Frequently Asked Questions

How are drinking water treatment facilities classified in Illinois?

  • Class A - Water supplies that include coagulation, lime softening or sedimentation
  • Class B - Water supplies that include filtration, aeration and filtration, or ion exchange
  • Class C - Water supplies that utilize chemical feed only
  • Class D - Water supplies limited to pumpage, storage or distribution

What are the drinking water operator certification levels and eligibility requirements for each level?

  • Class A - requires graduation from high school or equivalent and three years of responsible experience in a Class A water supply operation (coagulation, lime softening or sedimentation)
  • Class B - requires graduation from high school or equivalent and three years of responsible experience in a Class B water supply operation (filtration, aeration and filtration, or ion exchange)
  • Class C - requires graduation from high school or equivalent and one year responsible experience in a Class C water supply operation (chemical feed such as chlorination)
  • Class D - requires graduation from high school or equivalent and six months responsible experience in a Class D water supply operation (pumpage, storage or distribution)

How do I become a certified drinking water supply operator?

You must submit an Application for Water Supply Operator Certificate of Competency along with a $30 application processing fee. Each item on the application must be completed and the Letter of Verification must be submitted. If approved, you will receive a Letter of Admission from the Illinois EPA along with a list of exam dates and locations. There will be a $10 exam fee collected at the time of examination.

Where and how do I take the exam?

The exams are offered at all the regional office locations: Champaign, Collinsville, Elgin, Marion, Rockford, and Springfield. You will need to reserve a seat 14 days in advance of the exam by calling the examination center. Please remember you must take photo identification and the Illinois EPA Letter of Admission with you on the day of the exam. There will be a $10 exam fee collected at the time of examination.

What happens after the exam?

Examination results will be mailed to you. If you passed the exam, you will receive a congratulatory letter with a wallet card indicating your certification expiration date and the number of renewal training hours you need to complete. You will also receive a wall certificate signed by the Agency Director. If you fail the exam, you may re-test. To re-test, you need to submit a written request to the Illinois EPA, Drinking Water Compliance Assurance Section (217-785-0561). After the request is received and processed, the Illinois EPA will send you a Letter of Admission to test again. There is a $10 examination fee to re-test which can be paid in advance or at the door. You are not limited to the number of times you may take the exam, provided you pay the $10.00 fee and receive a new exam Letter of Admission.

Certification Renewal?

The drinking water operator certificates shall be issued for a period of 3 years, with the expiration date being 3 years from the first day of July of the calendar year in which the certificate is issued or renewed. During the 3-year renewal period, you are required to complete drinking water related training. Class A and Class B Operators are required to complete 30 hours of Renewal Training Credit (RTC). Class C and Class D Operators are required to complete 15 hours of RTC. You will be sent a Certificate Renewal Application about 4 months before your expiration date. To renew your certificate, you will have to submit the Renewal Application and pay a $10.00 renewal fee and have the required training submitted. The Renewal Training Credit must be completed and submitted to the Agency prior to the July 1 expiration date. Operators shall submit the training hours completed to the Agency by submitting the Operator Training Submission Form. You may submit the form at any time during the renewal period. You will receive a Training Summary indicating the training hours on file. You may not carry over training hours into your next renewal period, and training completed outside of your renewal period will not count toward your certificate renewal. In January or February of each year, the Illinois EPA will mail a Training Summary Report to each certified operator, listing the training that we have on file.

What type of training is acceptable for renewal training credit?

All training courses must get pre-approval from the Illinois EPA. Training for renewal training credit must directly relate to water distribution, water treatment or the professional responsibilities of the operator. To be sure that a training event is acceptable, you may want to look at the "Courses Approved for Renewal Training Credit" (on the web) or ask the training provider before any fees are paid. There are training providers that offer courses through correspondence, on-line and CD-ROM, not to mention the training providers that have day and night classes and those that will come to you for training. You may also want to contact your local water operator organization or regional office for information about training. Training that is not acceptable for Renewal Training Credit includes personal self-improvement courses, plant tours, travel time to and from a training event, on-the-job work or apprenticeships, and portions of meetings when drinking water related training is not provided (i.e. lunches, breaks, etc.). Renewal training credit will only be given once during the 3-year renewal period.

What if I don't complete the required training before my expiration date?

Operators who do not meet the renewal training requirements by their certificate's expiration date may have up to two years to get the training completed. However, once the certificate expiration date passes, your certification will no longer be valid in Illinois and will remain invalid until the training is completed and a renewed certificate is issued by the Illinois EPA.

What if I completed the training but failed to send it in on time?

If you met the training requirement during the renewal period, but are late mailing in the renewal application and/or any training documents, you will have to submit $20.00 ($10.00 renewal fee and $10.00 restoration fee) to restore your certificate.

Proof of Training Records, Record Keeping, Audits?

Certified water supply operators are required to maintain their own proof of training records for a period of 4 years. The Illinois EPA may audit proof of training records by random selection or in cases where additional information is required. Failure to provide proof of training documentation when specifically requested by the Illinois EPA may result in certificate revocation or denial of certificate renewal/restoration. Proof of training must include records showing the training name, Illinois EPA course identification number, name of training provider, date and location and total training hours received. For more detailed information related to Operator Certification, please see the Sample Collector's Handbook, Chapter 14 Operator Certification.