Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Wastewater Operator Certification

DEC Certification is Required to Operate a Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant

New York regulations in 6NYCRR Part 650. (Leaves DEC website), require the operation of municipal wastewater treatment plants to b supervised by a certified operator. There are four levels of activated sludge certification (Grades 1A - 4A) and four levels of non-activated sludge certification level increases wit the

Sequential Batch Reactor Decanter
As of September 1, 2011 New York Water Environment
Association (NYWEA) administers operator certification
and certificate renewal. DEC is responsible for the
regulatory aspects of the program and approval of
renewal training courses.

There are four levels of activated sludge certification (Grades 1A - 4A) and four levels of non-activated sludge certification (Grades 1 - 4). The amount of training and experience required increases with the size and complexity of the wastewater treatment process.

The New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA) administers operator certification and certificate renewal for wastewater treatment plant operators in New York State. NYWEA processed all applications for certification and certificate renewal for a fee.

Please visit the NYWEA website for more information about the wastewater treatment plant operator certification program. NYSDEC is responsible for the regulatory aspects of the program and approval of renewal training courses.

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) regulates drinking water treatment operator certification. Visit the NYSDOH website for more information on that program.

Want to Become a Certified Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator?

The Basics of Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)

WWTP Certification in New York State is a mandatory system whereby an individual is determined to be qualified to be a chief operator or assistant/shift operator for the operation of a Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) for the purpose of meeting the requirements of its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit.

Billions of dollars have been spent on the abatement of water pollution. Thousands of WWTP's have been built or upgraded in the quest for clean waters. These complex, expensive facilities are useless without competent, well-trained individuals to direct and maintain the process and machinery used in modern wastewater treatment. The operator is the first line of defense against waterborne diseases, our guardian of water quality, and the safeguard of public health. We, in New York State, recognize the value of our operators and utilize the certification system to ensure that all operators are educated, trained and experienced individuals.

Every operator in New York State who wishes to be certified at any level (Grade 1, 2, 3, or 4) must satisfy the minimum qualifications. Every applicant must meet the educational and experience requirements, complete the required pre-certification training, and pass an Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) certification exam. The Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Certification Manual outlines the necessary steps to become a NY certified WWTP operator. Please also see the NYWEA website for information on this process.

WWTP Operator Reciprocity in New York

New York State does not have a formal reciprocity agreement with any other state. However, as a member of the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC), New York does accept the result of any ABC or equivalent certification exam. Any non-New York operator must meet the same education, experience and training requirements as resident operators. The Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Certification Manual outlines the necessary steps to become a NY certified WWTP operator, including how to apply for reciprocity in New York State. Please also see the NYWEA website for information on this process.

How to Determine the Plant Score of Your Wastewater Facility.

Wastewater treatment plants are scored based on the type and complexity of the treatment using a point system outlined in the 6NYCRR Part 650. (Leaves DEC website). In order to determine what grade level of wastewater treatment plant operator a facility is required to maintain, you must first know the plant score of the facility.

The most recent plant scores for the majority of New York's municipal wastewater treatment plants (PDF) is available. These plant scores are not all accurate, as they may not have been updated to reflect facility upgrades or SPDES Permit changes. The listing is ordered by SPDES number and each score report contains information about the facility's unit processes, point score, and plant classification. If a facility is not included in this list, or plant score needs to be updated, complete the WWTP Facility Score Sheet form (PDF).

Complete Your Work Experience, Pre-Certification Training and Apply for Certification

The Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Certification Manual lists the minimum qualifications that applicants must meet to obtain wastewater treatment plant operator certification. This manual lists the educational requirements, explains what approved operating experience is, contains a list of the pre-certification training courses required for each certification grade, and provides contact information for classroom and home-study training options. This information is also available on the NYWEA website.

When you are ready to apply for WWTP Operator Certification in New York State, visit the NYWEA website for the application and mailing instructions. When your application materials are approved, NYWE will send instructions on how to register and schedule the exam

Preparing for the Certification Exam

Wastewater Treatment Plant Clarifier
All Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators must
meet the same qualifications

The final step to becoming a New York State Certified WWTP Operator is passing the required certification exam. New York State uses an Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) Exam. The ABC exam is a computer-based exam which consists of 100 multiple choice questions. A passing score is a grade of 70 or higher. See the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) Exam Information website for exam locations across New York State, the Applied Measurement Professional (AMP) Candidate Handbook, information on exam reference materials, the "Need to Know" criteria for each exam, study guides and other reference materials.

Operator Certification Renewal

An Operator's certification is valid for five years from the date of initial certification (or prior renewal). The certificate expiration date is listed on the operator certification card. Certificates are renewed by completing DEC-approved training courses to receive renewal training contact hours. Renewal training completion certificates, along with the renewal application must be submitted to NYWEA for review and approval. The number of hours required to renew depends on the operator certification grade.

Information on renewal training, DEC approved trainers and course approval is located on the DEC website.

If an operator does not renew their certification before the date of expiration, they are no longer a New York State certified operator. DEC allows one year after the expiration date to get a complete renewal application to NYWEA , including all the required training. If you do not renew within one year, you will need to complete the required training and retake the ABC certification exam. For expired applicants, NYWEA will only accept training completed within five years of the date they received the renewal application.

Operator Tool Box and Mailing List

Wastewater treatment plant operators require many resources and information to keep their facilities operating within their required permit specifications, and to plan for maintenance and growth. A toolbox of resources is available with information on a variety of topics relevant to the management and operation of a wastewater treatment plant.

DEC also has a Wastewater Operators mailing list which we maintain. It is used to send out occasional updates and information about training. To subscribe to the Wastewater Operators mailing list, first use this link to subscribe to DEC Delivers by entering your email address. Fill in and submit the requested information on the "New Subscriber" page. This will take you to the "Quick Subscription page where you will see all the topics that you can request to receive email updates on from DEC. Scroll to the "Water" category and check the box next to "Wastewater Operators". You will receive a welcome email from DEC confirming your subscription(s).

Regulations and Guidance Documents

The 6NYCRR Part 650, Qualifications of Operators of Wastewater Treatment Plants document, provides information on:

  • Regulatory authority and policy for operator certification
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant oversight
  • Certification requirements
  • Treatment Plant scoring

The TOGS 5.1.6, Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Certification (PDF) (120 KB) document covers the following topics:

  • Certificate renewal
  • Certificate expiration
  • Certificate suspension and revocation information