Water Resource Recovery Facility Operations Voluntary Training Program

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Overview of Facility:

     The Water Resource Recovery Facility for the City of San Luis Obispo is a 5.2 MGD treatment facility. The treatments currently in use are: headworks for preliminary treatment, primary clarifiers, and two secondary processes for nitrification treatment: biofiltration and activated sludge. The facility stabilizes the biosolids utilizing a DAF thickener and three digesters; two are heated and mixed, one is for storage. Dewatering of biosolids is accomplished with a screw press, a standby belt press and drying beds. Biosolids are transported to a composting facility in Santa Maria and recycled for beneficial use. The wastewater, after secondary treatment, goes through the tertiary treatment part of the facility using mono-media filtration and finally, disinfection and dechlorination treatment before discharging a high-quality effluent into San Luis Creek. Due to the extremely sensitive environment of San Luis Creek, the operations’ staff at the Water Resource Recovery Facility are required to meet strict discharge requirements.  WRRF staff works closely with the California Regional Water Quality Control Board through its water quality permit (NPDES) to produce the highest quality effluent possible to discharge into this sensitive environment. The facility began operation of its recycled water treatment facility in 2006. Tertiary treated water is chlorinated in the recycled water facility and delivered to the city’s recycled water piping system for non-agricultural irrigation purposes. This is helping to alleviate a portion of the demand on the drinking water system that has been used for non-agricultural irrigation.



Purpose and Benefits of Volunteer Training Program:

     The City of San Luis Obispo’s Water Resource Recovery Facility (SLO WRRF) operates a training program to individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in the field of wastewater. We train and invest in individuals who desire to gain the job experience needed to help them apply for positions in wastewater facilities throughout California. The SLO WRRF operates a variety of wastewater processes typically found in much larger facilities. Trainees will gain knowledge of many processes all at one location, providing a faster learning curve and a more complete background in wastewater operations.

      The WRRF training program is completely voluntary and is an unpaid position. Its main purpose is to help people willing to make the effort to pursue a career in the field of wastewater treatment. The program also allows the Facility to develop a pool of potential candidates for positions, should there be an opening for a qualified operator.

      Volunteers are not employees of the City and do not receive compensation from the City. The cost and maintenance of City uniforms and required personal protective equipment (PPE) are provided by the City. The cost of the State OIT (operator-in-training) certificate that allows volunteers to work in a wastewater treatment facility and is necessary to accrue the required hours for a State Graded Certificate is paid by the City. The OIT certificate belongs to the Water Resource Recovery Facility and is not transferable to another facility.

      A library of reading and study materials is provided at the Water Resource Recovery Facility for all disciplines of water and wastewater.  Home study courses through Cal State Sacramento are paid for by the OIT volunteer. Current volumes of the courses offered are kept in the Facility Library and may be used by the OIT volunteer for those courses. Some study time is provided for exam review. 

      The goal of the WRRF’s volunteer program is to help the OIT gain experience as a wastewater operator, fulfill the time requirement of the State of California, take the State Operator exam and achieve a passing grade for the State Grade I or higher.  It is typical for OITs in the program to pass the exam for the Grade II and obtain a Grade II Certificate in Wastewater by meeting the State’s one year work hour requirement and by taking wastewater courses through Sacramento State for CEUs that allow the OIT to ‘buy back’ or trade CEUs to the state to meet time requirements for the Grade II Operator Certificate.

      Mock interviews with staff is another tool available to OIT volunteers seeking to improve their skills when applying and interviewing for jobs as a wastewater operator.

      Liability insurance is provided to volunteers.  Volunteers are covered by the City’s general liability policy when acting within the scope and course of assigned duties. Volunteers are not eligible for Worker’s Compensation Insurance.

      Automobile insurance follows the automobile.  If a volunteer drives a City vehicle, City insurance will be in effect.  However, if a volunteer drives his or her own vehicle, even while on City business, the volunteer’s personal automobile insurance will be applicable on a primary basis per the California Vehicle Code, CVC 17152.

      Volunteers are reimbursed for expenses, including mileage if they are required to drive their own vehicle as part of their assignment, which has been pre-approved by the WRRF supervisor.




      Because we invest our resources and time in the wastewater operator trainee, we require a commitment by the trainee to stay with and complete the program. The WRRF provides on the job experience, satisfying requirements for the State Certification Program through hours worked at the facility.

     Volunteers represent the City and are therefore, expected to conduct themselves in a respectful and professional manner and adhere to all safety guidelines when volunteering for the City.  Each volunteer is required to complete a Volunteer Registration and Waiver form.  The form includes a liability release and states the volunteer is not covered under workers compensation insurance. 



Job Description:

     The Operator in Training (OIT) will work closely with state certified operators. The main focus is in wastewater operations; however, the OIT may also work with certified lab analysts in the water quality lab located within the facility as well as with certified maintenance technicians. The OIT will learn the functions of each process within the facility under the guidance and direct supervision of the operators working in each process area. Learning these processes will include, but not be limited to, operational adjustments to process, process sampling and evaluation of sampling results, reviewing lab data and determining process stability for operational compliance based on that data, observing SCADA system screens and screen data, trend screen data analysis, and the HachWIMS database, what they mean and how it shows process stability, daily morning rounds of all areas and evaluation of that data, starting and stopping of equipment, isolation and bypass procedures for maintenance and cleaning of process equipment, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during projects, permit conditions and consequences of permit violations, adherence to permit requirements through process control and adjustments and other facility requirements as necessary.




  • Ability to perform various math equations and formulas related to wastewater operations.
  • Possess basic computer skills with knowledge of word and spreadsheet programs.
  • Ability to lift a maximum of 50# and perform light to medium physical duties in a safe manner.
  • Ability to communicate effectively in a team environment, working closely and cohesively with facility personnel, and complete all tasks and job duties required in assigned work areas.
  • Must follow all safety requirements as prescribed by city, state and federal standards concerning wastewater regulation, OSHA and Cal OSHA regulations, and laboratory procedures.
  • Must be reliable and adhere to the schedule that has been agreed upon. Failure to follow the work schedule without notification and/or continued absences may result in a discontinuation of the intern’s participation in the program.

For more information, please contact Chris Lehman