Hands-on Microscopic Examination of Wastewater

Due to financial constraints, many facilities are operating above design capacity and with aging equipment and infrastructure. At the same time, because of a heightened focus on water conservation and water quality, wastewater treatment operations are facing increasingly stringent discharge permit limits. As a result, complex treatment technologies, such as biological nutrient removal (BNR), are frequently incorporated into new designs and plant upgrades. The narrow margins built into today’s permits require us to closely monitor and control operational changes and challenges to avoid permit violations.

Microscopic examination of wastewater is an excellent tool for identifying a wastewater treatment process’ “health and condition”. Frequent microscopic examinations can provide valuable information about the condition of the microorganisms in the various phases of the treatment process and allow the operator to identify changes that may cause a plant upset or permit violations. Often, changes to the microbial conditions can be observed much earlier than physiochemical changes can be detected in the laboratory or visually in the field. Every wastewater treatment facility has its own unique set of challenges, but the basic principles of phase contrast microscopy do not change. A trained professional is capable of identifying what is going on in a system within a few minutes.


In our three day “Hands-on Microscopic Examination of Wastewater” workshop Victor Santa Cruz will share his extensive knowledge and experience as a Microbiologist in wastewater. Mr. Santa Cruz will explain the principles and techniques successfully utilized in microscopy and how to utilize this information to assess your wastewater treatment process. Throughout this workshop Victor will guide you through hands-on sessions during which you will practice staining techniques and utilize phase contrast microscopes to learn how to identify microorganisms typically found in the wastewater treatment process. This workshop is designed for wastewater technicians and operators as well as laboratory personnel.


In this class Victor will:

  • Explain the essential functions of the microscope as well as its parts, maintenance, set up, operation, and troubleshooting.
  • Help you understand the morphology of aquatic organisms.
  • Explain and demonstrate microbiological staining techniques and guide you through hands-on sessions during which you will practice these staining techniques.
  • Discuss protozoans (ciliates, flagellates, and amoebas) and Metazoans (rotifers, water bears, Annelids, and Nematodes) and provide opportunity to examine wastewater samples for these organisms.
  • Identify Norcadioforms, Microthrix parvicella, and other filamentous organisms as well as their impact on wastewater operations and control measures for their mitigation. He will also demonstrate staining techniques used to identify filamentous organisms and help you practice these skills.
  • Explore floc structure and its overall effects on solids separation problems and foaming
  • Discuss alkalinity and volatile acids and how these chemical parameters affect wastewater biology and vice versa.
  • Explain the basics of nitrification / denitrification and introduces the principles of the biological degradation of nitrogenous components present in wastewater.

To assure the greatest benefits from this class we highly recommend students bring the microscope they use at work to this workshop. This will assure Victor can provide you with instructions and tips specific to your microscope.

Our “Hands-on Microscopic Examination of Wastewater” workshop will provide you with essential skills to successfully operate your wastewater facility, succeed in your career, and obtain or maintain your wastewater operator certification.