What Do Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators Do?
Ensuring the general public has clean and safe drinking water is a critical function of cities and municipalities. In essence, this is the crux of what water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators do. Specifically, they operate or control an entire process or system of machines to transfer or treat water or wastewater. Nationally, there is expected to be an 8% annual growth in the field. This translates into approximately 4,750 job openings in the United States annually.
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators Skills and Abilities
In order to effectively run a plant, water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must possess broad mechanical, mathematical and operational know-how. To this end, you will need to possess advanced knowledge of calculus, chemistry and physics, which are an integral part of the job. Working knowledge of machines and tools, including repair and maintenance, is also an integral component of the position. Other skills and abilities required of the position include the following:
- Operation and control of the entire plant including troubleshooting any problems
- Deductive and inductive reasoning as it relates to plant operations
- Strong oral and written communication skills as well as managerial and leadership skills
- Knowledge of policies and procedures as they relate to public safety and security
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators Duties
The daily duties of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators are both dynamic and multifaceted. In addition to ensuring that all plant operations are running smoothly and efficiently, you will need to be able to direct and manage plant employees. You also need to be able to quickly adjust to and troubleshoot issues and problems at hand and to act expeditiously and accordingly to correct them. Some other specific tasks of the position include the following:
- Inspecting equipment and monitoring operating conditions and meters to determine load requirements and detect malfunctions
- Collecting and testing water and wastewater samples for color analysis standards
- Adding chemicals to disinfect and deodorize water and other liquids
- Evaluating information to determine compliance with local and national standards
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators Tools and Technology
In this position, you will almost constantly be working with myriad types of wastewater engineering equipment including air samplers and collectors, bacterial removal equipment and chlorine handling equipment. In addition, you need to know how to handle and operate ultrafiltration equipment such as backwash filters, microstrainers and trickling filter beds. Knowledge of the following technology-based tools is also a must-have for the job:
- Compliance software
- Database user interface and query software
- Document management software
- Industrial control software
- Office suite software
Education and Training for Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators
A bachelor’s degree is not required for this field, although many individuals benefit from this level of education under their belt. Most people in this field have their associate’s degree or have undergone some sort of specialized workplace training program. In fact, on-the-job training is crucial to advancement in the field.
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators Salary
Salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators tend to vary by region and by the size of a wastewater treatment facility. The median annual salary for someone in the profession is $44,100, although high-end salaries range from $70,000 to $95,000 in some states.
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators Jobs by Geography
Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah rank first, second and third, respectively, for having the most positions available in the field. Other states that rank high in employment for this profession include Mississippi, Texas and Wyoming. These states are a good place to start to find a job in the field.