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ADEM Division 10 Updates

What is Division 10?

For those who don't know, ADEM's Division 10 is the set of regulations which define and govern the Water Division Operator Certification Program. See the following description from the regulations section of ADEM's website:

This Division is promulgated to protect the public health and welfare and prevent pollution by establishing a program for the certification of the competency of operators to operate water and wastewater treatment plants, water distribution systems, and public wastewater systems; and classification of all such plants and systems.

Division 10 description from

What is New?

In early 2019, ADEM decided it was time to begin the work of updating the Division 10 Regulations in order to be able to formerly adopt and implement the Standardized Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) exams for all grades of classification. The process, at present, is well-underway and it is time for all of our members to begin to really begin to pay attention to these proposed changes and interact with this process through appropriate comment processes, training sessions, and other channels of discussion.

ADEM is one of ARWA's closest partners and, as a rule, we support their initiatives. One of the best ways we can support ADEM is by ensuring that those in charge of promulgating changes to the processes that affect water and wastewater utilities in Alabama are aware of all potential impacts of their decision making. This will empower them to ensure that Alabama remains relevant in the National realm without imposing anything that would be prohibitive for conducting the business of providing safe, compliant, and cost-effective water and wastewater services to our citizens.

These changes are guaranteed to affect every utility in Alabama, whether it be through operator acquisition and management, or even through entire plant reclassification, once these new regulations are finalized and implemented the consequences will result in a new way of conducting business with regard to water and wastewater operations.

We, at the ARWA, will work to ensure that our members and others in the industry remain informed and are afforded all opportunity to participate in this process. To date, we have already held several training sessions covering this topic and have many more planned. In addition, we will work to keep this page updated with as many changes and updates as we receive. So, keep a close watch and please contact us with any questions you may have.

Change Log

Find below the progression of news and updates as we receive them. Click the buttons to see detailed information on the updates. We will update this throughout the process.

Date Description

On January 8th, 2020, ADEM released the first preliminary draft of the operator certification regulations. Deadline for comments is Feb 28, 2020. Expand the full text of the update by clicking the link below.

- Click to view contents.

Preliminary Draft Operator Certification Regulation

Email from ADEM:


To Interested Stakeholders Involved in Alabama Operator Certification Issues:

ADEM has developed a Preliminary Draft version of the Department’s Division 10 regulations (Operator Certification). At this time, we are soliciting comments on the Preliminary Draft regulation. In the months ahead, we will develop a Formal Draft that will be placed on Public Notice. But, as this is a very notable revision, we are issuing a preliminary draft so interested stakeholders can get an early look at the content of the Preliminary Draft regulation.

Through this revised regulation, ADEM will be adopting the Standardized Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) exams for all grades of classification. This requires that ADEM revise its present classification system. The new classification system uses a numerical protocol to determine a site specific numerical value for each Water and Wastewater treatment plant. The numerical protocol is a simple itemized table that allows the person ranking a plant to arrive at a numerical value very quickly. The point tally for each plant will determine the final rank or “grade” of a plant. Note that there will now be four grades of both Water and Wastewater treatment plants: Grades I through IV.

For Collection and Distribution systems, the ranking new ranking process is extremely simple and will be based solely on population served. There will be two grades of Wastewater Collection and two grades of Water Distribution systems: Grades I and II.

Attached is a Word version of the revised regulation. Also attached are two writeable PDF documents representing the blank ranking worksheet for Water Treatment Plants and Wastewater Treatment Plants, respectively. Please take the time to rank the plant(s) for your Utility or your clients.

Note that the revised regulation and the new ranking processes are major changes to the Alabama Operator Certification Program. This is the most comprehensive change to ADEM’s Operator Certification regulations since the inception of the rule going back to the 1986. The Department’s intention is to strengthen and improve the rule, while allowing ADEM to adopt the Standardized ABC exams. Through this preliminary review process, our intention is to gain your feedback so that we can work closely with our stakeholders to make the rule even better.

During your review, please take note of the following changes.

  • The definitions section was revised extensively, adopting some new definitions such as Biosolid, Direct Responsible Charge, Operator Log, Facility Operations Logbook, Mechanical Wastewater Treatment Plant, Water Treatment System Residual, and Permitted Wastewater Treatment Plant. As well, many definitions were revised, including the definition of an Operator, Operator Intern, and Process Control Decision. Some definitions were also eliminated.
  • Treatment plant operations are being made independent of Collection and Distribution operations. That is, each utility will need to designate an operator of its wastewater collection and distribution systems, in addition to any treatment works.
  • Staffing Requirements were revised. Most notably, each operator is clearly now required to be present at the plant or system at all times necessary to ensure the safe, efficient, and proper operation of each plant or system. While that was implicit before, it is now a requirement. From a minimum staffing requirement standpoint, the most significant changes are: a Grade II WWTP must now be visited by a certified operator 5 days per week; a Grade III WTP must now be visited by a certified operator twice per day. Also, any work done in the Distribution or Collection system must now be under the “direct” supervision of a certified operator. All sampling reports related to a wastewater collection system are to be signed by the certified Collection system operator. All water distribution system sampling is to be signed by the certified Distribution system operator.
  • Every operator will be required to submit a form to ADEM notifying us of where the operator is employed. The operator will also be required to notify ADEM’s Operator Certification Program whenever he or she changes employment. An operator will submit one of two forms to ADEM: 1. A Standard Operator Employment Form, for operators working at one system; or 2. A Multiple System Employment Form, for operators working at more than one plant or system. There will be no fee for submittal of either form. However, the Multiple System form is subject to ADEM review. In most cases, ADEM will not be reviewing the Multiple System form. However, if it is questionable whether or not an operator can readily claim to operate the number of systems listed, ADEM may elect to review such an application. As well, if ADEM finds that an operator is not meeting the minimum requirements for proper operation at one or more plants or systems, then that operator’s approval may be rescinded for cause.
  • For any wastewater treatment collection system that is independently owned or operated (i.e., a collection system not subject to an NPDES Permit), that system must have a certified wastewater Collection system operator.
  • No operator may work a standard work shift exceeding 16 hours per day (except in an emergency situation)
  • Any utility that has contracted operation of its plant or systems must ensure that the contract outlines at least the minimum staffing requirements.
  • Examinations: There are some changes imposed, namely that experience in DRC must be obtained after passing the exam. Also, a person applying to take an exam must take the exam within 12 months of approval. People passing an exam will now be notified of their grade, as well as when an exam failure occurs.
  • Reexamination: There are some changes imposed, as ADEM has been presenting for the past several months. The main issue is that a person can take not more than three consecutive exams for the same classification in a 12-month period.
  • Classification of Systems: This section has been totally revised in order to implement the new ranking system.
  • Qualification for Certification: There are now separate requirements for Water systems and Wastewater systems. Working experience is now also outlined for Collection and Distribution systems. Overall, changes were made to adopt the DRC experience in addition to general working experience. As ADEM has presented in recent months at various forums, candidates pursuing a Grade III or IV Treatment system certification will be required to first obtain a Grade II Treatment certification…unless the candidate meets other specific college prerequisite requirements. The biggest proposed change is related to Grade IV WWTP experience. ADEM is making the Grade IV Water and Grade IV Wastewater working experience requirements consistent. Also, while certification will not be required for Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plants, ADEM will allow people working in the Industrial field to attain certification, as long as they meet all other Division 10 requirements.
  • ADEM’s Groundwater Branch will impose requirements for UIC systems to have a certified operator of record. ADEM’s revised Division 10 regulation also requires UIC systems to have a certified operator, provided the operator candidate meets all other operator responsibilities outlined in the revised Division 10 regulation.
  • Certificate Expiration and Renewal: The main change here is that operators can now apply for renewal up to 365 days after his or her expiration date. There will be two incremental late fees. The first will apply for renewal applications submitted from 30 days prior to expiration until 180 days after expiration. The second incremental fee (TBD) will apply from the timeframe of 180 days after expiration until 365 days after expiration. [This provision is intended to allow an operator more time to attain CEHs and retain a certification without having to re-test.]
  • Reciprocal Applications: The main change here is that for a person pursuing a reciprocal application to attain an Alabama certification, that person will only be granted a reciprocal certification if they passed a comparable exam in another state.
  • Continuing Education: Several changes made to clarify what CE classes are and are not accepted. There are some notable overall changes to account for CEHs and carryover hour credits for people holding more than one certification…which now can be as high as 4 certifications. We are imposing a limitation of 8 substituted training hours for working experience claimed from exam preparation classes.
  • Revocation of Certificate: The main changes here are that if anyone falsified their work experience, they may be subject to suspension of revocation. This also includes anyone that falsifies the verification of experience for an operator candidate.
  • Process Control Decisions: Some important changes were made to this basic definition

Please provide written or verbal review comments on this regulation by close of business on February 28, 2020. Written comments are preferable. Provide your comments to Mary Alice Corcoran at We will do our best to accommodate the changes requested by our stakeholders. However, please be aware that we may not address changes that do not meet the objectives of improving the rule and the coordination necessary for ADEM to adopt the standardized ABC exams.


Mary Alice Corcoran
Compliance Assistance Program

1400 Coliseum Blvd
Montgomery, AL 36110
Phone 334-271-7872
2/28/2020 Deadline for submitting initial comments. Reach out to our office for more information on how to ensure your voice is heard.
(334) 396-5511 - ARWA office


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