by Kenneth May

Being an Operators’ representative on the VOWRA board, I felt compelled to find out just how hard is it to get an Alternative Operators License.  What better way than to go through the process myself?  This is a synopsis of the route I took to get my full license which replaces my Interim license.

  1. Download and mail the applicationGet the application from DPOR’s website and fill it out.  I used my DMV control number instead of SSN. This seemed to irritate the exam proctor as I was the only one not using my SSN and she pointed that out several times.  If you don’t have an existing Interim alternative license or conventional license you can’t apply for this license.  You must first apply for and pass conventional exam.  Go back 35 years and get your High School Diploma.  Associates, Bachelors or Masters degrees are no good here.  Mail this in with copies of CPE continuing education forms, experience verification form and payment.  Most of my CPE were issued by VOWRA and were accepted without question.  I waited 5 ½ weeks till they contacted me about the mistake I made on my application.  There is no provision for me, or Trapper or John Powell who have been the supervisor for the last 9 years to have a licensed supervisor to sign the experience verification.  You need to go out and find someone licensed to sign here regardless of any supervising going on.  Wait another 3 ½ weeks and you get a postcard saying its OK to schedule an exam.
  2. Schedule your exam and study. I probably could have scheduled my exam sooner but I needed to fit my schedule when I would be in Charlottesville next.  (closest place for me).  This ended up being 4 weeks but it also gave me time to study.  My main reference book studied was Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, CIDWT that I got attending Trappers O & M class through VOWRA.   During the test I also found the VOWRA/NOWRA A-Z manual helpful for questions about Nitrates.  The CIDWT glossary was also helpful just to define words with the questions.  When you get these manuals, DO NOT write notes in the columns or pages.  The proctor won’t let you have them during the exam if you do.
  3. Take the Exam. The proctor gives you 2 ½ hours which is plenty of time.  I took 2 hours and was lucky by passing in my first attempt.  Not everyone passes on the first try.  If you don’t pass, the proctor gives you guidance on subjects you did poorly on and what you might want to study.  Once you pass the exam, mail in another $100 and they will mail back your license in about 2 ½ weeks.

 The quickest time I could imagine for the whole process would be about 9 weeks.  It took me 16 weeks.  If you want an alternative operator’s license, don’t wait till the last minute, study and good luck.