Water Resources Center
OSTP

The Water Resources Center is affiliated with the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and University of Minnesota Extension.

SSTS Certification & Licensing: FAQs

Information provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

General Questions

Who must be certified with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)?

What is a qualified employee?


What is a designated certified individual and who needs one?


How do I become a SSTS designated certified individual (DCI)?

Who needs an MPCA license?

How do I get a license for my SSTS business?

Professional Certification Questions


What certification specialty areas are available & what training do I need?

How do I enroll for training?

In what order should I take the workshops?

 

When and where are exams offered?

What are exams like?

How do I pass an exam?

What if I fail an exam?

How do I apply for certification?

Does the MPCA charge a fee for professionals to become certified?

How much and what kind of experience do I need as an apprentice working with a mentor?

How do I report my experience to lift the restriction from my certification?

Who can be my mentor?

How do I prove that I am certified?

What is a restricted certification?

When does my certification expire?

What is required to renew my certification?

Are the OSTP workshops accredited by the MPCA?

How do I submit proof of my continuing education?

What if I forget to complete my continuing education and my certification expires?

Business License Questions


What business license specialty areas are available?

 

How do I apply for a business license?

How do I show I am licensed?

When does my business license expire?

How do I renew my business license?

What if I forget to renew my business license?

LSTS Operator Certification Questions


What are the certification requirements for Large Subsurface Sewage Treatment System (LSTS) Operators?

 

What training courses are required for LSTS Operators?

How long will I have to complete my training and become certified?

How much continuing education is required for LSTS Operators over a 3-year period?

Do LSTS Operators need an SSTS business license?

For more information about program requirements for Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems (SSTS) professional certification and business licensing, contact:

SSTS Certification & Licensing Staff
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Certification and Training Unit
520 Lafayette Rd North
St. Paul, MN   55155-4194

MPCA general numbers: 1-800-657-3864, 651-296-6300
Fax: 651-297-8676
E-mail: ssts-info.pca@state.mn.us
Online: search “SSTS” at: www.pca.state.mn.us


General Questions


Who must be certified with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)?
At least one employee of each MPCA-licensed Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems (SSTS) business must be certified in each specialty area offered by the business. Qualified employees must also be certified.

 

What is a qualified employee?
A qualified employee (QE) is a certified individual with SSTS duties who works for state, county, township or city government.

What is a designated certified individual and who needs one?
A designated certified individual (DCI) is one who is certified in one or more specialty areas. The DCI provides direction and personal supervision to other employees. All MPCA-licensed SSTS businesses must employ at least one SSTS certified individual in each specialty area in which they operate.

How do I become a SSTS designated certified individual (DCI)?
To become a designated certified individual one must meet state (1) training, (2) examination, (3) application (4) experience and (5) renewal requirements for at least one of the seven specialty areas. Details and an application are available online by searching for “SSTS Individual Certification” on the MPCA web site: www.pca.state.mn.us

Table 1: Training and specialty area certification requirements
To do this type of work You need this type of training
(Pre-Certification Workshop)
And certification in this specialty area
Installation Introduction, Installing Installer
Tank cleaning, tank repairs, portable toilets & septage management Introduction, Maintaining Maintainer
System assessment, system adjustments, trouble-shooting and system repairs Introduction, Service Provider    Service Provider
Design of Type I – Type III systems <2,500 gpd Introduction, Installing, Designing, Soils    Basic Designer
Design of Type I - IV systems <2,500 gpd Introduction, Installing, Designing, Soils, Intermediate Design and Inspection Intermediate Designer
Design of Type I – Type V systems <10,000 gpd Introduction, Installing, Designing, Soils, Intermediate Design and Inspection, Advanced Design and Inspection Advanced Designer
Inspection of Type I – Type III systems <2,500 gpd Introduction, Installing, Designing, Inspecting, Soils Basic Inspector
Inspection of Type I - IV systems <2,500 gpd Introduction, Installing, Designing, Soils, Intermediate Design and Inspection Intermediate Inspector
Inspection of Type I – Type V systems <10,000 gpd Introduction, Installing, Designing, Soils, Inspecting, Service Provider, Intermediate Design and Inspection and Advanced Design-Inspection    Advanced Inspector
*Type V SSTS require the expertise of an appropriately
licensed AELSLGID professional

Who needs an MPCA license?
All private businesses that design, install, maintain, inspect or provide service to SSTSs in Minnesota need a license from the MPCA. Local government units do not need a license to complete SSTS work as part of their SSTS program administration; however, any qualified employees performing SSTS activities outside of their government jurisdiction must get a business license or work for someone who has one.

How do I get a license for my SSTS business?
To get a license, business owner(s) must:

   1. Complete the state application identifying the employed designated certified individual
   2. Provide evidence of a surety bond
   3. Provide evidence of general liability insurance
   4. Pay an annual license fee of $200 per specialty area (maximum of $400)

To keep your license, you must renew it each year. When you renew, you must provide evidence of general liability insurance and pay the annual license fee. Details and forms are available online by searching for “SSTS Business Licensing” on the MPCA web site at: www.pca.state.mn.us

Professional Certification Questions


What certification specialty areas are available & what training do I need?
See Table 1 to determine the training and specialty area certification(s) you need.

 

How do I enroll for training?
Fill out an enrollment form (available online) and mail or fax it with payment to the University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program (OSTP) office. You can also enroll online here. The MPCA does not have access to training enrollment records.

In what order should I take the workshops?
To enroll in the Intermediate and Advanced Design/Inspection workshops, you must first be an unrestricted certified Designer or Inspector. No other course has a prerequisite and can be taken in any order. MPCA staff strongly suggests that you start with the Introduction to Onsite Systems course.

When and where are exams offered?
The exams are offered on the last day of each OSTP Pre-Certification Workshop at the workshop location. No MPCA exams are included as part of continuing education courses.

What are exams like?
Each specialty has a separate exam that covers the knowledge and skills needed to work successfully in that area. The true/false and multiple choice questions are based on information from class discussions, Minnesota Rules 7080-7083, the Manual for Septic Professionals in Minnesota and the MPCA Design Guidance. You may use these resources and calculators during the exam, but you may not use cell phones or computers. You must show a valid photo ID before the exam.

How do I pass an exam?
To pass, you must earn a score of at least 70% on both the exam and the critical field portion of the Soil course exam, which involves identifying soil colors and textures.

What if I fail an exam?
If you enroll in and repeat the workshop related to the failed exam (See Table 1), you can retake the exam at any time. If you do not repeat training, you must wait at least six months and retake the exam during a pre-certification course exam period. To retake the Soils pre-certification course exam, you must attend the Soils pre-certification course exam period. You must schedule this repeat exam with Jane Seaver at the MPCA and provide a retake approval letter to the exam proctor on the day of the exam. Failure to provide this letter to the exam proctor will preclude you from retaking the examination. If you don’t pass the exam in one specialty area, you can still take the exam for a different specialty area.

How do I apply for certification?
After you pass a specialty area exam, the MPCA will send a SSTS individual certification application with the letter announcing that you passed the exam. You can also get the application online or by contacting Jane Seaver at the MPCA. As part of the application, you will need to provide an experience plan that includes:

  1. the signature of your mentor, who is the DCI or QE under whom you will be completing your experience; and  
  2. the identification of the business license that will accept the liability for your work that is completed as experience.

MPCA staff strongly encourages you to apply for certification before you start your experience to ensure your mentor is approved.

Does the MPCA charge a fee for professionals to become certified?
No.

How much and what kind of experience do I need as an apprentice working with a mentor?
To be certified, you must gain experience at the direction of and under the guidance of a DCI or QE who is either certified as an Inspector or in the specialty area of the certification you are seeking. You must perform all work under a government agency or an SSTS business license, either as an employee of a licensed business or as the holder of your own business license. Some specialty areas also have an observation requirement which does not necessarily need to be completed with your mentor. Table 2 outlines the amount and type of experience required.

Table 2:   Required experience for each specialty area
Specialty area Required experience
Installer 15 ISTS installations, at least 1 each above-ground & below-ground;
Observe 5 pump-outs and disposal with a Maintainer
Maintainer 15 pump-outs with disposal
Service provider No experience required
Basic
Designer
15 ISTS site and soil evaluations, designs, and management plans, at least 1 each above-ground & below-ground;
Observe 5 installations & 5 pump-outs and disposal with a Maintainer
Intermediate and Advanced designer No experience required
Basic
Inspector
15 ISTS inspections, at least 1 each above-ground & below-ground;
Observe 5 site and soil evaluations, designs, and management plans; 5 installations, & 5 pump-outs and disposal with a Maintainer
Intermediate and Advanced inspector    No experience required

How do I report my experience to lift the restriction from my certification?
Document all experience and submit it to the MPCA using the Experience Documentation Form, available on the MPCA web site by searching for “SSTS Professional Certification” or by contacting Jane Seaver at the MPCA. You may include experience that you acquired under a valid SSTS business license during the six-year period before the date that your restricted certification is approved. For at least five jobs, you must submit additional types of documentation, which are different for each specialty area. Descriptions of the required documents are included on both the Certification Application and the Experience Documentation Form.

Who can be my mentor?
Your mentor must be either a certified Inspector or a certified professional in the specialty area you are seeking. In addition, the mentor cannot have had a violation within the past five years that resulted in a MPCA enforcement action. A list of current designated mentors is available online by searching “Designated Mentor List” on the MPCA web site at: www.pca.state.mn.us or by contacting Jane Seaver at the MPCA. If your mentor is not on the list, submit your Individual Certification Application to the MPCA, who will determine if your mentor is qualified.

How do I prove that I am certified?
The MPCA will issue you a certification card with your certification number, the specialty areas in which you are certified, and your certification expiration date. The MPCA web site includes a searchable database of all currently certified SSTS individuals on its web site. Search for “SSTS Search” on the MPCA web site: www.pca.state.mn.us/ssts-search.html

What is a restricted certification?
Individuals who have applied for certification, but have not yet completed their required experience, will be awarded a restricted certification. A professional with a restricted certification must perform all work under the direction and personal supervision of a designated mentor. Once the professional submits and receives MPCA approval for the required experience, the restriction is lifted and the professional will become fully certified.

When does my certification expire?
Individual certification is valid for the three years after you first pass an exam. The certification expiration date is displayed on your certification card and on the business license where you are employed. Note: your professional certification expiration date is different than the business’s license expiration date. Search for and use the MPCA’s “SSTS Certified Individual Search” on its web site to verify your expiration date at: www.pca.state.mn.us/ssts-search.html or contact SSTS Staff at the MPCA. The University of Minnesota OSTP does not have access to your MPCA certification records.

What is required to renew my certification?
You must take continuing education related to SSTS during the three-year certification period. The type and number of credits required are listed in Tables 3. At least half of the training must be approved as 'direct' by the MPCA, meaning it is directly related to the administration and technical parts of Minnesota Rules 7080-7083. Any continuing education hours you earn above what is required cannot be carried over to future certification periods. The continuing education requirements is not increased for people that carry multiple specialty area endorsements.

Table 3:  Continuing education requirements for SSTS Professionals
Specialty area
Required Continuing Education
Installer,
Service Provider
12 credit hours, at least 1/2 direct*
Maintainer 12 credit hours, at least 1/2* direct OR 9 hours specifically related to pumping SSTS and/or land application
 
Designer, Intermediate Designer,
Advanced Designer,
Inspector, Intermediate Inspector, 
Advanced Inspector
18 credit hours, at least 6 of which are devoted to soils education with a field component. At least 1/2 must be direct* credits.
 
If you carry multiple specialty areas, only the highest amount described is required. Required hours do not add up. Maximum hours required every 3 years = 18.

 

*Direct does not mean that Installers must take Installer CE, Designers must take Designer CE, etc. Direct accreditation means that the training includes the administration and technical parts of Minn. Rules 7080-7083. Check with your training provider to determine what type and amounts of credits they offer.

Are the OSTP workshops accredited by the MPCA?
Yes, all OSTP workshops are accredited by the MPCA as direct credits, with the exception of the Pipelayer Certification, which has been awarded two ‘direct’ and one ‘related’ credits.

How do I submit proof of my continuing education?
When you complete a course, the training event sponsor will give a Certificate of Attendance to you and a copy to the MPCA. The MPCA will track your continuing education credits and mail an updated certification card when you meet requirements. You will no longer need to submit proof of continuing education. Use the MPCA's "SSTS Certified Individual Search" on its website to verify the number and amount of credits you have on file at: www.pca.state.mn.us/ssts-search.html or contact SSTS Staff at the MPCA.

What if I forget to complete my continuing education and my certification expires?
First, contact SSTS Staff at the MPCA to verify your certification has expired. If it has, you must immediately cease all subsurface sewage treatment work authorized by this certification until you are in receipt of a renewed certification. You will need to complete the continuing education credits required for your specialty area. Then, make arrangements with Jane Seaver at the MPCA to re-test for each of the expired certifications. Table 4 describes how the MPCA determines which exams must be retaken. On the retake date, you must provide the exam proctor with the retake approval letter awarded to you by Jane Seaver at the MPCA. Failure to provide this letter on the date of the exam will preclude you from retaking the examination.

*Note: An expired certification may cause you to lose designation as a DCI and may result in the loss of the business license. Be sure to check your certification expiration dates and mark your calendars to ensure you complete the requirements in time to meet renewal dates. The University of Minnesota OSTP does not have access to your MPCA certification records.

Table 4: Exam retesting requirements for expired SSTS certifications
SSTS specialty area Required Continuing Education (CE) If you miss the 12 hour CE requirement If you meet the 12 hour CE requirement, but miss the 6 hour soils-specific requirement
Group 1:

 

Installer

Maintainer

Service Provider

12 hours

You must retest all examinations required to earn your level of certification

 

N/A
Group 2:

 

Basic Designer

Intermediate Designer

Advanced Designer

Inspector

Intermediate Inspector

Advanced Inspector

12 hours

+ 6 Soils Specific

(18 total hours)

You must retest all examinations required to earn your level of certification

You must retest all examinations required to earn your level of certification

Group 3:

 

Any combination of Group 1 and Group 2 certifications

12 hours

+ 6 Soils Specific

(18 total hours)

You must retest all examinations required to earn your level of certification

You must retest all examinations required to earn your level of certification

Business License Questions


What business license specialty areas are available?
Business licenses reflect the certifications held by the employed Designated Certified Individuals. The available certification specialty areas are described in Table 1.

 

How do I apply for a business license?
Once a business owner can verify employment of a Designated Certified Individual, the owner is eligible to apply for a MPCA business license. Seach the MPCA web site for “SSTS Business License” at: www.pca.state.mn.us or contact Jane Seaver at the MCPA to obtain a copy of the business license application. When applying for a business license, you will need to include:

  1. the application (which identifies the employed DCI),
  2. an original corporate surety bond,
  3. proof of general liability insurance, and
  4. the license fee. Business licenses must be renewed annually.

How do I show I am licensed?
The MPCA will issue each business a license card & certificate which displays (a) the license number, (b) the specialty areas for which the business is licensed, (c) the license expiration date, (d) the DCI employed by the business, (e) the specialty areas for which each DCI is certified, (f) and the certification expiration date for each DCI. Use the MPCA's "SSTS Licensed Business Search" on its website to verify the number and amount of credits you have on file at: www.pca.state.mn.us/ssts-search.html or contact SSTS Staff at the MPCA.

When does my business license expire?
Business licenses are valid for one year from the date of issuance. Business license renewals may be requested for up to three years. The license fee is $200 per specialty area per year, with a $400 maximum. The business license expiration date is displayed on the business license card and certificate.

*Note: Be aware that the business license expiration date is different from your individual certification expiration date. To verify this date, please search for and use the “SSTS Search” tool at the MPCA web site: www.pca.state.mn.us/ssts-search.html or contact Jane Seaver at the MPCA.

How do I renew my business license?
The MPCA will send each business a license renewal form four to six weeks before the current license expires. To ensure time for processing and reissuing the license, you must return the business license renewal application, fee, and proof of insurance to the MPCA at least 30 days before your license expires. Business license renewal application forms are not posted on the MPCA web site, but are available by contacting Jane Seaver at the MPCA.

*Note: OSTP does NOT have access to your MPCA business license records.

What if I forget to renew my business license?
First, contact SSTS Staff at the MPCA to verify that your business license has expired. You must immediately cease all subsurface sewage treatment work authorized by this license until you are in receipt of a renewed license. You will need to complete the business license renewal form and return it, along with the fee and proof of insurance, to the MPCA. Check your dates and mark your calendars to ensure you meet the renewal dates.

LSTS Operator Certification Questions


What are the certification requirements for Large Subsurface Sewage Treatment System (LSTS) Operators?
LSTS Operators are required by their MPCA SDS permit to take both Wastewater and SSTS training. For the period between September 1, 2007 and March 2, 2008, new and renewed permits required the operator to complete the Introduction to Onsite Systems course. When those permits are re-issued in five years, operators will need to be fully certified as a Service Provider. New and renewed permits issued after March 3, 2008, require the operator to be certified as a SSTS Service Provider.

 

What training courses are required for LSTS Operators?
All LSTS Operators will eventually be required to complete the (1) Introduction to Onsite Systems and (2) Service Provider courses.

How long will I have to complete my training and become certified?
Per their state operating permit, LSTS Operators will be allowed two years from the time of permit issuance or renewal to complete training and certification requirements.

How much continuing education is required for LSTS Operators over a 3-year period?
See Table 5 for the number and type of hours required.

Table 5:   LSTS Operator continuing education requirements
System classification Credit hours Type of hours
LSTS operator of Class A system 32 credit hours At least 12 SSTS; at least 20 wastewater
LSTS operator of Class B system 24 credit hours At least 12 SSTS; at least 12 wastewater
LSTS operator of Class C system 16 credit hours At least  8 SSTS; at least 8 wastewater

Do LSTS Operators need an SSTS business license?
LSTS Operators who are SSTS certified Service Providers do not need a business license to operate permitted LSTS, provided the system is owned by a municipality and the LSTS Operator is a municipal employee. If these conditions are not met, an SSTS business license is required.