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Drinking and Wastewater Systems

Operator Certification

Most drinking water or wastewater systems require a certified operator (See below for those systems that are exempt from this requirement). A certified operator 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. The operator's class must match or exceed the size classification of the treatment system.

Important reminder: A certified operator must make all the process control decisions for the system. A certified operator must be on-site 24 hours a day or be available to be contacted if there is a need to make a process control decision. A process control decision is any action to maintain or change the quality or quantity of water being treated.

Not all operators working at the system are required to be certified. These non-certified operators cannot make process control decisions. If a non-certified operator makes a process control decision, they are violating state law. The certification program allows certified operators to direct non-certified operators to take certain actions using Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). The SOP must be written and approved by a certified operator-in-responsible-charge for the system. An SOP cannot be used to operate a system by an owner in lieu of having a certified operator available at all times during system operations. While DEP allows the use of an SOP by a non-certified operator, it is the certified operator who is held responsible by law for the proper operation of the system.

Water Systems Requiring a Certified Operator

A drinking water system requires a certified operator when it is classified as a:

  • Community Water Systems A public water system which serves at least 15 service connections used by year-round residents or regularly serves at least 25 year-round residents.
  • Nontransient Noncommunity Water Systems A noncommunity water system that regularly serves at least 25 of the same persons over6 months per year. Examples of nontransient noncommunity water systems include schools, churches, restaurants, and shopping centers, or businesses that have their own supply and treatment systems.

Water Systems Not Requiring a Certified Operator

A drinking water system usually does not require a certified operator when it is a:

  • A water system that is not public.
  • Transient Noncommunity Water Systems which is not a community or nontransient noncommunity water system or a bottled or vended water system nor retail water facility.

Wastewater Systems Requiring a Certified Operator

  • Publicly owned or non-publicly owned wastewater plants with a hydraulic design capacity of over 2,000 gallons.
  • Single entity owned collection system A wastewater collection system where the collection system relies on treatment from a wastewater treatment system owned by the owner of the collection system.
  • Satellite collection system with pump stations A wastewater collection system that conveys sewage to a treatment plant owned by a different entity.
  • A wastewater treatment system that uses treatment technology for which a certification examination and subclassification is provided, prior to discharging on to the surface of the ground or in a subsurface manner.

Wastewater Systems not Requiring a Certified Operator

A wastewater water system usually does not require a certified operator when it is a:

  • A wastewater treatment plant with a hydraulic design capacity of less than or equal to 2,000 gallons per day.
  • A wastewater treatment system that uses a treatment tank and subsurface treatment to provide adequate wastewater renovation.
  • An industrial wastewater system used to treat, recycle, or impound industrial or agricultural wastes within the boundaries of the industrial or agricultural property.
  • An industrial waste pretreatment system in which treated wastewater is released to the collection system of a wastewater treatment plant that is regulated by this chapter.
  • An industrial waste treatment plant that is an NPDES permitted point source discharge.
  • A system designed to collect and treat stormwater.

System Owner Responsibilities

Act 11 and the Operator Certification Program set legal obligations for system owners. Owners must:

  • Employ an operator with the appropriate certification that matches their system's size and technology.
  • Insure that a certified operator is available at all times to make process control decisions.
  • Report on an annual basis to DEP the name(s) of their certified operators using the Available Operator Annual Reporting Form.
  • Provide the certified operators a copy of the permit requirements for their system.
  • Meet all the applicable rules and regulations.

Certified Operator Responsibilities

The certified operator must meet the requirements of the Operator Certification Program. The following list provides some of the more important requirements:

  • Successfully complete the required continuing education.
  • Make timely application for certification renewal.
  • Report to the system owner any known violations or system conditions that may be or are causing violations of any DEP regulation or permit condition or requirement.
  • Provide for the suitable operation and maintenance of a water or wastewater system utilizing available resources needed to comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations, and permit conditions and requirements.
  • Report to the system owner any action necessary to prevent or eliminate a violation of applicable water or wastewater system laws, rules and regulations, and permit conditions and requirements. You must keep the system owner informed of all real or potential violations and what your plans are to deal with the situation.
  • Make or implement appropriate process control decisions, or taking or directing actions related to process control decisions for specific water or wastewater systems.
  • Approve in writing Standard Operations Plans (SOPs)

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