ABC Holds “One World One Water” Conference

During the week of January 12th, the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) held its 28th Annual Conference using the theme of “One World One Water.”  Around 100 drinking water and wastewater certification professionals, along with colleagues from EPA HQ and Regions and others from the assistance provider community, gathered in Long Beach, CA to learn about new certification initiatives, hone their professional skills, and network about common challenges and strategies to overcome them.
ABC’s Chief Executive, Paul Bishop, kicked things off with an interesting overview of ABC’s recent efforts.  Representatives from Nebraska’s Certification Program, the City of Las Vegas, and ABC staff then turned to a discussion of the value of ABC’s Model Standards Conformity Assessment Service.  Panelists proposed that using the assessment sets higher aspirational standards for state programs and works well when coupled with peer reviews, citing the review experience of Iowa and Nebraska.  The perceived downside to using the assessments is the concept that such “standards” set unachievable heights and a lack of understanding of the program by various water utility organizations.
Over the course of the three day conference, attendees heard from a broad array of presenters on topics such as how Washington’s Department of Health has taken a four-year journey culminating in certification program revisions that clarify authorities, accommodate emerging SDWA issues, and address requests from the water industry; how the science of psychometrics can improve state certification programs by enhancing the programs’  ability to relate performance to proficiency as a measure of success; and the value of ABC’s new Professional Operator certification and possible steps that the industry can take to enhance the perception of the operator as a valued professional along with collateral benefits such as potentially expanding reciprocity opportunities between state programs.
Participants also spent time learning about and discussing possible ways to streamline the certification process such as using shorter application forms, developing mechanisms for online CEU tracking, and tightening up response times between application submissions and approvals.  EPA Headquarters provided an update on the Reenergizing Operator Certification initiative that is expected to culminate in a compendium of lessons learned and best practices in operator certification.  Attendees were also reminded about the upcoming Joint National Capacity Development and Operator Certification Workshop scheduled for December 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  Among the remaining Conference sessions were discussions on ethics for operators and certifiers; partnering with member associations; and ongoing development of an ABC member dedicated OpCert Toolbox.
The 2016 ABC Annual Conference is scheduled for January 19-21 in Denver, Colorado.