I am a licensed grade 4 operator (highest)! I am here to answer any questions about water treatment and drinking water! I have done one in the past but with recent events and the pandemic things are a little different and it's always fun to educate the public on what we do!

proof: https://imgur.com/a/QKvJZqT also I have done one in the past and was privately verified as well

Edit: holy crap this blew up bigger than last time thank you for the silver! I'm trying to get to everyone! Shameless twitch plug since I am way underpaid according to everyone twitch.tv/darkerdjks

Comments: 901 • Responses: 64  • Date: 

maiflower243 karma

How much “forever chemicals” are we drinking from the tap - since they are virtually undetectable at low levels and difficult (barely?) filtered. Is there anything normal people can do to make sure we’re drinking “clean” water?

darkerdjks210 karma

The forever chemicals are impossible to avoid now with it being in animals due to the food they are given. I personally think they will have no real lasting consequences on our body due to the almost untraceable amounts. We deal with much worse in fertilizers from farmers

damNage_204 karma

What's the salary? How do you get started? Also what kind of work schedule should you expect and how's the overtime?

darkerdjks228 karma

I started with no experience actually. I came from armed security but I just applied on our city's job posting and got the job! Every place is different on hours and pay. I started out at 16.74 no experience and right now at 23.42 with yearly raises and everything. I work 40 hours with the occasional overtime

BoxOfDemons38 karma

How long have you been in the industry?

darkerdjks62 karma

5 years!

swagmatastic33 karma

Holy heck! My small County is paying T2/D2’s with no experience In CA.

We’re also one of the poorest county’s in the state.

A lot of people commute 45-90 minutes for triple the wage.

darkerdjks110 karma

I could go in the private sector and make double but the basically free healthcare and 7min drive to work makes things easy!

forestdude13 karma

That's a shocking pay scale. I'm working with a surface water treatment plant in CA and their main operator is a guy they contract with and he is a grade 3. Dude is definitely clearing 100k+ and works like 4 days a week.

darkerdjks17 karma

its all about the region and cost of living, cost of living was low pre covid obviously here in TN

Cameo_Smash134 karma

Can you tell us about an aspect of water treatment that most people would be surprised to find out?

darkerdjks283 karma

how much stuff we take out of the water to make it drinkable is honestly gross

Shotz718128 karma

That must be your source. Distribution system operator here. We can practically pump straight from our deep wells in the system I work for. The worst thing we have is very high iron and manganese content from certain wells.

We do zero surface intake though which makes things much easier.

darkerdjks128 karma

yea lots of farms on our river

m_is_for_mesopotamia73 karma

Does that mean animal poop drains from the soil into the water source?

darkerdjks98 karma


Upnorth46 karma

What do you think about wastewater recycling? Many states out west like Arizona and California are implementing toilet to tap programs to help with water shortages in the future. How many times can you recycle water before it goes bad?

darkerdjks10 karma

Most waste water plants send clean water back out into a river or lake or else we would have even more water issues! I am all for it because waste water is very heavy regulated too

Xenton119 karma

Canberra, Australia, once renowned for having some of the highest quality water on the planet has recently had a major issue.

The water tastes like soil/mold/rot. Quite strong too. It has now for several months.

Our water supplier, Icon, put out a notice claiming it was due to 2-Methylisoborneol mixed into the water due to "destratification" at the source.

How accurate an explanation is this and do you have any idea how long before an issue like this will go away?

darkerdjks102 karma

I think the explanation seems ok without me having better knowledge of the source water. 2-Methylisoborneol (MIB) and Geosmin are just a secondary standard meaning it poses no health risk just aesthetics. I believe it will be sorted out once the source water does get restratisfied but for how long that just does depend on how it settles back out

arbitraryuser6 karma

What could have caused the stratification and how do things like MIB work to fix that? (And how long might it take?)

darkerdjks19 karma

There are 3 layers to a source water and it'd best to pull from the middle. As to the layers mixing I have no idea what caused that on your end but the level of the river dropping or erosion and branches of other sources can mix and jumble things up

saphire23368 karma

We know you treat water, but how is the water treating you?

darkerdjks86 karma

honestly shitty atm. too many issues with fertilizers

sundayharrison13 karma

Please elaborate

darkerdjks41 karma

fertilizers eat up the chlorine and mess with our chemicals that coagulate the water!

toumei649 karma

Wait, coagulate the water?

darkerdjks20 karma

we coagulate water to tie up the organics and such in the water which then turns into floc. imagine a snow globe how the snow settles back down to the bottom leaving clear water on top!

Khitty7 karma

iirc what I learned from my job, the testing for this is called a BOD or biochemical oxygen demand, which tells you how much dissolved oxygen (what helps aquatic life survive in water) is left in the water and how much is being eaten/depleted by algae/etc.; this value is affected by fertilizers, increased temps, that kinda thing

darkerdjks11 karma

Honestly it's these unregulated chemicals the state above us is using and their runoff hits us. We can never get them on it because it's not illegal up there but it is a mess for us to treat it. Mostly the hog farms but chicken manure is the new thing in the area

jaynq8260 karma

Hi! I have a question about whole house water conditioning. My town water has high mineral content and I would love to be able to reduce lime scale / calcium build-up in showers, washing machines, etc.

Options I've seen are: (1) salt type systems that add sodium (ugh, and poor lawn), (2) actual filtration (probably more expensive especially in the long-term), (3) electromagnetic 'conditioning' which is basically a coil of wire around a water pipe (seems like quackery).

Are there other practical and cost effective options for home use?


darkerdjks84 karma

Tennessee where I operate is just a big rock of limestone that all the water is hard. There is virtually nothing we as a plant that can stop the scaling aside from ion exchange (salt system you mentioned) Another user has mentioned electromagnetic treatment but further looking into it, it does look promising but funding is the issue I think at the moment. As for what you can do to help is just clean your appliances and shower head regularly.

koga099511 karma

Chattanooga by chance?

darkerdjks15 karma

No other side of the state :)

stuihe24 karma

As a teen I worked in a drinking water plant, skimming out the slow sand filters. It was the best and worst job I ever had. So umm, are slow sand filters still used and is there a less labor intensive way to skim the mung (schmutzdecke) than a bunch of kids home from college for the summer making a bit over minimum wage?

darkerdjks37 karma

yes unfortuntely some places still do slow sand. Luckily there are arms that can be installed that scrape all the nasty off now ;) sorry you hade to be the tribute

NotNotRonSwanson23 karma

What are your thoughts on .. GAAAATORRAAADE?

darkerdjks58 karma

It's putting me out of business! Damn plants crave it!

detourne20 karma

Is Walkerton still used as a case study for poor water management?

darkerdjks23 karma

100% covered in our classes

decentlyconfused15 karma

How safe is tap water really? (Especially compared to europe)

Also how worried should I be about my water pipes?

darkerdjks52 karma

tap water is as safe as your piping in your house allows it to be. Water leaving a water plant is checked and recorded multiple times and results sent to the state daily. I can say for a fact 100% I will drink the water out of my faucet because I know our water is excellent. The piping in your house can be a whole other can of worms

decentlyconfused6 karma

So are the personal water filters that people use actually filtering away anything from the tap water? Or is the stuff they filter more a result of the piping?

darkerdjks11 karma

more of the piping. you can triple filter or filter 7 times the end result is the same

ItAstounds14 karma

Ok let's talk St2DBPR. How many sampling points in your system? Do you have to do any simultaneous compliance training? What about Lead and Copper Rule?

darkerdjks22 karma

St2DBPR is a major problem right now with the increase use and random fertilizers that eat up our chlorine during rains. Right now we are still in compliance but we edge that line a lot and there is almost nothing we can do about it.our compliance training is just the training we receive during our CE classes but we have a specified lab person who handles the state side of things and does go to specialized classes on the issue.

The new lead and copper rules that is taking place is something that unfortunately i have not looked more into as we are waiting for our lab guy to attend the classes and pass down more info

ItAstounds6 karma

Stage 2 causes the most health based violations nationwide- mainly because systems are on quarterly compliance schedules and theres so little systems can do other than the basic maintenance (flushing) or eliminating dead ends etc. Temps are making it worse too.

I didn't realize fertilizer was contributing to the issue!

darkerdjks7 karma

fertlizer eats the fire out of our chlorine so we have to feed more and obviously contributes to the high dbp. I hate that other than flushing you mentioned there is little to do

crodiggity12 karma

Congratulations! Got my 4A certification in NY in June. How was your test? Did you straight up take the Grade 4 or did you rise through other grades step by step?

darkerdjks16 karma

straight to 4 as that was required for where I work. The testing company was fired because the test was too hard and too many irrelevant questions so that was a fun time! Congrats to you as well!

crodiggity6 karma

I think they were reigned in a bit in my state too. Over 90% failure rate for the 4A. Luckily my coworker and I knocked it out in one go. Does Tennessee use ABC for their tests?

darkerdjks9 karma

not any more that's who got cut from our testing lol

ub5210712 karma

What's the best water filtration system (drinking water) for my home?

darkerdjks11 karma

Reverse osmosis if you absolutely need a home filter system

iam98pct12 karma

What sort of training did you underwent and what's the pay like?

darkerdjks26 karma

I had to get licensed and pass a state test covering math, chemistry and anything water science. Very hard and not a lot have the patience to go through the classes and pass the test

JeahNotSlice10 karma

Hey - public water monitoring became a big deal in Ontario, Canada, after the walkerton disaster in 2000. Did that make waves outside of Ontario?

darkerdjks6 karma

yes it is gone over in classes!

Grodd10 karma

I used to do water plant construction (some in Tennessee) and a plant operator once told me that if a villainous sort bought/rented a house near the plant and bypassed the backflow preventer they could poison everyone in the region before they noticed.

Is that something they are trying to solve? He implied it was impossible to prevent.

darkerdjks14 karma

as much I this little secret fact you are correct. I won't go into the specifics but yes very simple and scary. only thing we have to prevent it is the free chlorine residual in the distribution system

Sweaty-Data-408 karma

Hello! Thanks for doing this AMA. I have a question. What makes hard water “hard”? Also, do water softeners add any chemicals to the water? Just really curious about this.

darkerdjks10 karma

ELI5 answer is calcium mostly from limestone. water softeners replace the "hardness" with salt

kyriako7 karma

Can anything be done about microplastics like phthalates?

darkerdjks12 karma

maybe some reverse osmosis but even then there have been claims of it still being present

theonlyepi7 karma

This is actually really interesting, I use to assist in the water treatment plant at a chrome plating facility in TN. We would Basify, Acidify, coagulate, and filter before returning water into the supply, usually on the tune of 10-20k gallons a day.

Would this career path be interesting and fun for me if I enjoyed that kind of work?

darkerdjks7 karma

100% it is a career that will always have job security and if you love science then go for it!

CuteMindNBody5 karma

This may be a stupid question (we’re going to be building a house on our own land) - can you over filter water?

Specifically, if we have a whole home system, do we also need one on the individual taps?

TIA for answering!

darkerdjks6 karma

short answer is no after the first filter it is a waste of money and time on maintenance. Just keep to the basics and you will be fine!

PingerSlinger420693 karma

Is there fluoride in drinking water and is it safe to consume? Is there micro plastics in water?

darkerdjks5 karma

most tap water has Fluoride and yes it is safe dosed correctly. I am confident there is but have not had any personal experience with it yet

captnmr3 karma

Many cities are switching from Chlorine to Chloramines. While it survives longer in the pipes, it’s stability doesn’t oxidize pathogens as much. It has a bad taste, can damage appliances, and easily overwhelms carbon filters.

Beside cost savings, what are the other advantages of chloramines? Does the ammonia release when the Cl detaches from the molecule affects our streams or are you treating with nitrosonomas?

darkerdjks4 karma

chloramines have no advantage whatsoever. TN allows it but it is not used anymore because it is not good anymore

ldpage3 karma

What SCADA system do you use?

What processes do you use for treatment?

darkerdjks3 karma

we use the company MR systems, We coagulate, flocculate, and filter with chlorine treatment after wards

Kotruljevic14583 karma

I have a well in Florida and occasionally get smelly water (like rotten eggs) due to sulphuric (I think). I don’t think there are any health issues but it does smell awful at times. I have treatment with salt and peroxide but it doesn’t address the smell. What else can I do?

darkerdjks3 karma

yes it is sulphur! activated carbon will help!

SableDragonRook3 karma

I keep a lot of lizards, and I fill their various water fountains with tap water. Of course, they are also free to climb around and get wet, after which that water that's been touching them gets recirculated. Any suggestions (aside from manual scrubbing, which I do) for how to keep that water as clean as I can? Is there any merit to the rumor that a copper penny can slow down bacterial growth in drinking water? Would bacteria grow less fast if I DIDN'T use tap water and used distilled instead? Water bacteria questions!

darkerdjks4 karma

copper is the main algae killing agent! distilled water is always better for pets like reptiles and frogs just due to the fact of the chlorine and other things in tap water that aren't present in the wild for them

neuromorph2 karma

What is needed to make non-potable water drinkable? Like in a survival scenario?

darkerdjks5 karma

boiling 100% the water may still look funk but atleast you know it is safeish

boxjellyfishing2 karma

I live in a city with water that is high in calcium. Some houses have installed systems to mitigate the calcium, many of them have not.

Why isn't this addressed during water treatment?

darkerdjks3 karma

Cost is the issue. Also to soften water means adding salt to the water. Would you rather have tums in the water or salt?

unicornviolence2 karma

You’re at the store and have to pick a bottled water. Which brand are you picking and which one are you definitely NOT picking?

darkerdjks3 karma

anything spring. dasani is the worst and is acidic.

ReneeSilver2 karma

Why does my city water taste like chlorine? Is that much chlorine really necessary? Shouldn't there be a filtration system at the end of the process to tampons that down?

darkerdjks2 karma

in TN the chlorine in your house should not be above 4.0Mg/L. it really is weird to me that systems run them so high up. letting is sit help dissipate it. we keep ours 2.5 max at the faucet

Skooter_McGaven2 karma

What signs should I be looking for at home in regards to poor water quality?

darkerdjks4 karma

color taste and odor will be the three things to look out for!

Towel178462 karma

What worries you most about water and the use or consumption of water, with your insiders knowledge?

darkerdjks15 karma

The main thing I worry about is running out of water and population increases

n0vh2 karma

What kind of emergency water filtration/purification should I have in my car emergency bag?

darkerdjks5 karma

Lifestraw! and chlorine tabs

dee6151 karma

I'm in the USA. Even if the warmer is purified at the distribution center, how do we know what happens to it when it goes through our plumbing system?

darkerdjks1 karma

you don't 100% you just trust the chlorine and the polyphosphates keep all the nasties away

Fernanix1 karma

Might be dumb question but why do some areas (eg. Near the coast) have "different water". Im not sure I think its called Lime in english. Is it hard/too much of a hassle for all water from water treatment to be (relatively) the same?

Just mentioning since we were told to buy bottled water near the coast and was just curious why they wouldnt treat that water to have less lime or whatever.

darkerdjks3 karma

different water sources will have a unique taste, destalinization plants will have different taste than surface water, same for well water. It just depends on what is present in the water being treated. as for the bottle water I have no idea ans most bottled water is tap water

Killer-Barbie1 karma

How do you feel about waste solids being reclaimed as fertilizer?

darkerdjks5 karma

I am for it because before it gets repurposed it gets studied (it is supposed to) to make sure it is safe enough

lunaticneko1 karma

I appreciate your job, but is it appreciated by random people when you introduce yourself?

darkerdjks2 karma

very rarely but thats ok! I was the same way before I got into the business so I just like to educate when and where I can

scarlettvvitch1 karma

Is there a reason why hoarding rainwater is illegal? Is it due to rain being not “clean enough” or?

darkerdjks3 karma

honestly I have no idea why places make it illegal. rainwater alone is safeish. it will need a disinfectant but other than that I see no real reason to make it illegal besides money

yugonline1 karma

Am I crazy or does the hot tap water smelling different indicate some problem with my water heater? It definitely doesn't smell pungent. It's something weird and only sometimes I smell it.

darkerdjks2 karma

hot water heaters are notorious for smelling off due to the heat dissipating the chlorine and leaving warm water sitting in a tank!

abemud1 karma

I was in Quebec city and Montreal recently staying with Airbnb. Their tap water tastes so much better. Any explanation?

darkerdjks1 karma

just depends on the source water mostly but other things like piping or maybe you were just really thirsty ;)

Buggy3D1 karma

There is this revolutionary company called Aqua4D that uses electromagnetism to treat water instead of filters.

What are your thoughts on it?

darkerdjks7 karma

I have heard of it once in passing but I have not read up on it actually. I will definitely look more into now. I think cost is just the key factor in filtration

GratefulDad-1 karma

Does west TN get most their water from the Mississippi and does Middle TN get most their water from creeks? Also, hi neighbor!

darkerdjks2 karma

west TN is mostly well water with the exception of some places do use the MIssissippi. middle is surface water so lakes rivers etc. and east is a mixture of both wells and surface