(MARSHALL, TX) – There needs to be a process, supervised by trained people, to ensure that the water stays clean and the wastewater is treated.
“There is an increase in demand for wastewater treatment process operators, but the number of jobs in this professional field is lower than the jobs available in chemical plants and petroleum refineries,” said Nick Cram, senior instructor of the Process Operations Technology program at Texas State Technical College. . “The benefits of working in wastewater treatment are a daytime schedule, very few weekends, and you don’t work a 12-hour shift. “
According to the United States Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website, operators of water and wastewater treatment plants and systems in Texas can earn a median annual salary of more than $ 39,000. He predicts that there will be a need for more than 12,000 workers by 2028 in Texas.
“Our program will put more emphasis on wastewater treatment due to the number of jobs available,” Cram said. “It is also a very rewarding career, because water conservation and the provision of quality drinking water are essential to our survival. “
Having a local workforce that can work with water and wastewater treatment is linked to economic development.
“You have to have the ability to have the industry to come,” said Steven K. Williams, General Manager of the City of Carthage. “We are in good shape on this point. Along with the workforce, you have a lot of technicians working here in the oil and gas industry. It’s great if we can have an industry that uses them so they don’t have to travel. I think we have a good workforce.
Randy Chelette, executive director of the Texas On-Site Wastewater Association in Bridge City, said as new growth takes place in cities and counties, more septic tanks or underground wastewater treatment systems are needed.
Chelette said it is now necessary for designers, inspectors and maintainers to ensure that treatment systems maintain water quality and health standards.
“Yesterday’s systems are old in the ground and passive but yet often fail because you depended on the soil to treat wastewater,” he said. “Today’s technologies allow us to treat wastewater before it is buried, so the soil doesn’t have to meet the same qualities to treat wastewater as in old septic tanks.
Selina Tabor is the Manager of the Town of Longview Water Purification Division and oversees staff at the town’s three water treatment plants who monitor water levels and pressure. The monitoring work is done via a computer, but every few hours samples are taken for tests such as chlorine, temperature and pH levels. The work is guided by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“What we bring back to the state is what we run physically,” Tabor said. “What we read on the computer keeps us under control.”
Tabor said she and her staff have been thinking about the future when they retire and new workers will be needed to continue their work. She said internships are available for college students interested in biology, chemistry and technology to give them experiences on what to expect after graduation.
“It’s a stable job,” Tabor said. “Stability is the key. When everything closed because of COVID-19, we never stopped working. The water does not go away, and neither does the sewage.
TSTC offers an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Process Operations Technology at its Marshall Campus. Graduates of the program can also seek jobs in the fields of electricity, petrochemicals, pharmacy, and refining.
The program continues to add new equipment, including a hands-on fractional distillation trainer that students will begin using in August.
“We focus on hands-on training, but critical thinking projects using 3D virtual software are also valuable educational tools,” Cram said.
Registration continues for the fall semester, with scholarships available. For more information, visit tstc.edu.