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)

Operator in Training – requires passing the exam at any of the levels stated above.

What is an Operator in Training?

An Operator in Training (OIT) is the first step to becoming a fully certified drinking water operator in Illinois. An OIT has passed any of the exams for drinking water operator certification. The OIT may or may not have met the requirement for all of the responsible experience at the time they have passed the exam. An OIT certificate is valid for a period of six years with the expiration date being six years from the first day of July of the calendar year in which the certificate is issued. Renewal training credits are not required in order to maintain an OIT certificate. There is no renewal for an OIT certificate if the OIT has not successfully completed the responsible experience requirements for the certificate they seek. The OIT certificate will expire and the person will have to retest. An OIT cannot act as a Responsible Operator in Charge at any facility.

How do I become a certified drinking water supply operator?

You must submit a completed Drinking Water Operator Certification Examination Request and a
check or money order for $10.00. If approved, you will receive a Letter of Admission from the Illinois
EPA along with a list of exam dates and locations. After you have passed the exam and met the
responsible experience for the level of certification you are requesting, submit an Application for
Certification as a Public Water Supply Operator along with a $30 check or money order for the
application processing fee. Each item on the application must be completed and a Letter of
Verification from your supervisor must be submitted. Make checks made payable to the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency.

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 seven 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.

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 submit a new completed Drinking Water
Operator Certification Examination Request and a check or money order for $10.00. After the request
is received and processed, the Illinois EPA will send you a Letter of Admission to test again. 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 three years, with the expiration
date being three years from the first day of July of the calendar year in which the certificate is issued or
renewed. During the three-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 four months before your expiration date. To renew your
certificate, complete the Renewal Application and submit it with a check or money order for $10.00; in
addition, we must have a record of the required training. 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 electronically through the Agency’s Operator Certification
database or by submitting the Operator Training Submission Form. You may submit the form at any
time during the renewal period. 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.

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. Renewal training credit for a course will only be given once during the three-year renewal period. 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.).

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 expired until the training is completed and a certificate is restored 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 four 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, course instructor, date, 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.