Optimising Activated Sludge Plants 28/11/24

28 November 2024, VIRTUAL

Format: Online

Times:   9:30 AM – 16:30 PM

Fee:  £350 plus VAT for 1-person, (includes slides presented).

Course Overview

Activated sludge plants are commonly operated by setting a target MLSS, sludge age or food: mass.  To make the most of plant operation and achieve compliance at least cost these concepts need to be understood inside and out.  They affect rates of settlement and the balance of micro-organisms undertaking treatment.

Course Aim

It is a common aim for water companies and businesses operating wastewater treatment plants to deliver compliance at least cost.   For any site, there will be a balance to achieve between resources consumed to meet the wastewater standard and the quantity and type of sludge produced.  This course is designed to help attendees understand this balance and to drive operational efficiencies.

Learning is delivered through a combination of lectures, case studies and worked examples.

Course Programme

  • Approaches to plant optimisation, how to physically do it
  • Key concepts of sludge age, MLSS and food: mass
  • Operating at least cost to achieve consent
  • Filamentous bulking and the role of microscopic analysis of activated sludge
  • Optimising final sedimentation tanks

Who should attend?

This course covers the fundamentals of activated sludge whilst drawing upon an array of practical case studies.  As such the course has wide appeal being highly relevant to operational teams, process scientists and managers looking to upskill and optimise, technology providers seeking to understand where products fit in the market, researchers and innovators wishing to understand the latest challenges facing the water industry and anyone interested in understanding the UK market and investment drivers.

Trainer Profile

Matthew Smyth  BSc, MRes, MBA, MCIWEM CSci CWEM
Director, Aqua Environment Solutions Limited

Aqua Environment Logo

Matt has been in wastewater and sludge for over twenty-five years and works with water companies, industry and waste producers to develop and implement solutions.  He has delivered training courses for fifteen years to thousands in our industry.

In the late 1990’s he began his career working on pilot and full-scale Sequencing Batch Reactors, developing, then commissioning carbonaceous and nitrification control strategies, that were widely adopted in plants in the UK and Ireland.  He has subsequently worked closely with many anaerobic and advanced anaerobic digestion facilities treating sewage sludges, wastewater and food waste materials; dewatering the digestate and handling the liquors produced.  He presents and publishes regularly at industry recognized conferences chairs Aqua Enviro’s European Biosolids & Organics and European Wastewater Management Conferences.

Outside of training Matt manages interesting technical projects.  His continued exposure to a wide range of investigative, challenging and solution orientated projects is brought into training to ensure that the material presented is current and relevant.

Why invest in Activated Sludge Training?

  • Gain a full understanding of sludge age and its importance in achieving compliance at least cost
  • Come away with the ability to apply the WRC nomograph to your site and ensure your final sedimentation tank is optimised
  • The organisms we see under the microscope change before the analytical results improve/worsen. See how this invaluable tool can be routinely used to develop a pro-active approach to treatment
  • Experience real world examples and case studies that cover a multitude of troubleshooting and optimisation experiences gained over 20+ years
  • Enhance the value of your conversations and meetings with colleagues across the business by using common language and terminology to define and agree solutions

Ready for the next level of training?

This training dovetails with our Wastewater Treatment and Anaerobic Digestion courses.  To understand, evaluate and optimise any site we must be able to interrogate individual plant items and how the performance of each influences adjacent process units and the performance as a whole.  Wastewater treatment is quite literally a case of the toe bone being connected to the foot bone, to the heel bone, ankle, leg, knee, thigh, hip and everything else.

Case studies and worked examples at the core of the training

Irrespective of whether you are working on a domestic wastewater treatment site or industrial effluent treatment plant, this joined up approach is valid.  Here are some case study examples:

  1. Foaming activated sludge plants causing consent issues and with knock on impact to anaerobic digester.
    • Routine microscopy carried out on site or sent to Aqua Enviro’s team of Process Scientists is an excellent starting point for any activated sludge investigation
    • It provides a baseline for plant health and a wide range of organisms can point towards underlying challenges:
      • Hydrossis – a needle like filament seen on plants suffering with low dissolved oxygen
      • Thiothrix sp – a long filament capable of metabolising sulphur, associated with industrial effluents and can cause extreme settlement challenges
      • Microthrix parvicella & NocardiaHydrophobic organisms, yes they cause foam
    • Foam on an activated sludge plant can be an immediate threat to compliance but is also a massive challenge to anaerobic digesters that receive foam rich material. The breakdown products themselves are surfactants and combine well with biogas to form a stable foam.  Immediate challenges are presented with digester over pressurisation, whessoe valve activation, inhibiting the feed and mixers whilst also reducing biogas production.
    • The effect of foams can be managed by costly addition of antifoams (in most cases), but root cause analysis, identifying and tackling the source of the filaments is preferable
    • Priority actions: optimise sludge age, dissolved oxygen and upstream primary tanks to develop a niche whereby the offending organisms are outcompeted naturally.
    • Longer term: evaluate the opportunity to incorporate a kinetic selector. What is this?  Find out on the course and more


  1. Industrial effluent treatment plant spilling its blanket to watercourse and facing an Enforcement Notice from the Environment Agency.
    • Following a capital upgrade, the site experienced a deterioration in settlement rates of the activated sludge and subsequent blanket spill, a pollution event.
    • The offending filamentous bacteria at the root cause was susceptible to hypochlorite dosing. An on-site assessment and Standard Operating Protocol were developed to dose the plant in a managed and controlled fashion.  The risks of dosing a non-specific biocide are potentially high in inexperienced hands.
    • Further investigation into why these organisms appeared followed the troubleshoot and lead to plant reconfiguration to ensure the upfront anaerobic digestion plant did not become overloaded or stressed. When it did, the filaments bloomed downstream.
    • Long term relationship developed with the client. Aqua Enviro work and involvement key to maintaining relationship with the Environment Agency.

Do you have a challenge with your Activated Sludge Plant right now?

Get in touch to see how we can help and embed learning in the process.



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Cost per person
£350 (ex. 20% VAT)

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