They regulate the flow of sewage into the plant and through the processes of filtering, settling, aeration, and sludge digestion, sometimes collecting samples and performing laboratory tests, and ensure that the water leaving the plant meets the government standards of cleanliness. Operators also keep records, make minor repairs to equipment, supervise attendants and other workers, and may operate power-generating equipment.
Water purity and the disposal of waste through water treatment jobs have been of concern to civilizations since ancient times. The Minoans on the island of Crete built sewers and water lines of terra-cotta around 2500 B.C. The Roman aqueducts were marvelous feats of engineering, and the Cloaca Maxima sewer, built in the third century B.C. to drain the marshy ground around the Forum, is still visited by tourists today. Sanitation methods, however, were limited. Garbage and human waste was collected from homes and the streets, but little was known about the health hazards of handling such refuse. As cities populations grew, sanitation became a necessity, but modern sanitation engineering dates back only to about 1850 for water supplies and 1870 for sewage. Today’s wastewater treatment plants are highly sophisticated, complex operations, designed to meet increasingly stringent government standards. With the adoption of some laws, it is illegal for industries to discharge any pollutant without any government permit. Industries that send waste to municipal treatment plants must meet the minimum standards and pre-treat the wastes so they do not damage the treatment facilities. Standards are also imposed on the treatment plants, controlling the quality of the water they discharge.
Wastewater treatment jobs and its plant machineries are essential to modern civilization. Without them, domestic and industrial wastes would accumulate, and our water would rapidly become unfit for any use. Disease would spread among the population. Fish and wildlife would die off. Swimming, boating, and other recreational activities would be unable to function. The workers who operate these plants control the equipment and processes that remove the wastes or make them harmless and return the water in a sanitary condition, safe for human consumption or other use.
Through waste water operator jobs, waste materials from homes, public buildings, and industrial plants are transported by water through sewer pipes to sewage treatment plants. These wasters include both organic and non organic solids, some of which may be toxic, such as lead or mercury. A wastewater-treatment-plant operator (sometimes known as a sewage plant operator) works on regulating the flow of incoming sewage by adjusting valves and gates either manually or by remote control, and monitors the various meters and gauges that indicate when the equipment and processes are working properly. They operate and maintain the pumps, engines, and generators that move raw sewage through the treatment processes of filtration, settling, aeration, and sludge digestion. These workers operate chemical-feeding devices, collect sewage samples, conduct laboratory tests, and maintain the proper level of chlorine in the wastewater. They keep a log of the operations, in which they record the meter and gauge readings, and make minor repairs on valves, pumps, and other equipment, using common hand tools, such as gauges, wrenches, and pliers, as well as special tools. Operators may supervise attendants and helpers who perform routine tasks and maintenance work. Plant operators sometimes have to work under emergency conditions, such as when a heavy rainstorm floods the sewer pipes, exceeding the plant’s capacity, or when there is a chlorine gas leak or oxygen deficiency within the plant.
The duties of plant operators vary considerably depending on the type and size of the plant that operates the jobs in water treatment. In smaller plants, one person may be responsible for the entire operation, including making repairs, keeping records, handling complaints, doing maintenance work, and possibly running and servicing the power-generating equipment for steam and electricity. Some states require only the minimum educational requirement for wastewater-treatment plant operators --- a high-school diploma. Even where this is not the case, employers generally prefer applicants with a high-school education or its equivalent. To increase their chances for employment and promotion, some individuals obtain additional, specialized education. There are some two-year programs available leading to an associate degree in wastewater technology. Persons who complete a one-year program are awarded certificates. The programs provide a good general knowledge of water pollution control and prepare students to become operators.
Moreover, wastewater-treatment-plant operators need to possess some mechanical aptitude, and must be competent in basic mathematics, and have the physical agility to climb ladders and move easily around heavy machinery to perform well in water plant jobs.
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