Drinking water and wastewater system classifications and operator certification updates
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Drinking Water and Wastewater System Classifications and Operator Certification Updates. Presented by: Katharine Hall Ministry of the Environment First Nations Water Symposium 2010 March 10, 2010. Agenda. Notional Classification of FN Systems Certification Updates

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Drinking Water and Wastewater System Classifications and Operator Certification Updates

Presented by:

Katharine Hall

Ministry of the Environment

First Nations Water Symposium 2010

March 10, 2010


  • Notional Classification of FN Systems

  • Certification Updates

  • New Program Administrator

  • Questions & Resources

“There is no question that competent water operators are an essential element of a safe drinking water system.”

“Mandatory certification …is an essential component of a safe drinking water system.”

“Band Councils …should take full advantage of [certification] opportunities.”

Justice Dennis O’Connor – Report of the Walkerton Inquiry

Operator Certification Objectives

  • To increase the level of training available to operators

  • To ensure consistent level of knowledge and skill

  • To increase the recognition of the job performed by water and wastewater operators

  • Protect the community’s public and environmental health

Certification of First Nation Operators

  • Ministry encourages operators of First Nation facilities to be certified

  • Dedicated exams available through Keewaytinook Centre

  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs) available through OFNTSC

  • OFNTSC is a member of the ministry’s operator certification advisory group

  • Walkerton Clean Water Centre can provide dedicated training in First Nations

    • On-site training

    • Mobile training unit available

  • 132 operators in First Nations hold a total of 307 certificates

“Notional” System Classifications

  • Operator certification regulations do not apply directly to First Nations or to Federal systems in parks, military bases etc.

  • Notional classification allows ministry to issue full certificates/licences to operators

  • A notional facility assessment is a full review of the system

    • Same process as regulated systems

    • Letter issued

    • Allows for experience to be used for certification

Notional Facility Classifications

  • To date the Ministry has issued approx 170 notional classifications to First Nations subsystems and facilities.

  • 10 additional notional classifications will be issued in the next month.

  • Several additional systems have been assessed as equivalent to “Limited Water Systems” (i.e. groundwater serving less than 100 residences)

Training Resource – Walkerton Clean Water Centre

  • The Walkerton Clean Water Centre (WCWC) has a mandate which includes taking practical actions to address critical gaps identified by the O’Connor Commission.

    • Includes mandate to provide training to First Nation operators on a cost recovery basis


Determining Experience

Experience is a key element of certification

Ensures that persons obtaining certification are not just “book smart” but have had the necessary experience to operate a system

Strive for consistent and fair assessment

1 year of operating experience means that an operator has had an opportunity to experience the typical operational requirements and issues within that period

What is Operating Experience?

Following definition may be used:

“Operating experience means hands-on and/or

on-site charge operating of the system.

Hands-on means the applicant has been actually operating a system and that the knowledge possessed was, as least in part, gathered from daily operating experience of a system and not merely from a text book study. 

On-site charge means the applicant has operational responsibility for a system, and although may not be making physical hands-on operational changes, is making routine operational decisions and providing detailed and specific operational instructions to other operators.

Determining Operating Experience

Part-time – generally means a person who operates in a system to less than the full capacity possible for that system

Works less hours a week than other operators in the system

Works full time for part of the year

Full time operator means a person who is working to the fullest extent possible in that system

Ministry will recognize full time experience in more than one type of facility (e.g. WWT and WWC) provided that the operator is working to the fullest extent possible in those systems

Exams& Other Updates


New exam locations – result of change in Certification Program Administrator

Requested exam sites are no longer available

Exam Security Measures

Computerized Exams

Provides greater flexibility for operators and provides instant marks

Potential pilot for the end of 2010

New Exam Policies:

Exams results are valid for 5 years

Cancellations are not refundable

Exams can be rescheduled twice

Agreement on Internal Trade

An Agreement on Internal Trade was signed in the fall 2008 and is to become effective August 1, 2009

Will allow for easier mobility of operators across all provinces/territories

except Quebec which does not have a certification program

Provinces met in 2008 to discuss harmonization of program requirements

Currently developing a set of Canadian certification guidelines

Ontario is reviewing options for using Canadian Standardized Exams

MOE/WCWC/College Partnership

  • The MOE and WCWC have entered into an agreement with 13 Ontario community colleges to offer the course as part of their Environmental Technician/Technologist programs.

    • College must deliver the ELC as is

    • Students must pass course

    • Students must graduate with diploma from the program

  • Partnership aim is to:

    • Allow graduating students to complete training requirements

    • Decrease training costs for new operators/operating authorities

    • Reduce overlap between MOE and college training

    • Provide consistent college curriculum

    • Provide a pathway for students to enter operating career

    • Promote the operating profession

AWWA and WEF have both identified future challenges in obtaining operators over next 5-10 yrs

Shrinking labour pool/retirements/profile

Ministry has established a working group to explore ways to increase the profile of the operating career

Build upon options identified by Confederation College in 2008

Ministry is partnering with WCWC, associations, colleges and municipalities to develop tools and outreach materials to target groups

Increasing the Profile of the Operating Profession

Current and Future Activities

OMWA and MOE are partnering on the development of a video for high school/college students

Internet posting

You Tube

Guidance councilors

Survey sent to drinking water system owners and WEAO members

Other tools to be considered in future:

Dedicated website to provide information to individuals considering a career in water/wastewater operations


New Canadians with related overseas experience

Workers from manufacturing sector

  • Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office (OWWCO)

  • One window access for operators and owners

  • Administer exams/Process applications

  • Make recommendations to the Ministry

Operators and Operating Authorities

  • Administers, marks exams

  • Reviews applications

  • Processes fees

  • Issues certificates

  • Processes renewals

  • Process facility and course

  • applications

  • Ontario Ministry of the Environment

  • Oversight of certification program

  • Sets policy/exams

  • Inspections and enforcement of certification requirements

Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office

Jose Sanchez, General Manager


Program Administrator:

  • Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Operator (OWWCO)

    1-877-231-2122 www.owwco.ca

    Ministry of the Environment:

  • Brian Gildner – Manager, Certification, Training & Client Services416-212-7457

  • Katharine Hall – Certification Officer, Certification, Training & Client Services 416-212-1466

  • Walkerton Clean Water Centre:

    www.wcwc.ca, or 1-866-515-0550

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