How DEC Determines Eligibility for Provisional Level and
Levels 1 - 4 Certification

Overall Requirements:

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) offers certification in four different system types: water treatment, water distribution, wastewater collection and wastewater treatment. There are five levels of certification in each system type (Provisional, 1, 2, 3, and 4).
 
The following chart summarizes those requirements for each certification level and system type.
 

GENERAL OPERATOR EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS*
(in years)

Operator Level
Provisional 1 2 3 4
System Type
Ed.
Op.
Exp.
Ed.
Op.
Exp.
Ed.
Op.
Exp.
Ed.
Op.
Exp.
Ed.
Op.
Exp.
Wastewater
Collection
12
**
12
1
12
3
13
4
13
6
Wastewater
Treatment
12
**
12
1
12
3
14
4
16
4
Water
Distribution
12
**
12
1
12
3
13
4
13
6
Water
Treatment
12
**
12
1
12
3
14
4
16
4

Notes: Required periods of education and experience are reflected in years. Twelve years of education represents high school diploma or general educational development (GED) diploma. The department will waive the minimum education requirement for the provisional level and level 1 in accordance with 18 AAC 74.050(e)(6).

*Additional experience and education criteria and substitution requirements are set out in 18 AAC 74.050(b) - (g).

**Three months of operating experience or the completion of a department-approved training course, as described in 18 AAC 74.050(c)(1).

Abbreviations: Ed. = Education Op. Exp. = Operator Experience

 
One thousand nine hundred fifty (1,950) hours of work experience during a twelve month period is considered as one year of experience. One thousand nine hundred fifty hours is based on an eight hour work day for 49 weeks per year. Hours in excess of 1,950 during any twelve month period are NOT counted as more than one year. In other words, an operator working 16 hours per day for twelve months is not credited with two years of experience. Operators who work less than 1,950 hours per year are credited with less than one year of experience. For example, an operator who works four hours per day would be credited with six months of experience after working twelve months.
 

Q: A wastewater collection operator works eight hours per day for 13 months. Does this operator have one year of wastewater collection experience?

A: Yes, because the operator works eight hours per day, he has over one year of wastewater collection experience.

Q: An operator works four hours per day in the water plant and four hours per day grading roads. After twelve months, does the operator have one year of experience as a water treatment operator?

A: No, because the operator only works four hours per day as an operator; therefore, the operator has only six months of operations experience.

Q: An operator works eight hours per day for a year in the water plant but also worked 1,000 hours of overtime in the water plant. After twelve months, the operator has accumulated 2,950 hours in the water plant. Does this mean that the operator has enough hours in 12 months to be credited with 18 months of water treatment experience?

A: No, because the maximum number of hours counted in a 12 month period is 1,950 hours; therefore, this operator is credited with one year of water treatment experience.

System Types:

Certification is divided into four system types: water treatment, water distribution, wastewater treatment and wastewater collection.

A water treatment (WT) system means devices, structures, and equipment used to condition, purify, or refine water for human consumption. Typical components of a water treatment system might include coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, reverse osmosis, fluoridation units, softening units, and disinfection units. Time that an operator spends operating, inspecting, and adjusting the components of a water treatment system is counted as water treatment experience.

A water distribution (WD) system means post-treatment storage facilities, conduits, mains, lines, pumping stations, or other devices used to carry water to the consumer. Typical components of a water distribution system might include fire hydrants, standby generators, water lines, in-line disinfection units, pump stations, valves, meters, and utilidors. Time that an operator spends operating, inspecting, and adjusting the components of a water distribution system is counted as water distribution experience. Plumbing experience is not counted as water distribution experience. Only time spent operating an active distribution system is counted. Please see Board Policy Statement 2009-08 concerning construction/ installation experience as it pertains to water distribution certification.

A wastewater treatment (WWT) system means devices, structures, and equipment used to treat, neutralize, stabilize, or dispose of wastewater and residuals. Typical components of a wastewater treatment system might include screening, comminution, grit chambers, primary clarifiers, dissolved air flotation units, trickling filters, lagoons, rotating biological contactors, activated sludge units, advanced waste treatment units, solids handling facilities, and disinfection units. Time that an operator spends operating, inspecting, and adjusting the components of a wastewater treatment system is counted as wastewater treatment experience.

A wastewater collection (WWC) system means pipelines or conduits, pumping stations and force mains, and all other related construction, devices, and appliances used to conduct wastewater to a wastewater treatment system. Typical components of a wastewater collection system might include sewer lines, utilidors, standby generators, lift stations, pumps, valves, and manholes. Time that an operator spends operating, inspecting, and adjusting the components of a wastewater collection system is counted as wastewater collection experience. Plumbing experience is not counted as wastewater collection experience. Only time spent operating an active wastewater collection system is counted. Please see Board Policy Statement 2009-08 concerning construction/installation experience as it pertains to wastewater collection certification.

Percentages:

It is very important that you as an operator keep track of which system types you operate. When you apply for certification, you will be asked for a percentage of time spent working in each of the four systems types. Your eligibility for certification is based on information provided by the operator. Keeping track of experience may be easy for an operator who works in a large system. For example, an operator working eight hours per day at a wastewater treatment plant has 100 percent of their time counted as wastewater treatment experience. Keeping track of percentages may be difficult for an operator performing duties in other areas. For example, an operator working as the garbage collector and distribution operator will only have a portion of their time counted as operations.

Many operators are responsible for operating more than one system type. For example, some cities have operators who are responsible for both the water distribution and wastewater collection systems. It is important to understand how DEC evaluates experience for operators of more than one system type.

Years of experience, and likewise eligibility, are determined based on the percentages of time spent working in each system type. The following examples illustrate how an operator's percentages should be listed on an application. The following examples assume an eight hour work day.
% Time Spent Working in Each System Type Represents 8 hours per day working in a wastewater treatment plant. % Time Spent Working in Each System Type Represents 4 hours per day in the wastewater treatment plant and 4 hours per day in the water treatment plant. % Time Spent Working in Each System Type Represents 2 hours per day in each system (wastewater treatment, water treatment, water distribution, wastewater collection).
% WWT = 100 % WWT = 50 % WWT = 25
% WT = 0 % WT = 50 % WT = 25
% WD = 0 % WD = 0 % WD = 25
% WWC = 0 % WWC = 0 % WWC = 25
If an operator works less than eight hours per day, the percentage of time spent in each system type should still be listed. A separate section of the application asks for the overall number of hours spent working. DEC determines how many years of experience an operator has based on the reported number of work hours per day and percentages.

The following examples illustrate how DEC determines the amount of experience an operator has based on percentages listed on an application.
% Time Spent Working in Each System Type Example 1
After 12 months of work, this operator has 12 months of wastewater treatment experience (12 months X 100% wastewater treatment = 12 months of wastewater treatment experience).
% WWT = 100
% WT = 0
% WD = 0
% WWC = 0
% Time Spent Working in Each System Type Example 2
After 12 months of work, this operator has 6 months of wastewater treatment experience (12 months X 50% wastewater treatment = 6 months of wastewater treatment experience).
% WWT = 50
% WT = 0
% WD = 0
% WWC = 0
% Time Spent Working in Each System Type Example 3
After 12 months of work, this operator has 3 months of wastewater treatment experience, 3 months of water treatment experience, 3 months of water distribution experience, and 3 months of wastewater collection experience (wastewater treatment = 12 months X 25% wastewater treatment = 3 months of wastewater treatment experience). Calculations for the other three system types work exactly the same way.
% WWT = 25
% WT = 25
% WD = 25
% WWC = 25

Experience Substitutions:

The certification regulations allow substitutions of experience as follows:
 
  • Wastewater treatment and water treatment experience are interchangeable;
  • Wastewater collection and water distribution experience are interchangeable;
  • Wastewater treatment and wastewater collection experience are interchangeable at 25%;
  • Water treatment and water distribution experience are interchangeable at 25%.

DEC determines how much time the operator has in each system type based on percentages provided by the operator. Those experience times are added together according to the substitutions to arrive at an overall amount of experience. Experience substitutions can only be used once the 50% Rule is met (see section titled "The 50% Rule" below).

% Time Spent Working in Each System Type
% WWT = 50
% WT = 50
% WD = 0
% WWC = 0

Example 1
This operator worked eight hour per day for one year.
First, DEC determines how much experience the operator has in each system type:

(WWT = wastewater treatment experience and WT = water treatment experience)
WWT = 12 months X 50% = 6 months WWT
WT = 12 months X 50% = 6 months WT

Once DEC determines how much experience the operator has in each system type, experiences are added according to the substitutions. The overall amount of experience determines whether an operator is eligible for certification:

Overall WWT = 6 months WWT + 6 months interchangeable WT = 12 months WWT
Overall WT = 6 months WT + 6 months interchangeable WWT = 12 months WT


% Time Spent Working in Each System Type
% WWT = 50
% WT = 0
% WD = 0
% WWC = 50

Example 2
This operator worked 10 years.
First, DEC determines how much experience the operator has in each system type:

WWT = 10 years X 50% = 5 years WWT
WWC = 10 years X 50% = 5 years WWC

Once DEC determines how much experience the operator has in each system type, experiences are added according to the substitutions. The overall amount of experience determines whether an operator is eligible for certification:

Overall WWT = 5 years WWT + (5 years interchangeable WWC X 25%) = 6.25 years WWT
Overall WWC = 5 years WWC + (5 years interchangeable WWT X 25%) = 6.25 years WWC

Educational Substitutions:

The Operator Certification regulations allow substitution of approved postsecondary education for experience. DEC uses continuing education units (CEUs) when considering education. Courses must apply to the water/ wastewater industry to be counted.
 
  • 1 CEU = 10 contact hours of training (e.g. a four hour course = 0.4 CEUs).
  • 1 college semester hour = 1.5 CEUs (e.g. a three semester credit hour course = 4.5 CEUs).
  • 1 college quarter hour = 1.0 CEUs (e.g. a three quarter credit course = 3 CEUs).
 
Certain restrictions apply to the use of educational substitutions:
  • Educational substitutions cannot be used toward level 1 certification;
  • The 50% Rule must be met before education can be substituted for experience (see the section titled "The 50% Rule" below);
  • Education substituted for experience cannot be used to satisfy educational requirements.
% Time Spent Working in Each System Type
% WWT = 0
% WT = 0
% WD = 100
% WWC = 0
 
Example:
Is this operator eligible for water distribution level 2 certification?
 
Given:This operator has worked for two years. This operator has 45 CEUs of approved education (45 CEUs = 1 year).
 
Level 2 certification requires three years of experience.
 
First: DEC calculates the amount of experience as follows:
WD = 2 years X 100% = 2 years of water distribution experience.
 
Next: DEC determines eligibility as follows:
 
Water Distribution
Does this operator have three years of experience? NO
But,
Does this operator have three years of experience and education? YES
(2 years of experience + 1 year of education = 3 years)
 
This operator is eligible for level 2 water distribution certification.

The 50% Rule

18 AAC 74.050 (b)(2) of the Operator Certification regulations is referred to as the 50% Rule by DEC. It states:
 
"…at least 50 percent of the operating experience must be obtained in the same system type at no more than one class lower than the level of certification requested, and the department will not allow substitution of education or substitution of operating experience gained in another system type to meet the requirement of this paragraph;"
 
In other words, at least half of an operators experience must be specific to the system type for the certification for which the operator is applying. Specific experience is determined using the percentages provided on the application. The 50% Rule must be met before experience and education substitutions can be used. For example, the level 1 wastewater treatment certification requires one year of overall experience. To be eligible, an operator must have 12 months of experience, six months of which must be specific to wastewater treatment.
% Time Spent Working in Each System Type
% WWT = 25
% WT = 75
% WD = 0
% WWC = 0
 
Example:
Is this operator eligible for the level 1 wastewater and water treatment certifications?
 
Given: Level 1 certification require one year of experience.
The operator has worked at these percentages for one year.
 
First: DEC calculates the specific amounts of experience in each system type:
(WWT = wastewater treatment and WT = water treatment)
Specific WWT = 12 months X 25% = 3 months
Specific WT = 12 months X 75% = 9 months
 
Next: DEC calculates the overall amounts of experience using the substitutions
allowed in the regulations as follows:
 
Overall WWT = 3 months WWT + 9 months interchangeable WT = 12 months
Overall WT = 9 months WT + 3 months interchangeable WWT = 12 months
 
Next: DEC determines eligibility:
 
Water Treatment (WT):
Does the operator have one year of overall water treatment experience? YES
Does the operator meet the 50% Rule (have 6 months of specific WT experience)? YES
 
This operator is eligible for water treatment level 1 certification.
 
Wastewater Treatment (WWT):
Does the operator have one year of overall WWT experience? YES
Does the operator meet the 50% Rule (have 6 months of specific WWT experience)? NO
 
This operator is not eligible for wastewater treatment level 1 certification.

Contact Information:

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Attn: Operator Training and Certification Program
410 Willoughby Ave., Suite 303
P.O. Box 111800
Juneau, AK 99811-1800
 
Phone: (907) 465-1139
Fax: (907) 465-5177
Email: dec.opcert@alaska.gov