Drinking Water Operators class graduates 10 students; new course starts in September

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Graduates of the Drinking Water Operators course at Wallace State Community College are, from left, in front: Paul Rice, Bess Woods, Alex Millwod, Andrew Holt; in back: Aaron Washburn, Alise Altman, Wesley Thompson, Tony Debardenas, and Bailey Perry. Another class will be offered beginning Sept. 18, with classes held each Monday from 5-8 p.m.

HANCEVILLE – Ten students recently completed the new Drinking Water Operators course offered through Wallace State Community College’s Training for Business and Industry program. Since April, the students have met weekly to learn all the aspects of what is required to treat water so that it can be safely consumed by customers.

The training course was offered as a way to get ahead of an expected increase in job openings due to the fact that many operators are reaching retirement age within the next five years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook between 2010 and 2020 indicated there would be a 12 percent increase, or approximately 12,900 jobs, for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators across the nation.

Upon successful completion of the training, students will take certification exams provided by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for water treatment (Grades III & IV) and water distribution (Grades I & II). Drinking water operator certification establishes a professional standard, and also provides the knowledge and understanding drinking water operators need to provide safe, adequate drinking water to the public.

Alise Altman of Blountsville took the course in hopes of gaining a promotion and advancing to a Grade IV operator. Altman currently works with the Cullman City Water Department. Using what she’s learned in the class, Altman will test to earn a six-month internship in Birmingham.

Bess Woods, of Cullman, took the class for a career change. She’s worked with the Cullman County Water Department since May in a temporary position in GIS Mapping, as well as serving as a back-up monitoring the electronic system that monitors pumps, water system and water quality.

Wesley Thompson, of Baileyton, took the class in hopes of finding employment with a water system and to eventually work his way toward Grade IV certification.

All of the students, even those with experience working in water systems, said they learned a lot about how water is treated before it’s piped into homes.

Altman, who works in distribution with the City of Cullman, works to hook homes up to water service. “I never thought until I came to class and they started talking about it, you don’t realize how much went into getting the water to the public and making sure it’s potable, drinkable,” she said.

Woods had the same experience. “It has opened up an entirely different new world I had no clue about,” she said. “When we are standing in that control room, we have the life and health and wellbeing of thousands of people in our hands.”

A new class will start beginning Sept. 18 for Grades I and II (water distribution), with classes to be held each Monday from 5 to 8 p.m. Training includes classroom and on-site training at water utility facilities. The program fee for the 90-hour non-credit course is $499.

To register or for more information about the Continuing Education program at Wallace State, call 256-352-7826 or email Mandi Perkins at mandi.perkins@wallacestate.edu.