With the 50th Anniversary of the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP) in 2016, and the numerous changes the organization has undergone over the past two years, it seems to be an appropriate time to pause and reflect on the history of the EOCP, and what lies ahead.
A program for the voluntary classification of water and wastewater treatment systems and certification of Operators began in BC in 1966 and was run by a small ad-hoc group of individuals who recognized that some standards for the industry were needed – this was the first such organization in Canada. Initially, the organization was registered as the British Columbia Water and Wastewater Operators Voluntary Certification Program (BCWWOVCP). The organization has been instrumental in advocating for facility classification and operator certification leading to the recognition of ‘Environmental Operator’ as a profession, the compensation commensurate with the responsibilities of the position, and ultimately improved protection of public health and the environment.
In 1981, the organization’s first constitution was approved by its membership. This constitution was then updated in 1991, and then again in 2009.
In 1973, the certification bodies from several jurisdictions came together to create an organization to harmonize their activities and provide mutual benefits to their members. The EOCP was one of the Charter Members of this organization, the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC), and remains an active contributing participant of the ABC. Currently, ABC provides most of the examinations that are used in BC and Yukon, and ABC has become the international standard for classification and certification throughout North America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe.
In 1993, 27 years after the formation of the EOCP, the BC Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks (MELP) made the classification of municipal wastewater treatment Facilities and the certification of their Operators a requirement of the permits under which they operate.
In 1995, the Society’s name was legally changed to the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP). This name change helped delineate the role of the Society as an entity distinct from others in the province, and to facilitate the expansion of new services in the future.
The promulgation of the BC Municipal Sewage Regulation by the Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection in 1999 further increased the responsibilities of the EOCP. Subsequently, in 2001, there was the enactment of the BC Drinking Water Protection Act and Regulation requiring the classification of water treatment Facilities and the related certification of the Operators working in the Facilities. An additional development was the promulgation of the Public Health and Safety Act in 2007 by the government of Yukon which also mandated the classification of water and wastewater Facilities, and the related certification of Operators who maintain the Facilities. In 2015, the BC Municipal Sewer Regulations was replaced with the BC Municipal Wastewater Regulations and required wastewater collection Operators to become certified.
These strides by the EOCP, over the past 52 years, established its role for facility classification and Operator certification, and helped close the loop between ‘watershed to tap’ and ‘drain to watershed’ to enable the prudent management of water and wastewater in BC and Yukon.
In February 2015, the Ministry of Health completed a ‘Directions Report’ that outlined potential changes to the EOCP and its role regarding the governance of water and wastewater facilities and systems.
Then, in 2016, the Ministry of Health contracted MNP LLP to conduct a strategic review of the EOCP’s role and authorities, its governance and function, accountability, and sustainability.
Over the past two years the EOCP has undergone significant change, to enable the organization to better meet the needs of its membership and keep up with technological changes in the industry. The changes have been significant, and each change has had a purpose behind it:
- The new Constitution and Bylaws for the Society were ratified by its membership. The goal of this change was to:
- Better delineate the role of the staff and the board;
- Have regular board renewal by limiting the length of board terms and the number of terms;
- Increase the diversity of the EOCP’s directors – whilst the majority of directors are Operators, other stakeholders are represented as well.
- Development of new classification models for Water Treatment, Water Distribution, Wastewater Collection, and Wastewater Treatment were developed, and implemented. Compared to the old models, the models introduced in 2017 better reflect:
- Operational complexity
- Operational sensitivity
- Operator attention and maintenance
- Consequence/s of failure
- Impact to Water/Effluent Quality
- A new Customer Relationship Management System was implemented. This has been the largest project ever undertaken by the EOCP, and was primarily in response to the need to:
- Become compliant with FOIPPA requirements;
- Links classification, certification, billing, and career management through one portal;
- Allows for the ability to add increased functionality as needed.
- Stricter measures on what constitutes ‘Certification’. This measure was implemented to ensure that qualified operators work at facilities, and where Operators are not maintaining certification, their employers and the relevant ministries are informed of potential impacts on their liability;
- Expiring certificates of classification are being issued, with ALL facilities having five-year expiration dates;
- Working with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to develop a compliance model that enables better monitoring and compliance with the applicable regulations;
- Ongoing public relations and communications efforts to increase the awareness of the profession;
- Development of processes to ensure consistency in policies and procedures;
- Increase in the number of training and examination opportunities for Operators; and
- Regular strategic planning sessions involving EOCP directors, staff, and government agencies to map out a path for the future of the EOCP.
Fifty-two years later, the EOCP continues to grow, work with its stakeholders, and has been evolving to ensure that the needs of Operators and employers are met, while continuing to work in the public interest.