June 2009, Vol. 21, No.6

From the Editors

Operations Forum Editor’s Note

It’s Complicated

Steve Spicer

To the man on the street, cultivating and nurturing bacteria might seem just plain crazy. That’s because from a layman’s point of view, cleaning water requires removing things. You strain out rocks and sticks and filter out silt and other small stuff. Why would you add anything, especially bacteria?

While the public might regard activated sludge as strange, people in the wastewater industry call it amazing, problematic, miraculous, and nightmarish. It’s fair to say that all of those sentiments average out somewhere near “complicated.”

In fact it took a double-sized Certification Quiz to even scratch the surface. Two authors worked independently to prepare activated sludge questions; yet only one question overlapped — the definition of an activated sludge system.

Also, both of the features in this issue focus on activated sludge systems. In fact, they home right in on the stars of the show: the bacteria. In each case, designer bacterial concoctions were added to aid the treatment process.

“Taming Wild Sewer Systems” tells how a utility contracted to have high concentrations of select bacteria dosed into its collection system to reduce the amount of solids produced by the wastewater treatment plant. The additions also reduced odors emanating from the collection system.

The plant in “Bacterial Balance” used the same concept, but closer to home. In this case, specially formulated bacteria were added at the headworks to fight back a filamentous bacteria problem and improve its solids settling performance.

We could devote several issues a year to activated sludge and still not cover it all. In fact, nearly every issue touches on it in some form. So we’ll just ask: What specific activated sludge topics do you think deserve more attention? What aspects start up the debates among the people you know? What article would you be excited to see in the magazine?

I’d like to hear what you think, so please e-mail me your comments.


Steve Spicer, editor
sspicer@wef.org