Licensing Guide for Wastewater Operators
This guide explains the licensing requirements for wastewater operators, their roles and responsibilities, and information on operating standards and facility classification.
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1.1 Purpose of the licensing guide
This licensing guide provides information on the requirements to secure and renew a wastewater operator licence. The guide provides interpretation of the Licensing of Sewage Works Operators Regulation, O. Reg. 129/04, made under the Ontario Water Resources Act.
This should not be considered legal advice. In the event of a conflict between this guide and the requirements of the legislation, the legislation shall govern. Owners, operating authorities and operators should refer to O. Reg. 129/04 and the Ontario Water Resources Act for a complete understanding of their legal responsibilities, and certification compliance requirements.
1.2 Certification program administration
The Ontario Drinking Water and Wastewater Operator Certification Program is administered by a third party under contract with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. The third party certification program administrator is the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office (OWWCO ).
The Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office is responsible for processing licence and licence renewal applications, processing exam applications, coordinating and marking exams, notifying operators of the need to renew their licence, selling exam study guides, informing operators on continuing education courses that meet the necessary criteria, and providing information to operators.
Details on how to contact the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office are provided in section 12 of this guide.
All decisions regarding the issuance, suspension or cancellation of licences are made by the Director under O. Reg. 129/04 within the Program Management Branch, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
1.3 Separate drinking water operator certification program guide
A separate program guide for the certification of drinking water operators and water quality analysts is available on the Ministry’s drinking water landing page.
1.4 Tips on reading this guide
The reference to Director throughout the regulation is to a person or persons appointed by the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks as having the authority to make such decisions under O. Reg. 129/04. The Director includes the Manager of the Certification and Licensing Programs Office, within the Program Management Branch, Environmental Policy Division, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
Key terms used in this guide are bolded within the section in which the term is used. For exact legal definitions of terms, please refer to the relevant regulations and the Ontario Water Resources Act.
Policies that supplement O. Reg. 129/04 are contained in separate guidelines, and can be obtained from the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office (see section 12 of this guide for contact information) or on the ministry’s website. However, in some instances, parts of these policies have been included in this guide.
1.5 Program mandate
The Ontario Drinking Water Wastewater Operator Certification Program establishes occupational standards for operators. It is also intended to give greater assurance of clean surface water and public health to the residents of Ontario through ensuring that operators have the education, experience and knowledge to perform their responsibilities effectively.
Facilities governed by O. Reg. 129/04
O. Reg. 129/04 applies to:
- sewage works that require an environmental compliance approval from the ministry under section 53 of the OWRA and that is owned or operated by the Crown or a municipality, if the sewage received by the sewage works is treated; and
- a sewage works that requires an environmental compliance approval from the ministry under section 53 of the OWRA and that is not owned or operated by the Crown or a municipality, if the sewage received by the sewage works is:
- toilet, sink or culinary liquid waste, or
- other sewage of a kind normally discharged from a residential subdivision other than storm water, ground water, surface drainage or land drainage
Exception: This regulation does not apply to on-site (e.g. septic) sewage systems which do not drain or discharge directly or indirectly into a ditch, drain or storm sewer or a well, lake, river, pond, spring, stream, reservoir or other water or watercourse. Such systems with a design capacity of less than 10,000 litres per day are regulated under the Ontario Building Code. Systems greater than 10,000 litres per day capacity do require an environmental compliance approval from the ministry, but do not require certified operators (unless otherwise indicated in an environmental compliance approval).
Generally, this regulation does not apply to sewage systems treating industrial sewage which discharge directly or indirectly into a ditch, drain or storm sewer or a well, lake, river, pond, spring, stream, reservoir or other water or watercourse. The regulation may apply to such systems if domestic sewage is also treated separately or if the industrial sewage and domestic sewage are combined and the treatment process includes treatment of the domestic waste. For further information please consult with the Program Administrator.
A wastewater collection system that is located on private property is considered a plumbing system. Plumbing systems do not require classification or licensed operators.
3.1 Classification of facilities
The owner of a wastewater treatment or wastewater collection facility must file an application with the Director to have the classification of their facility determined. Facilities are classified by assigning classification points for facility characteristics in the tables found in Schedules 1.1 and 1.2 of O. Reg. 129/04.
Facilities are classified as Class I, Class II, Class III and Class IV. A facilities classification is determined by its size, population served and operating complexity; the larger and more complex a facility, the higher its class.
The owner must ensure that the certificate of classification is conspicuously displayed at the facility or, if this is not practical (e.g., at some collection systems), the certificate should be displayed at the premises from which the facility is managed.
3.2 Reclassification of facilities
If the facility is altered or no longer meets the criteria under which it was originally classified, the owner must apply to have the classification re-determined.
Generally, if a wastewater treatment facility is undergoing an upgrade or expansion and an environmental compliance approval for an amendment is submitted, it is recommended that the owner consult with the Program Administrator to determine if reclassification is required.
Further, the Director may request that a facility have their classification re-determined if the classification points in Schedule 1 of the regulation have been amended, or the Director is of the opinion that the facility no longer meets their original classification.
3.3 Facilities that do not fall under provincial jurisdiction
Wastewater facilities that do not fall under provincial jurisdiction do not require classification of their facilities (e.g., federal facilities and First Nations facilities). To enable participation in the operator certification program, these facilities must be assessed by the ministry to determine what type and class the facility would be considered under O. Reg. 129/04. Once assessed, operators who work in these facilities can be licensed, and the experience gained working in these facilities will be evaluated for licence upgrades and renewals.
The facility owner can request an assessment by submitting a complete facility classification form to the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office. Once the facility is assessed, a certificate of classification will be issued and may be displayed at the facility.
Operators play a key role in safeguarding receiving water across the province. All licensed wastewater operators are expected to act and behave with a view to ensuring the safety of public health and for the protection of the environment.
Operators are expected to exercise the level of care, diligence and skill in respect of a wastewater system that a reasonably prudent operator would be expected to exercise in a similar situation and to act honestly, competently and with integrity, with a view to ensuring the protection of public health and the environment. The ministry is authorized to take disciplinary action if an operator has failed to meet the above, in order to protect public health and the environment and to maintain the integrity of the operator certification program.
Licensing of operators
Section 14 (1) of O. Reg. 129/04 requires that the owner of the facility ensure that every operator employed, or persons performing operational duties in the facility holds a valid licence.
‘Operating’ duties are those functions typically performed by an operator as described in the definition of ‘operator’ below.
This includes a maintenance worker, a laboratory technician, or other employee who is ‘on call’ and is expected to perform operating functions when ‘called out’ to do so.
5.1.1 Functions that must be performed by a licensed operator
An operator is defined by the functions they perform, not by the job title, union affiliation, or whether or not they are in a supervisory or management position.
An operator means a person who conducts operational checks of or who adjusts, tests, or evaluates a process that controls the effectiveness or efficiency of a facility and includes a person who adjusts or directs the flow, pressure or quality of wastewater within the facility, if that person works in a wastewater collection facility.
A person must be licensed as an operator in order to perform the following functions (also referred to as operating functions):
- control flow or pressure of wastewater in a facility
- addition of chemicals to treat wastewater using and/or through making adjustments to treatment equipment
- monitor gauges, meters and control valves related to disinfection, treatment or collection of wastewater
- conduct operational tests within the facility
- start and stop pumps, engines and generators to control and adjust flow and treatment
- open and close valves and gates, whether done manually or by remote control (a non-certified person can open and close valves for the purpose of exercising a valve)
- isolate portions of a sewage collection system through the diversion of sewage for the purposes of repair or maintenance
- maintain logs (e.g., shift logs) or other forms of record-keeping related to treatment and collection activities in the facility, make entries into such logs/records including meter and gauge readings
A person does not need to be licensed to perform the following functions:
- repair previously isolated treatment equipment or sewers
- cleaning sewers using a method which does not significantly impact the flow of sewage
Note: This list is not a complete list. Other tasks which may impact the treatment or collection of wastewater may also require an operator’s licence to undertake. For additional information, please contact the Program Administrator.
A person or contractor that is not licensed as a wastewater operator can perform functions normally required to be done by a licensed operator provided they are being directly supervised by a licensed operator, meaning the certified operator is physically present and monitoring the work being performed. The licensed operator is responsible for all operational work.
5.1.2 Types of operator licences
Operator licences correspond to the types of facilities.
|Type of facility
|Classes of licences
5.1.3 Exception – professional engineer without a wastewater operator’s licence
An owner can employ a professional engineer who does not hold a wastewater operator’s licence as an operator for up to six months from the start of their employment in the wastewater facility.
5.2 Licence qualifications – operators-in-training
An operator-in-training (OIT) licence allows new operators to gain one year of experience required in order to become a Class I operator.
To qualify for an OIT licence a person must:
- successfully complete Grade 12 or equivalent (see ministry Guideline 3.1 Grade 12 Equivalency for a list of education qualifications considered equivalent);
- pass an OIT or Class I exam.
An OIT licence allows a person to perform all regular operating functions. However, an OIT cannot be designated as the overall responsible operator or as an operator-in-charge.
5.2.1 OITs are valid for three years
An OIT licence expires at the end of three years from the date it was originally issued. A person holding a wastewater OIT may renew the licence for an additional three year term
5.3 Licence qualifications – Class I to IV licences
To qualify for a Class I to IV operator’s licence, a person must:
- meet education and training requirements;
- meet experience requirements; and
- pass a certification examination.
The higher the class of licence, the more education and experience required. The experience must be gained in the type of facility corresponding to the licence for which the individual is applying. For example, if the applicant is applying for a treatment licence, the person must have experience in a treatment facility. (See Note 6 to Table 2 below for exceptions).
Operating experience is experience performing the functions described in section 5.1.1 of this guide. Operating experience means hands-on operating and/or on-site charge of the facility. On-site charge will only apply to individuals who have operational responsibility for a facility, make routine operational decisions and provide detailed and specific operational instructions to other operators. This experience is typically obtained while directly supervising operators.
The licence qualifications for each type and class of licence are summarized in the following table (also see notes to table 2 immediately following the table.)
|Education/ Training (See notes 1, 3 & 4)
|Experience (See notes 2,5,6 & 7)
|Other (See note 9)
|Grade 12 or equivalent.
|OIT or Class I (See note 10)
|Grade 12 or equivalent.
|1 year as a valid operator experience while holding an OIT
|Class I exam
|Experience must be ‘operating’ experience –see definition above
|Grade 12 or equivalent.
|Total of 3 years (See note 8)
|Class II exam
|Must hold a Class I licence (or deemed to hold) for that type of facility (See note 11)
|Grade 12 or equivalent + 2 years of additional education or training the Director considers relevant
|Total of 4 years, of which 2 years must be as an OIC in a Class II, III or IV facility
|Class III exam
|Must hold a Class II licence for that type of facility
|Grade 12 or equivalent + 4 years of additional education or training the Director considers relevant
|Total of 4 years, of which 2 years must be as an OIC in a Class III or IV facility
|Class IV exam
|Must hold a Class III licence for that type of facility
Notes to table:
- A general description of Grade 12 equivalency is provided below. For a detailed description, please refer to the ministry’s Guideline 3.1 Grade 12 Equivalency.
The following is considered equivalent to having secured Grade 12:
- a Canadian postsecondary diploma or degree;
- securing the General Educational Development (GED) certificate;
- a 2-3 year diploma or 3-4 year degree from a recognized/accredited university or community college from Canada or the United States;
- a secondary school graduation diploma or GED from other Canadian provinces and territories (CEGEP from Quebec) and the United States;
- a certificate of apprenticeship from Ontario or other Canadian jurisdictions;
- education from other countries may be considered as equivalent to Grade 12. Review Guideline 3.1 for more information or contact the Program Administrator (see section 13 for contact information).
- Only experience gained while licensed to do the work will be considered.
- For the purpose of calculating education or training obtained through continuing education, 450 hours of education or training equals one year. This translates into 45 Continuing Education Units (CEU), since 1 CEU equals 10 hours of training.
- Substitute experience for education/training:
- Class III applicants may substitute up to one year of experience as an operator-in-charge (OIC) in a Class II, III or IV facility, above what is required to meet the experience qualifications, for one year of additional education/training (or 450 hours of additional education/training).
- Class IV applicants may substitute up to two years of experience as an OIC in a Class III or IV facility, above what is required to meet the experience qualifications, for two years of additional education/training (or 900 hours of additional education/training).
- Substitute education/training for experience: Class II, III and IV applicants can substitute education and training (except for elementary and secondary education), above what is required to meet the additional education and training qualifications, for up to 50% of the required operating experience (not applicable for OIC experience).
Eligible substitutions include:
- relevant postsecondary education such as community college, trade school, university
- training that meets the ‘continuing education’ training criteria for the purpose of certificate renewal
- Substitute different experience: Class II, III and IV applicants may be permitted to substitute the following for licence qualifying experience:
- experience as an operator in a different type of system
- experience in a system other than as an operator
- other relevant qualifications.
The Director needs to be satisfied that such experience or qualifications are relevant to the licence being applied for.
Examples of different experiences that may be considered are:
- experience gained working in a drinking water system
- experience gained working in a laboratory conducting tests on drinking water or wastewater
- experience gained within a wastewater facility doing electrical or mechanical maintenance, or work as a technical expert or trades person
The ratio is often 2:1 or 3:1. For example, three years of wastewater collection experience would be equivalent to one year of wastewater treatment experience if applying for a higher wastewater treatment licence.
See ministry Guideline 3.4b Experience ‘as a Wastewater Operator’ for more detail on substitutions.
- Application of part-time experience: The application of part-time experience is defined in ministry Guideline 3.4b Experience ‘as a Wastewater Operator’, and operating experience for contractors is detailed in ministry Guideline 5.3 Crediting Experience for Contractors.
Generally, an operator who works in a facility that does not require the operator to be at the facility full-time, but does require the operator to be available full-time, will receive one year experience credit for each year employed. However, an operator working part-time in a system requiring full-time operators will receive credit for the actual time worked.
- The years of experience indicated in this table are not cumulative. For example, a Class I operator is required to obtain one year of experience. The Class II operator requires a total of three years of experience, which includes the one year required to obtain the Class I licence.
- An operator may upgrade their licence only one class higher than the licence they currently hold, and can only hold a licence one class higher than the highest class of system for which they are employed.
- An operator may write a Class I exam instead of an OIT exam to meet the exam qualification for an OIT licence. For example, if a person writes and passes a Class I Wastewater Treatment exam, provided they meet the other qualification, they can apply for and receive a Wastewater Treatment OIT licence.
- An operator who holds a Class I Wastewater Treatment licence is deemed to hold a Class I Wastewater Collection licence, and may apply directly to a Class II Wastewater Collection licence provided they meet the experience qualification for that licence (i.e. three years of collection experience).
5.3.1 Experience exemption for professional engineer
A professional engineer accredited in Ontario does not have to meet the experience qualifications if the professional engineer obtains a mark of 85% or higher on the exam for the type and class of licence for which they are applying.
5.3.2 Transferability of operator licences
An operator who holds one type of licence may be deemed to hold other licences for the purpose of being able to work in that facility.
|Licence held by operator
|Operator deemed to also hold
|Class I to IV wastewater treatment
|Class I collection licence
|Class I to IV wastewater collection
Note: The operator does not receive a licence of the type they are deemed to hold.
5.3.3 Conditional operator licence
The Director may issue a conditional operator licence for operators holding any type and class of licence (except for an operator-in-training licence).
The Director may issue a conditional licence if:
- the applicant’s employer or potential employer (owner or operating authority) satisfies the Director that they cannot obtain the services of an operator of the type and class required under the regulation (for example, if an owner of a Class III wastewater treatment facility is unable to find an operator holding a Class III wastewater treatment licence);
- the owner or operating authority gives both the applicant and the Director a written commitment to help the applicant comply with all the conditions imposed on the licence; and
- the required fee is paid.
A conditional operator’s licence is valid only for the facility for which it has been issued. The operator cannot use it to work in another facility. The Director may impose certain conditions on the licence. The licence expires three years after it is issued, or on an earlier date specified on the licence, but may be renewed by the Director, if the renewal requirements are met. See section 5.4 of this guide, Licence Renewal, below.
Examples of when a conditional licence might be issued by the Director are as follows:
- a facility upgrade or expansion changes the classification level of the facility, and no operator employed in the facility has a licence at the new classification level of the facility;
- facilities are unable to hire a person with the required class of licence.
Conditions that may be placed on a conditional licence include, but are not limited to:
- the operator meeting specific training requirements in addition to the annual training requirements;
- technical support or operational back-up being available to the operator holding the conditional licence
5.3.4 Operator licence to be displayed
The owner or operating authority must clearly display the licence of every operator they employ at the operator’s workplace, or if this is not practical (such as for a collection system), at the premises from which the facility is managed.
Reciprocity refers to the process whereby certifying authorities may issue a certificate/licence without re-evaluating applicants’ qualifications from another jurisdiction. Under the Agreement on Internal Trade, Ontario Labour Mobility Act, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks recognizes certificates/licences from other Canadian provinces or territories that have certification programs equal to that of the Province of Ontario. Through reciprocity, operators from each Canadian province and territory can obtain an equivalent certificate/licence in another Canadian province or territory. Ontario will also consider reciprocity for operators from the United States, provided the standards of the state meet those of Ontario.
5.4 Licence renewal
Renewal of an operator licence is the responsibility of the holder of the licence. An expired licence is not a valid licence. Contravening section 14 of O. Reg. 129/04 – i.e. working as an operator without holding a valid operator licence – is an offence under the Regulation. Therefore, it is important that operators notify the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office of a change in address and renew their licence before it expires.
Generally the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office issues a renewal notice to an operator ninety (90) days prior to the date when their licence expires. Operators who apply for licence renewal, meet the renewal qualifications, and pay the required fee will receive a new licence containing the new expiry date.
5.4.2 Renewing an operator licence
Operator licences expire every three years. To qualify for renewal, the operator must have:
- operator or related experience in the previous five years;
- pay the required fee.
In general related experience includes a role in the drinking water and wastewater industry that enables a person to remain knowledgeable and current on wastewater treatment or collection equipment and methods.
For example, an operator who becomes a drinking water supervisor, trainer or technical expert would meet the experience requirement during the time that they are actively engaged in such a role.
Other related experience could include experience as an electrical/mechanical or maintenance employee of the wastewater system, or as a laboratory technician or scientist who tests water.
See ministry Guideline 3.4b Experience ‘as a Wastewater Operator’ for more detail on related experience.
For a conditional operator’s licence to be renewed, the applicant must also have met the conditions of the conditional licence.
5.4.3 Training requirements
The owner of a facility shall ensure that every operator employed in the facility is given at least 40 hours of training every calendar year.
Beginning January 1, 2022, the 40 hours of annual training may be averaged over each subsequent three-year period during which the operator is employed in a facility for a total of 120 hours of training every 3 years.
This training may be completed at any time during the three year period with additional training from one year counted towards meeting the required 120 hours. For example, an operator may complete 20 hours of training in 2022, 60 hours in 2023 and 40 hours in 2024. Alternatively, an operator can complete all 120 hours in 2022.
If an operator completes more than 120 hours of training during the three calendar year period, the excess training may not be used for the next three year period.
- The first three-year training period is January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2024
- Training hours may not be pro-rated for part-time operators (a full 40 hours is required)
- If an operator is employed in a facility for less than 60 days in a calendar year, the requirement to complete 40 hours of training does not apply to that operator for that year. The owner must notify the Director if this situation applies to an operator in their employ by sending an email to email@example.com, that includes the:
- operator’s name
- operator’s ID
- year for which annual training does not apply
The training may include, for example, training in new or revised operating procedures, reviews of existing operating procedures, training in safety, and training on studies of information and technical skills related to environmental subjects.
The owner shall ensure that records are maintained of the training given under this section. Such records are to include the names and positions of the operators who attend the training, the date of each training session, the duration and the subjects covered. The owner shall submit copies or summaries of the records to the Director upon request.
Operators who hold both drinking water certificates and wastewater licences must meet the training requirements for both O. Reg. 128/04 and O. Reg. 129/04. Generally, training on topics related to that of a drinking water operator may be used to meet both the requirements of O. Reg. 128/04 and O. Reg. 129/04. Training on topics specific to wastewater may only be used to meet the requirements for O. Reg. 129/04.
Training records do not have to be submitted at that time of renewal. Records should be maintained in the event the ministry requests copies.
5.5 Re-issuance of operator licence after it expires
If the renewal application is made within one year of the expiry date, the applicant must:
- meet the normal licence renewal requirements; and
- Pay a late renewal fee in addition to the normal renewal fee.
If the renewal application is made more than one year after the expiry date, the applicant must:
- meet the qualifications in Schedule 2 for that type and class of licence (including passing the certification exam).
5.6 Replacement of licences
The Director will issue a replacement licence if:
- the licence has been lost or destroyed; or
- the name of the operator changes and the original licence is returned to the Director; and
- the required fee is paid.
5.7 Refusal to issue or renew an operator’s licence
The Director may refuse to issue or renew an operator’s licence if:
- any of the circumstances under which the Director can cancel or suspend a licence apply;
- the applicant is the holder of any other operator’s licence that has been cancelled or suspended, or that the Director is authorized to cancel or suspend;
- the licence to be renewed was cancelled or suspended; or
- the applicant is a holder of a drinking water operator’s certificate or water quality analyst’s certificate under O. Reg. 128/04 that was revoked or suspended, or that the Director is authorized to revoke or suspend.
5.8 Cancellation or suspension of an operator’s licence
The Director may cancel or suspend an operator’s licence, including an operator-in-training’s licence, for reasons described in subsection 11 (1) of O. Reg. 129/04. The Director may issue a licence of another type and class than the licence suspended or cancelled, providing the applicant meets the necessary qualifications.
When an operator’s licence is cancelled or suspended, the Director may request that a cancelled licence be returned. If an operator’s licence is suspended, the licence is considered valid after the suspension period has passed.
A person without a valid operator’s licence cannot operate a wastewater facility
The Director may cancelled or suspend a licence if:
- the application was fraudulent or contained inaccurate information
- the person was discharged from employment in a facility for gross negligence or for incompetence in the performance of his or her duties, unless the person has not yet exhausted the rights of appeal available under a collective agreement
- the person has worked as an operator for any length of time without being licensed for that type or class of operator he or she worked as or has lied about holding a type or class of licence that they do not hold;
- the person has previously had an operator’s licence or an operator’s certificate or a water quality analyst’s certificate issued under O. Reg. 128/04 revoked or suspended, and the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is not competent to be an operator;
- the person previously had a wastewater operator’s licence or a water operator’s licence issued under O. Reg.435/93 cancelled or suspended, and the Director has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is not competent to be an operator;
- the person has failed to perform the duties of an operator-in-charge as described in section 18 of O. Reg. 129/04, or has failed to keep records as described in section 19 of O. Reg. 129/04, which has resulted in:
- the discharge of a pollutant into the natural environment;
- an adverse effect on the health or safety of an individual; or
- an adverse effect on a process in the facility; or
- the person has failed to:
- exercise the level of care, diligence and skill in respect of a sewage works that a reasonably prudent operator would be expected to exercise in a similar situation; or
- act honestly, competently and with integrity, with a view to ensuring the protection of human health or the natural environment; or
- the person has failed to meet or has contravened any condition that is set out in the person’s licence.
Licence decisions made by the Director may be appealed to the Environmental Review Tribunal. Details on appeal rights are included in any letters issues by the Director that denies, suspends or cancels a licence.
6.1 Exam application
In addition to meeting the experience and education requirements specific to the different operator licences, the applicant must also pass a certification exam in order to receive a licence.
Applicants may only write examinations one class higher than the class of licence that they hold. Applicants must wait a minimum of 90 days from the date of writing to take the next class level exam or to retry an exam after a failure.
A list of the exam dates and locations can be found on the website of the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office’s website (see Section 12 of this guide for contact information).
6.3 Confirmation letter and Code of Conduct
When a person has been registered to write an examination, the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office will send them an examination confirmation letter and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks' Water and Wastewater Operator Certification and Examination Code of Conduct (Code of Conduct).
The confirmation letter confirms the person’s registration in the examination session, provides the examination details, and must be presented prior to writing the exam.
The Code of Conduct:
- is a precondition to writing a ministry certification examination;
- outlines examples of unethical behaviour during the exam and application process; and
- provides examples of possible consequences for an operator if he or she were to behave dishonestly.
Absolutely no electronic devices, including cell phones, with the exception of non-programmable calculators may be brought into the exam session. If a person is found to possess any unauthorized materials or equipment during a certification exam, their exam will be forfeited and other disciplinary actions may be taken against them.
Operating standards for facilities
The owner or operating authority of a facility must ensure that every operator employed in that facility holds a licence applicable to that type of facility, or a conditional licence applicable to that particular facility.
7.1 Overall responsible operator
The owner or operating authority must designate an overall responsible operator (ORO) to ensure that a knowledgeable, experienced staff person is available at all times to provide operational oversight.
An overall responsible operator means an operator designated as overall responsible operator of a facility under section 15 of O. Reg. 129/04.
The owner or operating authority of each facility must designate as ORO, an operator who holds a licence for that type of facility and that is of the same class as or higher than the class of that facility. For example, the ORO of a Class III wastewater treatment facility must hold a Class III or Class IV wastewater treatment licence.
To designate means to appoint an operator as holding the position of ORO. It must be clear to other operators working in the facility, and to the ministry inspector, who the ORO is for each shift. The expectation is that the ORO would be identified either by recording the ORO’s name in the daily log, through a memo that is posted, etc.
The intent of the regulation is that there be an ORO designated for a facility at all times. In order to achieve this goal, an owner or operating authority can designate one operator to be the ORO for particular shifts or days and another operator as the ORO for the other shifts or days, provided there is only one ORO designated at any given time. The operator designated as the ORO must hold a licence for that type of facility which is the same class or higher than that facility and must be fully aware that they are ORO assigned at that time.
The ORO may have responsibility for more than one facility provided this does not affect their ability to perform their responsibilities.
The ORO may be off-site; however, he or she must be able to respond immediately and effectively as required.
If a designated ORO holding the proper qualifications is absent or unable to act, the owner or operating authority or, if the owner or operating authority authorizes it, the ORO, may designate an operator who holds a licence applicable to that type of facility and no more than one class lower, to act on their behalf. For example, if the ORO for a Class IV collection facility is absent, an operator holding a Class III collection facility licence may act in their place.
Owners/operating authorities of facilities may only rely on “backup” OROs for up to 150 days in any 12-month period in a facility. The Director can make an exception if the Director is satisfied that the owner or operating authority cannot reasonably hire an operator holding a class of licence as high or higher than the class of facility. The Director must also be satisfied that extending the time period will not result in a significant risk to human health or the natural environment.
The duties of an ORO cannot be delegated to an operator-in-training.
The owner or operating authority of each facility must designate one or more operators-in-charge (OIC).
An operator-in-charge means an operator or professional engineer who is designated as an operator-in-charge of a facility under section 17 of O. Reg. 129/04.
An OIC can be any operator including the ORO, but cannot be an operator-in-training.
The owner or operating authority can also designate a professional engineer, who does not have an operator’s licence, as an OIC. However, the owner can only rely on a professional engineer or series of professional engineer to be an OIC for up to 180 days in any 24-month period.
The owner or operating authority must ensure that records are maintained of the amount of time each operator works as an OIC.
7.2.1 Duties of an operator-in-charge
An OIC is authorized to:
- set operational parameters for the facility or for a process that controls the effectiveness or efficiency of the facility; and
- direct or instruct other operators in the facility to set such operational parameters.
The OIC shall:
- take all steps reasonably necessary to operate the processes within his or her responsibility in a safe and efficient manner, in accordance with the relevant operations manuals;
- ensure that the processes within his or her responsibility are measured, monitored, sampled and tested in a manner that permits them to be adjusted when necessary;
- ensure that records are maintained of all adjustments made to the processes within his or her responsibility; and
- ensure that all equipment used in the processes within his or her responsibility is properly monitored, inspected and evaluated and that records of equipment operating status are prepared and available at the end of every operating shift.
For more information on the roles and responsibilities of the ORO and OIC, please review ministry Guideline 5.1 Overall Responsible Operator vs Operator-in-Charge.
7.3 Strikes and lock-outs
During a strike or a lockout involving operators employed in a facility, the Director may direct that the facility be allowed to operate without the presence of an ORO or licensed operator for that type of facility. However, the Director must be satisfied the facility can be operated without risk to human health or the natural environment.
To assist the Director in making such a determination, at least 14 days prior to the legal strike or lock-out date, the owner or operating authority must submit a strike plan containing specific information. Details on the information required can be secured from the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office.
For information on ministry policy and requirements under regulation, and how to prepare and submit a strike or lock-out plan, please refer to ministry Guideline 5.2 Obtaining Director’s Direction to Use Non-Certified Operators in the Event of a Strike or Lock-out, and section 16: Strike and Lock-outs, O. Reg. 129/04.
7.4 Record-keeping regarding the operation of facility
The owner or operating authority must ensure that logs or other forms of record-keeping are available to record information about the operation of the facility.
Entries into such records must be made chronologically. Entries can only be made by the ORO or the OIC or by a person authorized to do so by the owner, operating authority, ORO or the OIC. The person who makes the entry must be clearly identified on the record.
The OIC or another authorized person must record the following information on each operating shift:
- date, time of day the shift began and ended, and number or designation of the shift;
- names of all operators on duty during the shift;
- any departures from normal operating procedures that occurred during the shift and time they occurred;
- any special instructions that were given during the shift to depart from normal operating procedures and the person who gave the instructions;
- any unusual or abnormal conditions that were observed in the facility during the shift, any action that was taken and any conclusions that were drawn from the observations; and
- any equipment that was taken out of service or ceased to operate during the shift and any action taken to maintain or repair equipment during the shift.
The owner or operating authority must ensure that all records are accessible at the facility for at least two years after the last entry in it has been made. Copies or summaries of the records must be given to the Director when requested.
7.5 Operations and maintenance manuals
The owner of the facility shall ensure that operators and maintenance personnel in the facility have ready access to comprehensive operations and maintenance manuals that contain the plans, drawings and process descriptions sufficient for the safe and efficient operation of the facility.
The owner shall ensure that the manuals are reviewed and updated at least every two years.
Owner/operating authority responsibilities
Owners and operating authorities have been assigned specific responsibilities under O. Reg. 129/04.
Responsibilities of owners and operating authorities include:
- ensure every operator employed in their facility is given at least 40 hours of training every year.
- maintain records which include the names and positions of operators who attended training sessions, the date of each training session, the duration of each training session and subjects covered
- file an application for facility classification
- ensure the certificate of facility classification is displayed in the workplace
- ensure that every operator employed in the facility holds a licence applicable to that facility, or a conditional licence
- ensure that a copy of the licence of every licensed operator in their employ is displayed at the workplace of the operator, or if this is not practical, then at the premises from which the workplace is managed
- designate an overall responsible operator
- designate one or more operators as operator-in-charge
- ensure that records are maintained of the amount of time each operator who works as an operator-in-charge
- ensure that logs or other record-keeping mechanisms are provided to record information concerning the operation of the facility
- ensure that operators and maintenance personnel have ready access to operations and maintenance manuals that contain plans, drawings, and process descriptions sufficient for the safe and efficient operation of the facility
Under O. Reg. 129/04 certain actions may be taken by the Director, and owners and operating authorities during specified emergency situations. Please refer to the Emergency Situations part of O. Reg 129/04 for more information.
Please note that nothing in the Emergency Situations sections or any other provision of O. Reg. 129/04 relieves any person from any obligation to comply with any applicable labour laws or collective agreements, and no action may be taken under the Emergency Situations solely as the result of the exercise of a right under such a law or agreement.
When applying for exams or licences, all documentation, fees, and forms must be fully completed. Verification of employment (experience forms) must be signed by an authorized representative of the employer.
Please keep a copy of all forms submitted. Application forms, supporting documents and fees are to be forwarded to the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office.
Information on program fees is available on the ministry’s drinking water landing page and the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office’s website.
Preparing for certification – study guides
The Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office has a number of study materials and aids to help operators prepare for exams. For a list of current study materials and for recommendations on other materials please visit the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office’s website. See section 12 of this guide for contact information.
Water Wastewater Operator Certification System
Operators and WQAs have the ability to gain access to key information to help track their certificates/licences in the Water Wastewater Operator Certification System (WWOCS). The system allows operators to view their own personal certification information, including certificates/licences and expiry dates, the Director approved courses they have successfully completed and their past exam results.
To get access to WWOCS, an operator must obtain a user ID and password from the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office. The application form to request a user ID can be found on the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office’s website.
For more information on the system, or to obtain a user guide, please contact the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office.
How to obtain more information
For more information, copies of ministry guidelines, Need-To-Know guides, forms, copies of O. Reg. 129/04, or to order study manuals, please contact the office of the Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office:
Ontario Water Wastewater Certification Office (OWWCO)
295 The West Mall
Etobicoke, ON M9C 4Z4
- footnote Back to paragraph Non-licensed persons may temporarily operate a wastewater facility in the following scenarios:
A non-licensed person may temporarily operate a wastewater facility during a strike or lock-out, as directed by the Director.
A non-licensed person may work as an emergency substitute operator for the duration of the declared emergency or its aftermath, when there is a critical shortage of licensed operators.
A professional engineer without a wastewater operator licence may work as an operator for up to 6 months. See section 5.1.3 of this guide.
A professional engineer without a wastewater operator licence may be designated as an Operator-in-Charge. See section 7.2 of this guide.
A professional engineer without a wastewater operator licence may be designated as ORO for up to 6 months. See Overall Responsible Operator vs. Operator-in-Charge.
- footnote Back to paragraph If a person chooses not to appeal within the time required it would have the same effect as having exhausted their right of appeal.