A water plant operator oversees the equipment, machines and gauges in a water plant and makes necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with standards and guidelines. He may work in a large plant with other operators or be the sole operator at a smaller plant. This position is usually related to the public works or municipal maintenance department of a town, city or vicinity but may also be a job at a private company.
The main job of a water plant operator is typically to monitor and record the performance of computerized equipment that purifies, regulates and analyzes the water supply for a specific region. The equipment he is responsible for generally includes generators, valves, meters, control panels and pumps. A water plant operator typically also makes regular physical inspections of the plant on an hourly or semi-hourly basis by walking around the plant and observing the performance of each piece of equipment. He customarily records the information manually or by using a handheld computerized device.
Some water plant operators work in plants that handle only water that has been purified. Others may work at plants that both remove impurities, such as toxic chemicals, solid waste and harmful bacteria, from commercial and industrial wastewater and then store and distribute the clean water throughout the community. A number of plants cleanse the wastewater and pump it back into local streams, rivers and oceans.
Another common task relegated to a wastewater operator is sampling. This normally requires him to randomly collect samples from different tanks and test them in an on-site laboratory for compliance with health and safety standards. If his testing reveals serious concerns, the operator typically reports them to his superior for investigation.
In addition to his monitoring and maintenance duties at the plant, a water plant operator may be required to occasionally visit water sources in his geographic area. At these remote locations, he is frequently required to investigate anomalies or check the off-site gauges or equipment. He is also customarily trained to handle power outages or natural disasters that may interrupt the water plant operations.
Excellent attention to detail is generally required to achieve success in this position. Adherence to policies and procedures is a common requirement to excel as a water treatment operator. The ability to interpret the information provided by gauges and monitors is a typical necessity for this job.
A high school diploma or equivalent is normally a prerequisite to being considered for a job as a water plant operator. Formal education in the fields of chemistry, math, computer operations or biology is generally preferred. Some jobs in this category require a certificate or license issued by a regulatory agency.