August 2023 O&M Newsletter

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AUGUST  2023

In this issue:

2022 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey.


In May, staff in the Engineering Unit of the Division of Water Quality Management in the Bureau of Water Quality finished data entry on the 2022 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS). The CWNS is a periodic EPA effort to identify infrastructure needs throughout the country, including wastewater treatment and conveyance, stormwater, CSO (combined sewer overflow), nonpoint sources, and decentralized wastewater treatment systems.

In Maine, DEP had 170 responses out of 185 wastewater IDs, a 92% participation rate.  This was due to the diligence of the staff in following up with survey recipients. There were several IDs who reported no needs. For those that helped us with the data collection, “Thank You”, we greatly appreciate it.

Overall, the survey identified just over $3.1 billion in needs in the State, with the single largest need being decentralized wastewater treatment systems at $769 million.   Combined wastewater needs (treatment, conveyance, CSO, stormwater) totaled $1.7 billion. More information breakdowns can be found on the Maine DEP has a webpage dedicated to the CWNS:

EPA also has a CWNS webpage, but it has not been updated to include the 2022 data, as it will be going through the final QA process at EPA this fall/early winter and be submitted to Congress after the process is finished.  At that point, the data will be available via the CWNS page

The next step for EPA is that they will finish all the State’s individual reviews and create a Report to go to Congress. This report will influence the total amount of funding that the State of Maine will receive in the coming years.

DMR-QA Study 43 Closes August 4.

DMR-QA Study 43 closes on August 4, 2023.  All results must be reported to the DMR-QA supplier by this date. The study packet can be found at this link:

DMR-Study 43 Announcement Packet.

The NPDES Permittee Data Report Form (found on page 13 of the study packet) along with a copy of the graded test results and laboratory checklists are due to the State DMR-QA Coordinator ( by September 29th, 2023.

If your laboratory happens to receive a “Not-Acceptable” score for one or more parameters, you must complete a corrective action and perform retests for all parameters with Not Acceptable results. A copy of the corrective action report and retest results must be sent to the State DMR-QA coordinator by November 9, 2023. 

If you have questions about the DMR-QA program, please contact Brett Goodrich at 207-287-9034 or

Summer Wastewater Operational Problems.

Copyrighted material. Reprinted with permission from Environmental Leverage, Inc. The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. 

It’s summer again, and with the hot seasonal weather there sometimes can be wastewater treatment problems. The most common problems encountered during the summer months include too old a sludge age resulting in deteriorated sludge solids quality (increased solids/TSS in the final effluent), filamentous bulking caused by too low an F/M ratio (too old SRT) and odor control problems. The sludge age problem results from an increased reproduction by the bacteria as biological activity significantly increases during warm weather.

For every increase of 10 degrees C in temperature, the reproductive rate of the bacteria increases by one log’s growth. Therefore, to hold a desired food to microorganism ratio and sludge age, you need to increase the wasting rate in an activated sludge plant.  If you don’t make this seasonal adjustment, these are some of the things that can happen.

The solids concentration in the system will grow faster than the food supply, causing the older bacteria (usually those on the inside of a floc) to starve to death and lyse (the disintegration or rupture of the cell membrane, resulting in the release of cell contents or the subsequent death of the cell).

When cells lyse, BOD and nutrients are re-released from the dead cells. This can be critical in municipalities where the supernatant from sludge digesters or supernatant off dewatering equipment is recycled back to the head of the system. This can cause an overload of ammonia and orthophosphate, making it harder to meet nutrient removal limits.

As the cell wall ruptures, other bacteria feed on the dead cell’s protoplasm.  Older, anaerobic or dead spots build up in the floc making it settle too fast.  This can result in shearing of the floc, since the floc structure is now weaker.  The older, smaller pin floc, which have very little charge go over the weirs of the secondary clarifier as "pin floc"/turbidity (very fine floc particles).

This situation can also cause ashing, which is when fine particles rise and spread over the surface of the clarifier (and of the settleometer) because the floc is over-oxidized. The addition of flocculants or coagulants will help a little, but not to a satisfactory degree. Wasting is usually the best measure.

Gassing can occur, causing sludge particles to float and again go over the weirs contributing to TSS problems and bed settleability. This is due to holding the solids too long in the clarifier and not enough free oxygen, so denitrification or gasification occurs.

The old sludge can cause physical mixing problems in the dewatering operation, resulting in pockets with pure polymer to exist and other pockets in the sludge with no polymer - and this assumes that you are using the correct/optimum chemistry and charge. The pockets of unmixed polymer can then "blind" a belt on a belt press, causing poor dewatering results. The cure is not a "better" polymer, the cure is to readjust the sludge age!

Algae growth on the weirs can significantly increase and cause problems not only with clogging up the weirs, but with carryover into the final effluent. Algae can give a false higher BOD reading or cause TSS permit violations. Make sure to clean the weirs more often in the summer.

Duckweed are small, free floating green plants that form large blankets on the surface of large ponds and can grow significantly on ponds in the summer time. Duckweed has some desirable properties for water purification since it can break down and treat some nutrients in the water. Duckweed can be used as a final polishing on ponds, but final screening needs to be in place or the small plants can contribute to solids in the final effluent.

Bristle worms can also be seen more readily in the summer months as the sludge age gets older. These are microscopic worms that can turn the foam on the aeration basin pink in color, or the secondary clarifier surface color pink due to the vast numbers of these worms that can develop. They are usually found in the presence of high nitrates and older, well developed sludge.

If the MLSS concentration is allowed to get too high, more dissolved oxygen will be required in the aeration basins. This is a real cost item (electrical utilities driving the aerators, particularly in diffused aeration systems), in addition to making it difficult within some systems to maintain adequate D.O. for the bacteria. Electricity is usually the number one cost in a waste treatment plant followed by solids handling. Oxygen transfer it is more difficult to achieve in hot water than cold water. If your D.O. is hard to maintain, try reducing the MLSS concentration you are holding in the aeration basin (via RAS change and/or by wasting). This is where keeping track of your solids balancing data is very valuable!

There are some strains of filamentous bacteria that can gain a foothold when the F/M gets too low (or when the D.O. gets too low). Filaments will cause bulking in the secondary clarifier, eventually resulting in solids problems as they get washed over the weirs. This is where your Wastewater Biomass Analysis (WBA’s) are invaluable! Using the microscope as a daily monitor and control tool will help make running your wastewater treatment plant easier.


Certification and Training Update.


Resources, forms, and guidance documents:

Information on the Department’s Wastewater Operator Certification Program can be found at the website  The Additional Materials section provides links to training documents, forms, public and private training providers, and a calendar of upcoming training opportunities offered by non-profit organizations.  The calendar is emailed to certified operators monthly.

The NEIWPCC/JETCC website, provides information on signing up for an exam, training classes, and certification renewal.  Contact Spring Conolly at or call 207-253-8020 for more information.

Maine Water Utility Association (MWUA) Summer Outing August 10th Cumberland Fairgrounds

MWUA’s annual Summer Outing will take place on August 10 at the Cumberland fairgrounds.

We will start the day at 8:00 AM with a two-hour training, Excavation Safety and Heat Safety. Next up a Pipe Tapping Contest hosted by MWUA and a Cornhole Contest hosted by MWUA and MEWEA.  Registration for cornhole will be at the registration table on the day of the outing. These will be followed by lunch of is steaks, lobsters, hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, coleslaw, BBQ beans, chips, and cornbread and butter!

For more information or to register, visit

Grades 1-5 Wastewater Exam Prep Courses at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC)

MWUA and JETCC are excited to join forces to offer you the best wastewater operator certification preparatory training around. We will kick off at SMCC in South Portland with combined Grades 1 & 2 followed by Grades 3, 4, & 5. An optional math primer will be offered to help prepare for either course. Tom Bahun from Tom’s Water Solutions will cover the first part (Grades 1 & 2) and the optional math, while Patrick Wiley from SMCC will cover the remaining grades.

The math primer will be August 3, Grades 1 & 2 will be August 8, 9, & 10 and Grades 3, 4, & 5 on August 15, 16, & 17.  Due to popular demand, a second date for Grades 3, 4, & 5 has been added on August 22, 23, & 24.  All classes run 8AM-3PM.  Visit to learn more or at this link:

Management Candidate School (MCS) Returns

JETCC is pleased to announce the return of the Management Candidate School (MCS). The Class of 2024 will meet monthly at the Town of Yarmouth’s new public safety building beginning November 8, 2023.  MCS is a collaboration between JETCC, Maine DEP, Maine DHHS, Maine Water Environment Association (MEWEA), and the Maine Water Utilities Association (MWUA).

This 11-month training program provides the intensive training, networking, and skill-development coursework necessary to prepare the next generation of water and wastewater managers and leaders. Topics include budgeting, blueprint reading, engineering basics, construction planning, personnel management, media relations, and dealing with regulatory agencies.

With many of Maine's current water and wastewater managers at or near retirement age, it is hoped that the individuals who complete the MCS program will be able to continue the critical work of managing the state's water and wastewater treatment infrastructure. This exciting training program is aimed at mid-level operators with management potential.

For information about the upcoming MCS program, click here. For general information, contact Peter Zaykoski at JETCC or (207) 253-8020.

MEWEA Begins New Peer-to-Peer Training Program

Join MEWEA in the new Peer-to-Peer training program.  The goal of Peer-to-Peer is to encourage wastewater operators, mechanics, lab techs, and managers to visit wastewater facilities to learn from the skills and experiences of others.  Participants will earn up to 3 TCHs that will be applied towards maintaining a wastewater license.

To participate in visiting a plant or hosting a visiting operator or analyst, please contact Alex Buechner at

MRWA’s Apprenticeship Program - Building Our Industry Workforce

MRWA’s Apprenticeship Program is a nationally recognized program for candidates with limited or no experience. It is divided into three different tracks, Water, Wastewater, and Joint Water and Wastewater. Each apprentice is assigned a mentor during their time in the program. Our staff will work with facilities to help select mentors, provide coaching, and create a nationally recognized schedule of work. We will also provide the apprentice with technical training, including certification prep for professional licensure.   Interested in learning more? Candidates can submit their information for the program through this online application: CLICK HERE FOR APPLICATION

NEIWPCC Online Wet Weather Course Returns

NEIWPCC is pleased to announce we have published our new and improved version of an old favorite, Wet Weather Operations. This course is now available on our new in-house online self-paced learning platform where we are working to create an entire library of self-paced water and wastewater courses that can be accessed at anytime from anywhere with an Internet connection. For more information or to register, please click here.

DEP Chapter 531 Update

The Board of Environmental Protection recently adopted revisions to the Department rule Chapter 531 that covers wastewater treatment plant classification and operator certification requirements.  This completed a multi-year process that included stakeholder meetings and a public comment period.  When effective, the new rule can be found at this website:

Key changes include: reformatting and updates for clarity, changes from paper-based to computer-based testing, adding a definition section, revised classification of wastewater plants to include unit operations and complexity in the plant rating, steps a person must take to reinstate their certification following revocation, changes to contract operations (ConOps) requirements to allow up to 90-days of an interim contract pending Department approval of a final ConOps contract, a professional code of conduct to be followed by operators, a new Provisional operator classification, and changes to the education and experience requirements for certain grade levels.  The Department will be providing additional information about the ch 531 revisions on the Department’s training and certification website,  

For more information, contact

Veolia Academy Offers Free Water/ Wastewater Online Training

Workforce is one of the top three stressors among all water and wastewater utilities in the United States. It all starts with finding qualified candidates, a barrier to entry that holds many back from achieving operator status.

To address this industry-wide problem, Veolia Academy is now offering online water and wastewater training classes FREE OF CHARGE. Many of these classes are approved by the Maine DEP for continuing education credit. 

For more information about the online, self-paced education platform, visit

For Practice.

  1. The wastewater treatment process which commonly uses sludge re-aeration is called
    1. conventional activated sludge.
    2. contact stabilization.
    3. extended aeration.
    4. trickling filter.
  1. The laboratory test used to measure the concentration of hydrogen ions in water is called
    1. Turbidity
    2. pH
    3. Alkalinity
    4. oxidation-reduction potential (ORP)
  1. The volt is:
    1. the basic unit of electrical power
    2. the basic unit of electrical potential
    3. the basic unit of electrical resistance
    4. the basic unit of electrical current
  1. If too much aeration is provided in the aeration basin, what is most likely to happen in the secondary clarifier(s)?
    1. the settling of the activated sludge will improve.
    2. the oxygen uptake will increase.
    3. the sludge will become bulky and hard to settle
    4. there will be small floc particles on the surface of the clarifier
  1. If the influent Total Suspended Solids (TSS) is 230 mg/l and the final effluent TSS is 6 mg/l, what is the percent removal?
    1. 93.9%
    2. 99%
    3. 95%
    4. 97%


  1. Answer: 2 – Contact Stabilization uses a contact tank where the raw wastewater is mixed with return activated sludge for a short period. The sludge is separated from the clean water in a secondary clarifier and the sludge is pumped to a re-aeration tank where the bugs digest the food that has been adsorbed in the contact tank.
  2. Answer: 2 – The concentration of hydrogen ions in water is measured by the pH. A pH<7 is acidic and pH>7 is alkaline or basic.
  3. Answer: 2 – The basic unit of potential is the volt. A volt is defined as the difference of potential that would drive one ampere of current again one ohm of resistance. Electric potential is analogous to pressure in a water system.
  4. Answer: 4 – Over-aeration tends to break up the floc particles in the aeration tanks. The small floc particles do not settle as well as larger flocs and will tend to float to the surface of the clarifier with the upflow current.
  5. Answer: 4 – Use the formula (influent-effluent)/influent X 100 = (230-6)/230 X 100 = 97%