HCWA Partnering with Southern Crescent Tech

The Henry County Water Authority (HCWA) is continuing its partnership with Southern Crescent Technical College (SCTC) in hopes of recruiting future water and wastewater plant operators, providing both an instructor and incentives for its own employees to be among the future students to enroll in the Water Quality Technician Certification Program, which is open to interested high school graduates.

SCTC is accepting applications for enrollment for Spring Semester, which begins in January, as well as Summer Semester, which begins in May. The SCTC Water Quality Technician Certification Program includes four courses totaling 12 credit hours, which will require two semesters next year in order to complete. 

The Authority’s own Sheila Kern (pictured), a Class 1 Operator at the HCWA Tussahaw Water Treatment Plant and 2020 winner of the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP) District 3 Top Operator Award, has attained the credentials to serve as the Instructor of the Program at SCTC in 2022. 

The courses that make up the Water Quality Technician Certification Program at SCTC include: ESCI 1010, which is Occupational Safety & Health Regulations; ESCI 1120, which is Water Treatment Processes; ESCI 1140, which is titled Wastewater Treatment, and ESCI 1260, which is titled Water Supply.

Once students complete the four courses, the Program under Kern’s guidance then prepares them to take the state exam for the Water or Wastewater Class 3 License, which is the first level of professional accreditation for water and wastewater plant operators, respectively. 

After passing the state exam, students then need at least three months of on-the-job training in order to complete the final requirements for certification. The Authority hopes to provide at least some students with that training through internship or employment at the HCWA. 

According to HCWA officials, the Authority is encouraging its own employees currently working in areas of the utility outside of water and wastewater treatment to become licensed as a water or wastewater plant operator, as well as new hires who may not have certification. 

This “cross training” is part of the HCWA Business Continuity Plan, which aims to have additional employees qualified and capable of operating any of the utility’s two water plants or three wastewater plants, if necessary. Increasing the number of certified plant operators at the Authority provides redundancies in plant operations and flexibility in scheduling during instances of operator absences due to illness or vacation, or in cases of emergencies, such as what the HCWA and other water utilities experienced during the pandemic.

“We are providing incentives for our own employees to consider this Program at Southern Crescent Tech, while also encouraging other potential students in the community to take a look as well, whether they are recent high school graduates or working in another field,” says Tony V. Carnell, HCWA General Manager. “We are in need of certified plant operators, which are jobs with competitive pay and a bright future for advancement in our industry. Our utility is like many across the state in that we are expecting a talent drain as more of our workforce enters retirement age. So, we are looking for the next generation of water professionals through this partnership.”

For more information on the SCTC Water Quality Technician Certification Program, potential students can contact Instructor Sheila Kern at 770-914-4431 or 


Media contact:      Chris Wood, Ph.D.

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Caption for Photo:

Sheila Kern (far right, front), HCWA Class 1 Operator at the Tussahaw Water Treatment Plant, will be the Instructor of the required courses for the Water Quality Technician Certification Program at Southern Crescent Technical College for Spring and Summer Semesters in 2022.