully fund the program.
A certified operator from the City of Enumclaw is seen here cleaning a secondary clarifier, just one of many tasks that keep a wastewater treatment plant running smoothly.
As this is the first update to the program since 1999, Ecology is proposing multiple changes, including:
- Adding ‘Operator-in-Training’ categories for all certification levels;
- Updating the professional growth requirements;
- Recognizing newer, more advanced treatment technologies in plant classification; and,
- Clarifying and reorganizing rule language where needed.
Certification fees have been capped in law since the 1980s. Legislation passed in 2018 mandated Ecology establish a fee schedule for the program. The proposed fee structure reflects feedback from the Rule Advisory Committee, which includes certified operators across the state. As proposed, the fees will increase in phases and application fees are lower for entry level positions.