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Certification Program Performance Measures

Water Standards and Facility Regulation Performance Measures

Introduction

The purpose of operator certification is to protect public health, safety, and the environment. The program requires operators to demonstrate the appropriate skills, knowledge and abilities to make the correct process control decisions needed to meet water quality standards. To that end, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the State Board for Certification of Water and Wastewater Systems Operators set basic training, minimal experience, and examination standards for operator certification. Certified operators must hold the correct certification class and subclass to operate their system. The operator’s certification subclasses must match the treatment technologies used at the system and match or exceed the size classification of the treatment system.

The Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems Operator Certification Act (Act 11) was passed in February 2002. Provisions of Act 11 required drinking water and wastewater system operators and owners to insure all process control decisions are made by a certified operator with the appropriate level of certification. Additionally, all certified operators must obtain continuing education. Once fully implemented, it is estimated that, certified operators will be receiving over 100,000 person hours of additional continuing education training each year.

The Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act (Act 537) requires local agencies such as municipalities or county health departments to administer a permitting program for the installation of onlot sewage disposal systems. The program ensures uniform design and installation standards. Act 537 thus prevents outbreaks of environmental and public health problems from substandard or malfunctioning onlot systems. A sewage enforcement office (SEO) is a knowledgeable local agency employee responsible for reviewing and approving onlot permit applications. While the SEO is trained by DEP and certified by the State Board for Certification of Sewage Enforcement Officers, the SEO is actually an employee of the local agency, not DEP.

All told, DEP administers the Pennsylvania testing and certification programs for over 25,000 water and wastewater treatment plant operators and sewage enforcement officers.

For more information, visit DEP's Drinking Water and Wastewater Operator Center.

Certification Program Outputs

Output/Status #1. As of January 2008, 85% of the drinking water systems and 75% of the wastewater systems are in compliance with Act 11.

DEP is beginning to implement the Certified Operator Compliance Program, a comprehensive program focused on bringing systems into compliance with the requirements of Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems Operator Certification Act (Act 11). The goal for the program is 95% compliance by the year 2010. The current level of compliance is estimated at 85% for drinking water systems and 75% for wastewater treatment systems.

Output/Status #2. As of February 2008, all operator certification examination notifications, inquiries, applications, exam letters, reciprocities, and renewals are up to date.

DEP’s Operator Certification staff handles inquiries on how to become certified as a Water/Wastewater Operator or as a Sewage Enforcement Officer. The inquiries and functions include: Answering questions on education requirements, continuing education and training issues, how and where to take examinations, approving, setting up and packing the examinations, examination results and notifications, evaluation of applications, processing renewal applications, processing reciprocal, upgrades and downgrades of licenses, extension requests, licenses that get denied due to lack of continuing education, expirations, revocations, suspensions and investigations of licenses. The Operator Website has a "Contact Us" email feature that produced over 1,300 emails to Certification Staff this past year. This feature has helped reduce the number of phone calls this program receives. This year Operator Certification has made significant improvements within the program by automating manual processes in eFACTS; reworded language on the renewal application to lesson inquiries, and changed exam processes to make the program more efficient. This program consistently continues to analyze processes to effectively implement improvements to operational procedures.

Table 1. Completed Activities Under the Operator Certification Program

Operator Certification
    New Licenses Renewal Applications  
 2006 429  2,643 
 2007 622 3,219

Table 2. Completed Activities Under the SEO Certification Program

Sewage Enforcement Officer Certification
    New Licenses Renewal Applications  
 2006 86  858 
 2007 74 32

Output/Status #3. During the first half of 2006, DEP processed 429 applications as part of the Small System Operator Expense Reimbursement program.

The Small System Operator Expense Reimbursement reimburses eligible small system operators (those serving less than 3,300 customers) for the cost of obtaining and maintaining their certification. Reimbursement is available for drinking water operators who have taken a DEP-approved training course to prepare for the certification exam or to meet the continuing education requirements.

Small System Operator Expense Reimbursement
   Applications Received Reimbursement
 2006 1,113  $161,000
 2007 1,172 $164,445

Output/Status #4. DEP has approved 155 nationwide training sponsors offering nearly 1,400 approved courses to DEP certified water and wastewater operators.

DEP's EarthWise Academy provides a Web-based learning experience for environmental training. PA certified water and wastewater operators can find and take regulatory courses that count towards continuing education requirements. DEP staff are now welcome to take DEP sponsored Web courses in EarthWise Academy free of charge under "phase II" of the e-learning project. In addition, EarthWise Academy features a searchable course catalog that contains information on all DEP approved training courses and approved training sponsors.

The training courses and the training sponsors found in the EarthWise Academy catalog must be approved by the Bureau of Water Standards and Facility Regulation Training Section. There is a formal application process to approve both the training sponsors and their courses. To date, there are 179 approved nationwide training sponsors offering nearly 1,593 approved courses. Table 3 shows the breakdown of all training sponsors and course applications acted on by the Training Section between March 1, 2007 and March 1, 2008.

Table 3. EarthWise Academy Approved Training Sponsors and Courses
March 1, 2007 through March 1, 2008

# of Apps In Process Approved Denied Withdrawn  
 Sponsors 17 16 
 Courses
Drinking Water and Wastewater 143 13  128 
Drinking Water 40 39 
Wastewater 92 11  81 
Totals 275  25  248 
 Conference Notification
Drinking Water and Wastewater 59  57 
Drinking Water 33  32 
Wastewater 45  44 
Totals 137  133 
 Post Presentation Credit
Drinking Water and Wastewater 118 2 95 17 4
Drinking Water 1 0 1 0 0
Wastewater  15   0   14   1   0 
 Totals 134 2 110 18 4
 Totals for 1 year period 564 27 491 22 5

Certified Operators are able to view their transcript by visiting the EarthWise Academy Home page, and by selecting "View my transcript".