WRRF Operators as Public Health Care Providers
By John Seldon
Posted July 21, 2014
Wastewater treatment is a unique field of public health care. Operators of wastewater resource recovery facilities (WRRF) must be skilled activated sludge (AS) process specialists. Operator-technologists up to date with current innovations on AS treatment take direct responsibility for their plant’s performance and the quality of downstream municipal water supplies. An essential, honorable career, it is distinct from a complementary position that addresses the mechanics and maintenance of a WRRF.
The process specialist will quantify a WRRF’s daily operating realities - flow rate, percent nutrient removal, micro-contaminant levels - against the system’s Basis of Design parameters established by the plant’s design engineers. These academically trained experts will have sophistication in math and basic descriptive statistics in order to properly record and summarize the tremendous amount of process data gathered daily at a WRRF. By frequently transmitting this information back to those who designed the plant, an iterative process is established that will ensure effective design of future plants.
But plant operation is not all math. Operators must have comparable skills in organic chemistry and microbiology in order to optimize plant performance. A wastewater plant is, after all, a microbiological powerhouse incorporating organic waste and nutrients into new cellular material. Keep the bugs happy and you have clean water for the receiving stream. Still this is not enough.
A WRRF Technologist–Operator must have the skills to translate their process findings into summary reports and the ability to deliver this information through public presentations and formal journals as well as regular summaries for local municipal consumption. Activated sludge process specialists are public health professionals and their training and formal certification must reflect this enormous responsibility.
This blog is excerpted from John’s column in the latest WEF Highlights. Read the complete piece at http://news.wef.org/loss-of-operators-to-environmental-management-positions/.