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WaterOperator.org Blog

Articles in support of small community water and wastewater operators.

Best Practices for In-Person Training During COVID-19

Best Practices for In-Person Training During COVID-19

To provide operators with continuing education opportunities during the pandemic, many training providers have adapted their classes to virtual training. These efforts have resulted in new online training opportunities and have allowed operators to earn their much-needed continuing education credits. Despite these efforts, not all training topics can be offered in an online format to all operators. Some training topics require equipment demonstrations and hands-on practice. In addition, some operators have limited internet access or may find it difficult to learn in an online setting.

For these reasons and others, some training providers have returned to an in-person training format. In this post, we have summarized COVID-19 safety trends our staff have observed from training providers as they resume in-person training. Using these trends, as well as CDC guidelines, we have provided a compiled set of recommendations to protect operators registered for in-person training.

Looking through training registration webpages and memos posted regarding the resumption of in-person training, the bulk of training providers have noted that they intend to follow local, state, and federal safety guidelines during class and in preparation of the class. This generally includes social distancing, the requirement of masks, and a restriction on the number of registrants per class. Many providers will also require students to fill out a COVID-19 screening checklist as well. Training providers of colleges or areas with higher infection rates trended to have stricter and more detailed guidelines. Classes developed around the use of hands-on equipment such as backflow prevention workshops, developed specific guidelines for how equipment will be maintained during the course.

The most thorough training providers include safety information about instructor requirements, student requirements, and facility requirements. Some of these trainers designated their own hotline to report cases or ask additional questions about COVID safety.

Based on our review of these recommendations, we have put together “best of” guidelines that training providers can use to protect their operators.

Classroom Preparation:

  • Training will follow federal, state, and local guidelines
  • Prepare the facility according to CDC Facility Disinfection guidelines
  • All employees should be trained and certified on personal hygiene and surface sanitation/ disinfection procedures. See the Disinfecting Your Facility guidance by the CDC.
  • Instructors are to remain at least 6 feet away from students
  • Set up the chairs or workstations no less than 6 feet apart
  • Provide hand sanitation stations throughout training facility
  • Place posters in popular areas that encourage hand hygiene
  • Specify entrances and exits through signs or floor tape
  • Ensure that the check-in table provides a notice to:
    • Require mask use and proper hand hygiene
    • Inform of hand sanitizer stations
    • Prohibit handshakes, encouraging other noncontact greetings
    • Direct employees to visit the CDC’s coughing/sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage
    • Inform guests of specified entrances and exits visible for the use of classes
    • Request students fill out pre-screening questions
  • Training will be rescheduled or moved if the host site experiences an active COVID-19 case within the 2 weeks of class

Classroom Maintenance:

  • Disinfect common surfaces (doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, classroom tables, chairs, etc.) before class, once mid-morning, once mid-afternoon, and after students leave for the day
  • Limit bathroom use to one or two people at a time to maintain social distancing
  • Suspend food consumption or drinks inside classroom
  • Suspend food service or offer pre-boxed meals during breaks
  • Require students eat outside or in designated areas set up for social distancing.

Student Requirements:

  • Students should be directed to review safety requirements and pre-screening questions prior to the training
  • Upon arrival Students should be directed to fill out a liability waiver acknowledging the measures taken by the training provider to prevent the spread of COVID-19, their compliance, and who should be held liable if illness occurs. An excellent example of this waiver was developed and used Arkansas Rural Water Association. Such waivers can require that:
    • Students must wear a mask according to CDC guidelines
    • Additional PPE, including protective gloves, may be required during certain tasks
    • Students must follow social distancing guidelines to maintain 6 feet of distance between the instructor and other students
    • Students will wash hands frequently for 20 seconds avoiding contact with the eyes, nose, or mouth
    • Students follow appropriate coughing etiquette
    • Students must refrain from eating or drinking in the classroom
    • Students will adhere to all safety guidelines set by training provider
  • Upon arrival Students should read and sign a prescreening questionnaire that certifies:
    • I am not experiencing any symptom of illness such as cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell
    • I have not traveled internationally or out of state within the last 14 days
    • To my knowledge, I have not been exposed to someone with a suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 14 days
    • I have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • If resources provide, students will have their temperature checked before entrance. Students with temperatures above 100ºF will be denied.
  • Students should bring their own writing utensil, books, paper, and calculator. No sharing is permitted.
  • If diagnosed with COVID-19 or exhibiting symptoms within 2 weeks of the training or if exposed to COVID-19 during the training, students must notify the training provider

Equipment Expectations:

  • Instructors observing student(s) must remain 6 feet away from the testing station and student
  • When hands on equipment is used, attendees will get their own piece of equipment that stays in class
  • Each cart and testing station will be routinely cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected before the start of class and after each session
  • All tools and test kits will be routinely cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected before the start of class and after each student has complete

While continued training opportunities are important, the health of our essential workers must be priority. WaterOperator.org hopes that all training facilities offering in-person classes are taking every possible to protect their students.

A note to our operators: If you’re looking to attend an in-person training, investigate the training provider safety measures before registration. If these measures aren’t available online, it’s always best to call ahead. WaterOperator.org lists live, online and in-person training opportunities in our national training calendar.

How to Find Free Webinars on WaterOperator.org

How to Find Free Webinars on WaterOperator.org

Our staff at WaterOperator.org work hard to make sure operators can easily find all potential training opportunities for their water or wastewater operator certification using our national training calendar. This calendar currently links to over 11,000 events each year, all of which are pre-approved for operator continuing education credits and many which are free. Whether it’s a training hosted by your primacy agency, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a subsection of the American Water Works Association, or another local training provider, we strive to list them all.

Given the increased demand for virtual training opportunities, we’ve recently created a tutorial to help you optimize your search for live, online training. We hope that this video will help you to more easily meet the training requirements under your certification.

Please note, that these opportunities all have a time and date associated with their registration. We do not list on-demand training in our calendar. If you require assistance searching for pre-approved, on-demand training opportunities, please email us at info@wateroperator.org.

A Review of the EPA's New Drinking Water Training System

A Review of the EPA's New Drinking Water Training System

The newest tool released by the EPA allows operators to learn about national primary drinking water regulations through an online and self-paced training system. According to the EPA, this system was developed at the request of states, water associations, and operators. Stakeholders wanted operators to have accessible regulatory training easily available to an industry where shrinking resources and a retiring workforce make taking time away from water facilities difficult.

Approximately 130 training modules on various drinking water rules make up the system. The modules runs well in most browsers as long as Adobe Flash is installed and running. Both audio and closed captions are available during the training with the option to run the modules at your own pace. To use this system, each operator will have to create their own account using an email address that has not been registered prior.

The system has a fairly easy setup. When an operator signs in, the homepage shows an Announcements section that will update users on new modules or changes to the system. Operators can design their own lesson plan for the regulations that apply to their system under the Curriculum Builder. The Builder asks questions about the system type, source water, and treatment methods. A new curriculum can be made and started at any time with each curriculum found under the Curriculum List.

Usually 5-15 modules will make up a curriculum. Each module will cover a different rule with a quiz of 4-5 questions at the end. The operator must answer each question correctly to pass. If operators want to run through the modules individually they can find a list under the Course Catalog tab, however this mode does not offer quizzes or completion credit by the system. A complete list of training modules available as of May 2019 can be found here.

An interesting feature to note about the training is that within each module slide includes the CFR citation number so operators can find the corresponding rule in the Code of Federal Regulations. It should also be noted that these topics cover federal regulations only and do not apply to states with stricter drinking water requirements.

When a training has been completed, the Certificates tab will create a print out certificate of the desired curriculum. The only drawback for operators is that this training is not pre-approved for CEUs in any states as of yet. To provide credit, a state primacy will have to review each of the 130 modules. The next plans for this training system involves designing new modules on Special Drinking Water Topics. While these modules have yet to be developed, drinking water operators can look forward to those resources in the future!

The Roundup: Online Wastewater Training Courses

The Roundup: Online Wastewater Training Courses

Photo Credit: Zenia Nunez

 

Managing wastewater is a big task. Whether you need to train new personnel or simply brush up on professional development, we’ve rounded up accessible wastewater training opportunities on the web, listed in alphabetical order. These courses require a fee in exchange for Continuing Education Credit (CEUs). To find free webinars on wastewater, without CEUs, check the WaterOperator.org events calendar.

 

On-demand courses


360water

The one hour courses include some wastewater treatment, analysis, and safety for $30 each. 360water courses are good for CEUs in most states.

Cost: $30

 

Approved Environment, Inc.

These online courses are good for CEUs in 18 states. Courses range from 1 hour topic courses (e.g. odor control or ozone disinfection) for $20.25 each, to a 16-hour Wastewater Certification Review for $275.

Cost: $20.25 - $275

 

CEU Plan

CEU Plan will filter thee course topics available to you depending on which are accepted for credit in your state. (There are no options for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Unincorporated Territories or the Caribbean.)  Prices vary by state, but the widely offered 1 hour activated sludge courses, ranges in price from $12 to $15, and some states offer course packages that bundle together 6 hours of wastewater or collections topics for an $80-$86 enrollment fee.

Cost: $12 - $86

 

Office of Water Programs, California State University Sacramento

A five-part course designed to train operators to safely and effectively operate and maintain wastewater treatment plants. All courses are online and include lessons, readings, student exercises, and online exams. Supplementary materials for purchase include companion CDs with readings and student and a manual Operation of Wastewater Treatment Plants, Volume I.

Cost: Enrollment $50 - $148

 

Technical Learning College

Accepted in many states, TLC’s courses are written manuals and assignments available for download, with fees from $50 to $300 for a wide variety of topics, from pretreatment to pumps.

Cost: $50-300

 

TREEO Center

TREEO offers online courses in wastewater collection and treatment (listed at the bottom of the linked page). These self-paced courses look more like traditional classes than most other options. However, they are pricey at $325 per course, which includes a textbook shipped to you.

Cost: $325

 

Scheduled Courses

Arkansas Environmental Training Academy
AETA offers wastewater courses scheduled online throughout the year for a relatively low price. Descriptions are available here.
Cost: $75 to $180

Washington Environmental Training Center
A course on wastewater laboratory procedures begins June 26 (today) and costs $343 for 2 credits. A wastewater collection course begins September 25 at $479 for 3 credits. has a few online options, mostly for water operators, but they do have a $479 for 3 credits.
Cost: $343 - $479

Did we miss any online wastewater courses you’d recommend? Please share a link in the comments section below.

Operator Math Part 1: Practical Guidelines

Mathematical calculations can be a challenge for even for the most veteran of water and wastewater operators. The formulas for volume, chemical dosage, filtration, pipe velocity, and other daily problems vary of course, but there are a few underlying guidelines that can help you make sure your answer is correct regardless of the calculation you’re working on. 

This is the first in a three-part series dedicated to operator math. The tips below are adapted from information provided by the South Dakota Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.

  1. Learn what a formula means, not just when it is used. This will help you remember when to use πR2H to calculate the volume of a cylinder instead of 2πRH—the formula for measuring the surface area of a cylinder’s sides.
  2. Use unit labels throughout your calculation to help you easily see whether you need to multiply or divide.
  3. Always convert percentages to decimals.
  4. Convert “inches” to “feet” unless you’re trying to solve a pressure problem. Using “inches” in any other problem will almost always leave you with the wrong answer.
  5. Make sure the units you end with match the problem you are trying to solve. If a volume calculation results in a “square feet” or “square yards” answer, something went wrong along the way.
  6. Trust your suspicions. If the answer doesn’t seem right, check that you used the right formula and units before running the problem again.

For those looking for more detailed and specific instruction, our documents database is a great place to start. Here are some of the resources you’ll find if you search “math.”

Basic Math Handbook

This 24-page handbook is a basic math study tool. It provides formulas for basic geometry, velocity & flow rates, and pressure, force & head, and contains several typical water problems that show users how to apply the formulas in real-world scenarios. 

Formula and Conversion Sheet for Drinking Water Treatment and Distribution

This 1 page document provides conversions and formulas for water treatment & distribution operators in studying for a certification exam. 

 

Chlorine Contact Time Calculations

This 7-page document provides guidelines on how to solve math problems that deal with calculating chlorine contact time. It includes important equations and practice problems with solutions. 

 

Industrial Math Formulas

This 7-page document provides a list of valuable formulas and conversion factors important for wastewater operators. 

 

Intermediate Water Math

This 37-page study guide contains 82 intermediate water math questions. Solutions to the problems are provided at the end of the document. 

 

Advanced Wastewater Math

This 29-page study guide contains 35 advanced wastewater math questions. Solutions to the problems are provided at the end of the document.