In Virginia, a Waterworks Operator is any individual who is in responsible charge of a public water supply system. Generally, all community and nontransient water systems are required to have at least one licensed waterworks operator. Only a licensed operator (with a license of a class equal to or greater than the class of the water system) may make or authorize changes in the treatment process, and a licensed operator must be available at all times when the water system is in operation.
Waterworks Operator Licenses are issued by the Board for Waterworks and Wastewater Works Operators, which is part of the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR). That Board’s regulations prescribe the licensure program and requirements. The Health Department is not involved with issuing licenses or giving examinations. Contact the Board at:
Board for Waterworks and Wastewater Works Operators
Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
9960 Mayland Drive
Richmond, Virginia 23233-1463
To get a Virginia Waterworks Operator License, you must demonstrate that you have gained a specified amount of actual experience working at a public water supply system and that you can pass a multiple-choice open-book examination. The actual amount of experience you will need depends on your educational background and the amount of specialized waterworks operator training you have. You must meet the experience requirements for your level of education before you can take the examination. The exam is designed to determine if you have the required knowledge to perform the operation, maintenance and supervision tasks typical of an operator.
Licensure examinations are offered at several locations around the state. Locations appear in the candidate bulletin. The exam will consist of multiple choice questions (from 60 to 75 questions depending on operator class), and you will have three hours to complete it. This is an open book test, so you may bring reference books with you. You may also bring hand-written notes, but they should be placed in a binder. You will also need a battery-powered calculator (you probably will not have access to an electric outlet, and the lighting may not be bright enough for a solar-powered calculator).
Examination questions are not taken from any specific text book or training course, although many of the questions are referenced to the series of training manual published by California State University—Sacramento (see References). The questions are written by experienced Virginia operators, trainers, and waterworks managers, based on a list of identified tasks that operators do. An operator familiar with the operation of water systems in Virginia should be able to pass the appropriate class of exam, but you may need to learn about standard treatment processes that are not used in your plant. You will also be expected to know state and federal drinking water regulations and the state operator licensing regulations. You can learn about these by attending training courses, by taking correspondence courses, by studying reference books, and from on-the-job training programs offered by your employer.
Generally, each exam covers material from identified content areas that is required knowledge for operators of water systems of that class. Content areas can be found on pages 13-19 of the PSI Candidate Bulletin. The Class V examination concentrates on systems with no treatment or with hypochlorination, while the Class IV test covers treatment processes like corrosion control, iron and manganese removal, softening, and slow sand filtration. The Class III test adds questions on conventional treatment, filtration, fluoridation, aeration, and other processes. The Class II and Class I tests get into more complicated treatment, and add extra questions on the supervision of staff and management of larger systems. The charts on the next pages list the duties of operators of the different classes and the percentage of the exam devoted to each of those duties.
All of the exams include calculation problems, with increasing difficulty in the higher classes. You should be familiar with basic formulas for area and volume, dosages of chemicals, conversions from English to metric units, etc. All of the calculation problems are multiple choice questions; you can expect that the incorrect answers listed will be answers you can get if you make calculation errors, such as multiplying instead of dividing, or forgetting to include a conversion factor. Remember to bring a battery-powered calculator with you.
Waterworks Operator Licenses expire at the end of February of each odd-numbered year. You should receive a renewal notice, but it is your responsibility to renew your license, even if you don't get your notice. Always keep the licensing Board advised of your current mailing address.