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Principles of Wastewater Microbiology

The aim of this course is to teach the microbiological principles that underpin biological wastewater treatment processes. Learn how carbon, nutrients (N&P) and pathogens are removed in biological wastewater treatment systems.  Who is responsible? How do they do it? How do we control them ? Who are the troublemakers? Problems such as bulking and foaming will be discussed, and practical control strategies presented.

This is a practical course, and includes a one-day laboratory experience, where everyone will work with wastewater samples and use a variety of microscopy techniques.

Issues Addressed


  • What is microbiology and which organisms are microbes?
  • What roles do microorganisms play in wastewater treatment?
  • How do they obtain energy and grow?
  • How do genes assist in understanding the microbiology of wastewater?
  • Which organisms are found in activated sludge plants?
  • How do we study activated sludge microbiology?
  • Case Studies 1 – Troubleshooting activated sludge problems using microbiology


  • The microbiology of nitrogen reduction
  • What role do microbes play in P removal?
  • Problems that microbes cause in activated sludge
  • Which microbes cause bulking and how are they controlled?
  • Which microbes cause foaming and how are they controlled?
  • Pathogens in wastewater
  • What pathogens survive the activated sludge process and do we need to worry?
  • Is recycling possible?
  • Can microbiologists and engineers get it together?!
  • Case Studies 2 – Bulking and foaming problems.


  • Introduction – why look down the microscope at your mixed liquor or foam?
  • Video of what to expect when microscopically observing mixed liquor
  • Preparation of slides
  • How to use the microscope
  • Observing wet mounts – which are the protozoa?
  • Microscopy of mixed liquors
  • Identifying filamentous bacteria and poly-phosphate accumulating bacteria
  • Summing up – what did it all mean? How can I use this information?

What do you get?

  • Course notes and USB
  • Access to two world-leading wastewater microbiologists and one leading wastewater process designer
  • Core microbiological skills and understanding to take back to your workplace, which will enable you to analyse and trouble-shoot your wastewater problem
  • One day laboratory experience
  • Understanding of the organisms that make your wastewater treatment process work

Who should attend?

Engineers, consultants, scientists, operators and managers with an interest to know how their biological wastewater treatment plant works. No prior knowledge of microbiology is assumed.

This course is not currently scheduled for a future event


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