2016 - 18 AAC 74 Regulation Changes

Changes to the State of Alaska Water and Wastewater Operator Certification and Training regulations, 18 AAC 74, became on effective November 26, 2016. The following is a comprehensive list of the changes.

Summary of Changes

Administering Exams and Reviewing Applications for Certification

Beginning November 26, 2016, Operator Certification staff will only review an application for certification after an operator passes an exam. An operator will register for exams by completing a one page paper form or by registering online. After passing an exam, an operator can either apply for certification or take the next higher level exam before applying. Applications for certification will be accepted and reviewed continuously throughout the year.

Here is how the process will go:

Exams First:
   ▪  Operators pay just an exam fee when registering for exams
   ▪  Anyone can take level 1 exams
   ▪  Operators are approved for exams based on having passed lower level exams

Applications Second:
   ▪  Operators submit applications for certification after passing an exam
   ▪  Operators pay just an application fee
   ▪  Applications can be submitted and reviewed continuously throughout the year

To register for an online exam, access your operator certification record at https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Water/OpCert/Home.aspx?p=OperatorSearch, and click the “Register for an Exam” button.

The new paper exam registration form and application for certificaiton are available at http://dec.alaska.gov/water/opcert/appforms.htm.

Classification of Water and Wastewater Treatment Systems

Water treatment (WT) and wastewater treatment (WWT) systems are classified according to complexity. System components are awarded classification points, and total points determine the classification of a system. The classifications of all systems can be viewed at: https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Water/OpCert/Home.aspx?p=SystemSearch.

The 2016 amendments to 18 AAC 74 include changes to specific component point values as follows.


System Type

Previous Value

New Value

Membrane Filtration

WT &


8    -  single membrane technology
12  -  more than one technology

Wet Scrubber




Odor Control


Points for all types of odor control can add up to 20

Maximum points a system can receive for odor control is 6

Chlor-alkali on-site generation

WT &

No previous value


Raw water storage tanks




Granular activated carbon contactors (GAC)





WT &


3  -  without pure oxygen
4  -  pure liquefied oxygen
5  -  on-site gen. of pure oxygen

Inline static mixers




Batch sedimentation


No previous value


UV disinfection



4 -  when used to meet an  
      inactivation requirement
2 -  not used to meet an
      inactivation requirement

Clearwell or water storage in plant




Tanks used for achieving contact time (CT)*


No previous value


Finished water storage tanks for systems with no classified water distribution system*


No previous value

Points per volume (gal) of storage
3  -  1,000,000 or more
2  -  50,000 to 999,999
1  -  less than 50,000
0  -  pressure tanks

Filter backwash recycling


No previous value

2  -  groundwater systems
3  -  surface water systems

* Systems with both CT tanks and finished water storage tanks only receive points for CT tanks.

Operator Certification staff will be working with systems in the coming weeks to adjust classifications where necessary. Operators who held the proper certification before their systems’ classification increased will have a two year transition period to achieve the higher level of certification.

Water Treatment and Water Distribution System Definitions

Historically, the definition of water treatment system excluded ground water systems adding only chlorine, whereas all other systems adding one chemical were classified as water treatment or Small Treated, depending on the population served. With the 2016 revisions, groundwater systems that serve more than 500 people per day or more than 100 service connections and added only chlorine will have both a classified water treatment system and a classified water distribution system consistent with other large systems using a single chemical. Likewise, the operators will be required to hold certifications in both system types.

Systems classified as Small Untreated or Small Treated are not affected by this change.

There are 10 utilities in Alaska that operate large groundwater systems where only chlorine is added. Operator Certification staff will be working with those systems over the next several weeks to adjust classifications and to have operators obtain water treatment certifications.

Certificate Renewal Extension

Prior to the November 26, 2016, an operator had a 180 day grace period to renew a certificate after it expired provided the continuing education requirement was met prior to expiration. For example, if a certificate expired December 31, 2016, it could be renewed through June 30, 2017. With the regulation change, operators will be allowed to renew for a full year (365 days) after expiration provided the CEU requirement is met. However, additional fees will be charged depending on how long an operator waits to renew. Please review the fee section of this website for details.


The fees for all services increased on November 26, 2016.

Old Fee
Fee beginning November 26
Exam $30 written
$40 online
Application for certification $20 $100
Renewal $50 by check
$35 online
$100 before expiration
$150 Jan - March after expiration
$300 April - Dec after expiration
Replacement Certificate $20 $50

Certified Operator Requirements for Small Untreated and Small Treated Systems

The amended regulations specify that, at all times, Small Untreated and Small Treated systems must have a properly certified operator onsite at the system or available by radio or telephone with the ability to be on-site at the system within three hours. This is a change from the previous regulations, which required the supervising operator to be either onsite or available to respond by radio or telephone, but did not specify a time-frame for the operator to be able to be on-site. This clarification in the regulations is intended to allow systems flexibility in staffing the plant, while protecting public health by ensuring any issues with the system are addressed in a timely fashion.

At all times, Small Treated and Untreated systems must have a properly certified operator available to be on-site within three hours. If the primary operator will be traveling or otherwise unavailable, it is the system owner’s responsibility to have a properly certified backup operator available to respond to the system.

Certified Operator Requirements for Large Systems
(Water treatment, water distribution, wastewater treatment, wastewater collection)

Section 18 AAC 74.010 describes the requirement for having properly certified operators on-site or available to respond after hours at a system, and applies to all systems classified as water treatment, water distribution, wastewater treatment, and wastewater collection. This section was rewritten to clarify a portion of the regulations that has resulted in numerous questions in the past, and to provide flexibility to utilities when staffing their systems, while providing protection of public health and the environment. We encourage all system owners and operators to review this section carefully to ensure you fully understand and comply with the requirements.

Overall Requirement

At all times, a system must have an operator, certified at a level equal to or greater than the classification of the system, either:

▪ Onsite at the system
▪ Available by radio or telephone, and able to be onsite within one hour

The requirement to have an operator, certified at the level of the system, available by radio or telephone, and to be able to be on-site within one hour, applies at all times when the system is not staffed, or when the on-site operator of a particular shift is not certified to the level of the system.

Shift Operations

The regulations have been revised with the intent of giving system owners the flexibility to establish shifts to best meet the needs of the system.

The revised regulations define three types of shifts: primary, secondary, and reduced operations. Each type of shift has specific criteria for minimum level of operator certification and training, and shift duration and frequency. Additionally, the level of responsibility assigned to the shift operator varies, depending on the type of shift.

Many smaller utilities do not require shift operations. The changes to this section of the regulations do not require that utilities start staffing shifts.

Following is a description of the three types of shifts allowed by the revised regulations.

Primary Shift

▪ The longest shift of the day
▪ Operational decisions are made and may be implemented during this shift
▪ The on-site operator must be certified to the level of the system
▪ The shift must be at least six hours long if there is more than one shift on the same day

Secondary Shift

▪ Examples include night or swing shifts, after a day shift
▪ These shifts can occur on no more than two days per week without a primary shift on the same day
▪ Operational decisions made during the primary shift may be carried out during this shift
▪ The on-site operator can be certified at one level lower than the system
▪ If the on-site operator of this shift does not hold certification at the level of the system, an operator, certified to the level of the
  system, must be available by radio or telephone, and able to be onsite within one hour

Reduced Operations Shift

▪ Examples include weekend rounds
▪ A shift of short duration
▪ Operators conduct system checks to ensure the system is operating within established parameters
▪ No operational decisions are implemented unless directed by an operator certified at the level of the system
▪ The on-site operator must hold provisional level certification in the system type of the system being checked on
▪ The on-site operator must be adequately trained to conduct the duties assigned
▪ If the on-site operator of this shift does not hold certification at the level of the system, an operator, certified to the level of the
  system, must be available by radio or telephone, and able to be onsite within one hour

After Hours Response

The revised regulations also address the certification requirements for the operator who is responsible for responding to the system after hours if there are alarms or callouts.

First Responder

▪ Must be adequately trained to identify issues and contact the properly certified operator for further direction
▪ Must hold provisional level certification in any system type
▪ If the first responder does not hold certification at the level of the system, an operator, certified to the level of the system, must be
  available by radio or telephone, and able to be onsite within one hour

Alternate Method of System Supervision

As in the past, for systems that are not able to meet these requirements, the regulation include a provision that allows the Operator Certification Program to approve of an Alternate Method of System Supervision (AMOSS) plan. More information regarding AMOSS plans is available at: http://dec.alaska.gov/water/opcert/AltMethodSysSupReq.htm.


Operator Training & Certification Program
Phone: (907) 465-1139
Email: dec.opcert@alaska.gov