Understanding Certifications for Water and Sewer Operators

Licensed water and wastewater operators provide a critical service to residents and businesses, and they can also be among the most difficult to recruit and retain, leading to competition for scarce personnel among local governments. Cities and towns operating water and sewer systems need to pay careful attention to their pipeline of talent to help make sure their future need for certified operators will be met.

The SC Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's Board of Environmental Certification issues the credentials needed for working as a water or wastewater operator. Positions needing these credentials include:

  • Biological wastewater treatment operator;
  • Physical chemical wastewater treatment operator;
  • Water distribution system operator;
  • Water treatment facility operator; and
  • Well driller.

Participants can become a trainee in a position by applying and paying fees. They can receive certification by passing the relevant exam and acquiring a certain amount of experience. Certifications generally range from Class A to Class D. Class A requires four years of experience in the field while Class D requires one year. Water treatment facility operators have an additional Class E certification, requiring six months of experience.

After becoming certified, water or wastewater operators are required to either take continuing education classes or retake exams.

The SC LLR website is a resource for information on requirements, pursuing education, taking exams and renewing licenses. It also allows users to look up the licenses of existing licensees.

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control provides information on what type of treatment plant and distribution system requires what class of certification. For example, Treatment Plant Group VI, defined as "a facility treating a surface water source or a groundwater source which is under the direct influence of surface water, utilizing direct filtration, membrane technology or ozone," requires Class A water treatment facility operator certification.