Using the Microscope
By: Mike Baumgartner, ARWA Wastewater Technician
One of the most important tools used in pro-cess control of an activated sludge plant is the microscope. Because microorganisms follow distinct patterns in all activated sludge systems, it is possible to determine the operating characteristics of various biological systems by performing microscopic exams. A microscope with a reasonable resolution of 100 power will suffice. A slide needs to prepared using 1-2 drops of mixed liquor on a clean glass slide with a cover plate.
During the initial viewing, you should look for a few key items. They include: Floc structure (dispersed or overgrown), Floc color and Types of Indicator organisms. Remember, bacteria are the most important group of microorganisms but are too small to see. There is staining methods used with microscopes but that is for another discussion. Indicator organisms are what is concentrated on. Those are the Protozoa which consist of Flagellates, Free swimming ciliates and Stalk ciliates. And of course, we can’t leave out the Rotifer.
Observation of these indicator organisms can reveal characteristics of the activated sludge. It is important to be able to recognize a good, healthy activated sludge as seen through the microscope. An abundance of or a sud-den loss of any of the indicators will tip off the operator that trouble is heading his or her way.
For example: A sudden loss of Protozoa indicators can result from anaerobic conditions (Dissolved Oxygen Too Low) or a toxic shock condition. An abundance of Rotifers is an indication that you are stable but heading toward an older sludge. I could go on and on. Let’s end the conversation by saying that recognizing key microor-ganism indicators is only possible from repeated observations of various activated sludges. With experience, it is possible to analyze any activated sludge process performance from microscopic examinations.
First appeared in Waterline, Summer 2017
- More News -
Start Planning Now!
Save the Dates!
ARWA's 45th Annual Technical Training Conference
See you in
March 19-22, 2023
More info coming soon...
Joint Technical Training Conference
Thanks to Everyone
See you next year in Orange Beach!
May 23 - 25, 2023
Open for Registration
Operator Certification Classes
Water I-II | October 11th, 2022
WW IC (Collections) | October 12th, 2022
WW I-II | October 11th, 2022
See all open CEH classes
in our new training section at
Utility Management Certification
Schedule your own
On-site CEH Training
Water Loss Protection
The ARWA/NRWA ServLine Program protects your utility against losses from customers’ water leaks, and provides the opportunity for them to add service line repair replacement protection.
Alabama Rural Water Association is a non-profit organization representing water and wastewater systems serving rural communities and towns and commercial firms which support these systems.
We provide assistance to comply with State and Federal regulations, to help with management and operational problems, and to stimulate training initiatives.
GET IN TOUCHAlabama Rural Water Association
2576 Bell Road
Montgomery AL 36117
Phone: (334) 396-5511
Fax: (334) 396-7090