Administrators who wish to improve the  operation of
wastewater treatment plants under their management can make
good use of the instructional materials described in this
paper.  A manual entitled Operation of Wastewater Treatment
Plants was developed for use by individual or group study.
Experienced operators wrote the material for operating
personnel who have not had the benefit of specialized
education in wastewater treatment facility operation.  A
three phase developmental program is described which defines
tasks and routines of daily plant operation, checks these
under on-site in-plant conditions and edits  and reviews
material for instructional purposes by individuals concerned
with personnel training and plant operation.  The instruc-
tional materials are intended to assist training operators
in the specialized responsibilities needed in daily treatment
plant operations and to encourage them to develop themselves
and their capabilities into better plant operators.


     Administrators who wish to improve the operation of

wastewater treatment plants under their management can make

good use of instructional materials described in this paper.

Also important to the administrator is an understanding of

how the materials were developed and verified so that he can

evaluate their applicability to his particular situation.

Included is a history of how a new field study manual

entitled Operation of Wastewater Treatment Plants was

written, applied, evaluated and rewritten into its current



     Proper operation of wastewater treatment facilities is

essential to accomplish the intended purpose of the plant.

Educational institutions have stressed curriculums preparing

students for professional practice in the fields of process

research and design of wastewater treatment plants, but

frequently the operation of treatment facilities is virtually

ignored.  Many operators have not received an adequate education

to understand the complexities of successful plant operation.

     Reasons for inadequate education include the lack of

proper educational materials and facilities.  Other factors

contributing to the problem include public apathy, insuffi-

cient qualified training instructors, and the desire of many

individuals and agencies to develop their own educational

materials.  To some extent specialized material is necessary

to include unique local problems and regulatory requirements.

This program contains the basic information essential for

all programs.  A group instructor or field study  (correspon-

dence course) administrator can use this material plus any

specialty information and organizational structures pertinent

to his area.  A pattern is provided for one area as a model

for others.


     Development of capable, trained personnel who can

operate wastewater treatment plants efficiently is the

objective of this educational program.  Efficiency is defined

in terms of producing a high quality effluent as intended by

the plant designer, meeting established receiving water

quality standards, and minimizing costs of operation.  Accom-

plishment of the objective can be greatly assisted by

providing operators with the knowledge and procedures they

need for efficient operation of wastewater treatment



     Experienced operators were requested to write the infor-

mation and procedures they felt an operator needed to know to

operate his plant.  Site visits to various types of wastewater

treatment plants were conducted to observe the situations

encountered by operators and their daily operational problems.

Special attention was given to plant start-up, daily opera-

tional schedule, frequently encountered problems, maintenance,

sample collection and analysis, and operator response to lab



     A team of experienced operators,  consulting engineers,

administrators, regulatory personnel,  and educators was formed

to develop a curriculum capable of accomplishing the objective

of this program.  How to best convey the desired information

and procedures to operators unable to  attend conventional

classroom programs was the next problem to be solved.  For

the program to be readily available to as many operators as

possible, the cost should be as low as possible without

sacrificing the transfer of knowledge.  Correspondence schools,

home study, and self-study manuals have been used extensively

in this type of situation in the past.

     Correspondence schools for wastewater treatment plant

operators sponsored by International Correspondence School,

Clemson University and University of Arizona were examined.

Erdos (6) provides considerable insight to all aspects of

a correspondence program in a UNESCO source book.  U.S. Navy

training course manuals for Water and Sewage Plant Operators

(20) and the excellent manuals of practice published by the

Water Pollution Control Federation (11) were reviewed.  Very

good textbooks on the operation of wastewater treatment plants

that were studied include the "Texas Manual" (10), "New York

Manual"  (9), and a publication by Bloodgood (3).  Techniques

used in DuPont (lp) and other self-study manuals (2, 18) were

carefully studied.  Persons actively developing self-study

manuals using programmed learning techniques were interviewed

(16, 19) and research reported by the Educational Research

and Methods Division of the American Society for Engineering

Education (5) was thoroughly reviewed.  Innovative audio-

visual techniques  (1, 7, 13) were examined for potential use

by operators.

     Programmed instruction techniques were selected as the

most appropriate means of conveying the desired knowledge

because no additional facilities or material other than the

basic manual would be required.  Other methods might be more

effective, but the limited budgets of small agencies and

income of their operators could preclude the purchase of any

special facilities.

     A strict programmed instruction lesson is classified as

either a linear (12, 1?) or a branched type (19).   In a

linear type, the student covers a portion of the page with a

piece of paper as he reads the lesson.  Whenever he comes to

a blank space or a question, he thinks or writes his answer,

uncovers the correct answer, and checks his result.  A

branched program consists of questions with multiple choice

answers.  The student reads a short section in the lesson and

then encounters a question.  He selects what appears to him

to be the correct answer.  Then he is instructed to turn to a

specific page where he is informed whether his answer is

correct or not and where to read next, depending on his answer,

     Strict adherence to either programmed instruction tech-

nique requires considerable time and ingenuity to develop the

instructional material.  Neither approach is familiar to most

operators, although they could adapt to the procedure.  Pre-

sentation of material on the operation of wastewater treatment

plants by either technique limits the value of the material

for quick and easy reference when olant operational problems

occur.  To overcome these shortcomings of strict programmed

instruction, the material was arranged in the form of a

typical textbook but presented using the techniques of pro-

grammed instruction.

     Tests by educators and psychologists have indicated that

answering questions immediately after reading the material

provides immediate reinforcement of knowledge.  Research with

equivalent groups using programmed instruction indicates that

essay and multiple choice questions are equally effective;

however, retention is much better one year later in groups

using essay questions.  The adopted procedure was for the

operator to read a short section (1 to 5 pages), write the

answer to a few questions (1 to 5>)» compare his answers with

suggested answers at the end of the chapter, and decide

whether to reread the short section or continue on to the

next section.  A major advantage of this approach is that an

operator can precede at his own pace and operators with

considerable variations in education and experience all can

use the material.

                   PREPARATION OF MATERIAL

     Information and procedures needed by operators of waste-

water treatment plants was divided into seventeen chapters on

the basis of subject matter as shown in Table I.  Experienced

wastewater treatment plant operators wrote the chapters on

treatment plant processes with emphasis on what the operator

needed to know to perform his duties effectively.  Each treat-

ment process chapter followed the format outlined in Table II,

     After the writers of each chapter had prepared their

material, it was reviewed, edited, and rewritten in the

selected programmed instruction format.  Following each short

section of a particular topic, several questions were prepared

for the operator to answer.  These questions were designed to

reflect problems an operator could encounter and attempted

to obtain a solution from the operator that he could apply to

his plant.  When the operator checked his answers, he found

sueprested answers that contain a discussion of possible

solutions to the questions posed.  Numerous sketches, illus-

trations, photographs, and useful tables were provided to

enhance the appearance of the material and facilitate its


     The material is written to allow an operator to study

only selected lessons which apply to his problems, or to

proceed through the entire book, whichever he chooses.


Why Treat Wastes?
Wastewater Facilities
Racks, Screens, Comminutors, and Grit Removal
Sedimentation and Flotation
Trickling Filters
Activated Sludge
Sludge Digestion and Handling
Waste Treatment Ponds
Disinfection and Chlorination
Plant Safety and Good Housekeeping
Sampling Receiving Waters
Laboratory Procedures and Chemistry
Basic Mathematics and Treatment Plant Problems
Analysis and Presentation of Data
Records and Report Writing


SECTION                       TOPIC

   1            Relationship of process to overall plant

   2            Purpose and description

   3            Plant start-up

   Ij.            Daily operational problems

   5>            Sampling and analysis (includes performance

   6            Safety

   7            Additional useful information

                   FIELD TESTING - PHASE I

     Initial testing of the material consisted of recruiting

a group of persons willing to test the material and to provide

constructive criticism.  The initial group was composed of men

whose experience ranged from over 20 years down to people

interested in becoming operators.  Their education level

varied from tenth grade to college graduates.

     One week was devoted to each chapter, except two weeks

were allocated to the chapters on activated sludge and labora-

tory procedures because of their complexity and length.  Each

participant was requested to work a pre-test, read the

material, answer questions, check his answers, and work a

post-test.  While the student did his assignment, he marked

sections that were not clear or difficult to read and he noted

questions whose solutions or answers were not adequately

explained in the chapter.  The pre-test was used to indicate

to the student important topics in the chapter and to evaluate

the effectiveness of the teaching techniques and material

presented, when compared with the post-test.

     Both the pre and post tests contained essay, multiple

choice, fill-in, matching, and the true-false types of

questions to provide experience in taking various types of

tests.  Essay questions were used most because they help

reinforce knowledge, aid in developing writing skills,  provide

the opportunity for the student to indicate what he knows,  and

allows the designer of the program to identify weaknesses and

misconceptions in the prepared material or in the participants

experience prior to starting the program.

     At each weekly meeting the material was reviewed by the

group on a page by page basis.  These meetings were recorded

on tape and areas needing improvement were noted.  The  writer

of the chapter explained the unclear section to the satisfac-

tion of the participants and these verbal  explanations  proved

very helpful when the material was revised.  Potential

operators were extremely helpful in identifying words used

by professionals that are not understood by the layman.  These

words are defined at the beginning of each chapter where they

are used, footnoted in the chapter where they first appear,

and all of these words are listed and defined in one summary

glossary at the urging of the participating operators.   A

special pronunciation key using everyday words and syllables

was developed to aid in the understanding  of uncommon words.

After each meeting the writer of each chapter rewrote his

material with the aid of the program consultants and education


     Difficult problems encountered included the sequence of

working the chapters, especially the relationship of mathematics

and chemistry with respect to the other chapters,  the  breadth
and depth of the material in each chapter,  and the explanation
of theory needed to successfully operate a  wastewater  treat-
ment plant.  Logically one would assume that the operator
must possess a strong background and understanding of  the
fundamentals of mathematics and chemistry before he could
comprehend the material in the chapters on  the operation of
wastewater treatment processes.  Experienced operators coun-
tered that they know little chemistry and were not interested
in mathematics and that they felt their plants were being
operated at a satisfactory level.  Efforts  by potential opera-
tors revealed that they lacked sufficient familiarity  with
treatment plants and vocabulary of the profession to compre-
hend the need and basis for chemistry and mathematics  in
treatment plant operation.  Discussions with operators
indicated that they wanted to learn the "nuts and bolts" of
plant operation and were not concerned about mathematics or
     To solve the problem of the appropriate location of the
chapters on mathematics and chemistry in the work sequence
of the chapters, these chapters were introduced early  in the
program but the operator has the choice of  working the
chapters, using them for reference, or waiting until the end
to work them.  Mathematics are introduced first in Chapter i;
in the operation of grit chambers.  The calculations are very

simple and the mathematical operations  gradually  become  more

difficult with each chapter as the operator works problems

encountered in the daily operation of the  various types  of

treatment processes.  The mathematics chapter was provided

simultaneously with Chapter 1; to serve  as  a reference  and

guide to working mathematical problems  in  the other chapters.

     Chapter 5 °n sedimentation and flotation requires the

use of laboratory procedures to evaluate the performance of

a primary clarifier or sedimentation basin and to determine

whether any adjustments in plant operation are necessary.

The chapter on laboratory procedures and chemistry was pro-

vided with Chapter 5 to serve as a reference and explanation

of laboratory procedures to evaluate the performance of

treatment processes and overall plant performance.  Some

experienced operators have completed the chapters on mathe-

matics and laboratory procedures first  because they said

they wanted to concentrate on the treatment processes  when

they worked on those chapters and not have to refer to other


     Many operators interviewed before  the material was

prepared indicated that in their opinion most of the available

information on the operation of wastewater treatment plants

was too vague, too theoretical, or lacked sufficient instruc-

tions on how to do a particular task.  This problem was

attacked by asking the question, "What does the operator need
to know?"  Sketches were provided in the laboratory procedure
chapter to illustrate the measurement of water quality on a
step-by-step basis (11;).  Operators were urged to consult
manufactorers'  literature for details on maintenance pro-
cedures .
     Operators  frequently feel that, theory is not pertinent
to the operation of their plant.  Basic knowledge required to
operate plants  is contained in sections on the principles of
the treatment process and the operation of the process.
Originally this material was placed at the end of each chapter
at the request  of the participating operators, but it was
evident that it must be placed at the beginning to provide
the necessary background information to comprehend the
material in the chapter.
     Fourteen operators started Phase I and eight were awarded
Certificates of Completion.  Most stopped attending before
the third week, stating they agreed to help because they
wanted to see what the program was like.  Mainly these were
operators who had attended other operator training courses
in conventional classrooms.  They appeared to want to listen
to lectures, but did not wish to spend the time outside of
class going through the material.
                          16 ,

     Following completion of Phase I and evaluation of the
program, the material was rewritten.  With all of the material
available, format was standardized, topics expanded and added
where appropriate, and duplication eliminated.

                  FIELD TESTING - PHASE II

     Phase II consisted of field testing the program with
operators in Northern California and with potential operators
enrolled in the Mechanical-Electrical Technology Program at
Sacramento City College.  This group consisted of men and a
woman whose ages ranged from 17 to over 60, experience was
from zero to over 20 years and education varied from grammar
school to a graduate degree (Figure 1).
     Chapters 1 through 3 were mailed immediately.  When a
chapter was completed by a student, it was mailed to the pro-
gram director who forwarded it to the author of the chapter.
It was corrected, returned to the director for review, and
mailed to the operator with another chapter.  Mailings were
arranged to keep the student working as fast as he desired.
Again Chapter l£ on Mathematics was mailed with Chapter [j. on
Racks, Screens, Comminutors, and Grit Removal and Chapter llj.
on Laboratory Procedures was mailed with Chapter 5 on Sedimen-
tation and Flotation.

            PHASE II

     After the operator had completed Chapter 3> he was

visited at his plant by the program director and an exper-

ienced operator.  The purpose of this visit was to become

acquainted with the operator and his plant, explain the

purpose of the program to him, urge his cooperation in

identifying sections that need improving, and request him

to provide the program director with "tricks of the trade"

that had been omitted from the material.

     When the operator was approximately half through the

program he was visited at his plant again.  At thio time he

was asked to identify his plant operational problems and

discuss his solutions to insure that solutions to most

typical operational problems were contained in the material.

Occasionally the visitors were able to help the operator

find his problem in the material and also a potential

solution.  This approach helped the operator realize that

the material could serve as a valuable reference source when

problems are encountered.  Near the end of the program the

operator was visited again to provide the opportunity to

discuss improvements in the material.

     One intended purpose of the plant visits was to evaluate

the effectiveness of the material.   Originally, a comparison

of the quality of the plant effluent when the operator

started and completed the program was felt to be an appro-

priate measure.  At the start of the program the local

regulatory agency was provided with a list of operators in

the program with the request that inspectors offer to help

the operators with the lessons and to listen for means to

improve the program.  The agency responded that all plants

being operated by program participants were meeting discharge

requirements and that the best operators in the region had

enrolled in the program.

     At the beginning of the program, supervisors were

notified that their employees had volunteered to participate

in the program.  Following completion of the program, super-

visors were polled regarding their impression of the influence

of the program on the operator.  All supervisors indicated

that they detected increased communication skills and a

better knowledge of the operation of the treatment plant.

Every agency indicated they would be willing to pay from $10

to $200 per manual for the material for other operators to

participate in the program.  None of the operators received

a pay raise upon receipt of his Certificate of Completion.

     Performance of operators completing the program on

California Certification Examinations and civil service

examinations is confidential; however, informal discussions

with operators and Certification officials has revealed that

operators who completed the program achieved a much higher

degree of success and higher passing grades than operators

who had not participated in the program.

     Figure 2 illustrates the percentage of operators  who

started the program that completed each chapter.   Discussions

with a large number of operators, or their supervisors,  whc>

stopped working the lessons early in the program indicated

that the operators were not too interested, but their  super-

visor- thought it would be a good program and enrolled  them

in the program.  Chapter 7, Activated Sludge, was an impossible

hurdle for many operators because it was too long and  too

difficult and, consequently, was extensively revised.   Other

reasons for quitting included passing of the certification

exam and graduation from school.  Many operators were  unable

to complete the program because of lack of time due to the

demands of a second job.  The large number of operators in

remote regions holding second jobs reflects the poor salary

structure in these areas.

     In an attempt to reduce the number of persons who did

not complete the program, an illustrator was retained  to

improve the presentation of the material (Pig. 3).  His

sketches were very pertinent and he has received many  compli-

ments on the appropriateness of his work.  Revision of

Chapter 7 on Activated Sludge consisted of completely  rewrit-

ing the introductory lessons to provide a better insight into

the description of the process, how it works, and what is

required to keep it working.  Details on the start-up,

1UU -
90 -

80 -
8* 70 -
2 60 -
P. 50 -
liO —
O ^


                                                      '&  o5
                                                      Q)  > c! d  c
                                                     4i  ft 3
                                                     ^H        O
                                                     O  d I ^ ^^
                                                     Q)  CD d

operation, and maintenance of the process were condensed

where possible.

     Again the material was reviewed by the project consult-

ants and educators and rewritten on the basis of the evalua-

tion of the Phase II testing program.

                  FIELD TESTING - PHASE III

     Phase III was a national testing program with operators

from 25 states located all over the United States.  These

operators were requested--and many did—to suggest improve-

ments in the lessons where local operational problems had

been overlooked or not included in the material.  Vital

statistics of these operators are contained in Figure 1.

Each state and Environmental Protection Agency Regional

Director of Manpower and Training received a copy of the

material and several agencies contributed helpful comments.

     Procedures for working the lessons were similar to

Phase II except approximately 20 operators were assigned to

an individual who corrected all of their material.  This

plan was instigated to allow the person correcting the

material to become familiar with a group of operators and

encourage them to stick with the program.  If an operator

made the same mathematical error in several chapters, he

could receive comments on how to correct this error.  Field

visits, unfortunately, had to be eliminated because of the

dispersed locations of the operators.  Contact was maintained

with local operators to encourage suggestions for improvement.

     Evaluation of Phase III consisted of comparing the

improvement of scores between the pre and post-tests.  Added

to the post-tests in Chapters 9 through 13 and 16 and 17

were reveiw questions.  Several of the operators worked the

review questions on the answer sheet they labled pre-test,

confirming a suspicion that they worked the chapter and then

answered both the pre and post-tests.  Figure [j. summarizes

the grades received on the post-tests by the operators

completing the program.  The results reveal a high degree of

success by these operators on the questions the authors

deemed pertinent to the operation of wastewater treatment

plants.  An advocate (19) of programmed instruction claims

that everyone should obtain an A grade because the operator

is not supposed to continue until he understands the material

in each short section.

     Following the completion of Phase III the material was

reviewed by consultants and educators and revised where

necessary on the basis of the evaluation of this phase.  All

of the material was edited and all words were checked for

reading-skill level (1|).   Colloquialisms were eliminated to

   10  --
    80        85        90        95

               Percent Correct

Out of 1233 Possible Multiple Choice Answers
       Pig.  1|.   Summary of Average Score of Successful Operators on
                 All  Post-Tests,  Phase III

facilitate translation to other languages.  Virtually all of

the words remaining in the completed Manual, Operation of

Wastewater Treatment Plants (8), are twelfth-year level or

lower, with the exception of those -words essentdal for the

operator to communicate with his colleagues in the wastewater

treatment profession.

                   SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

     Procedures followed in the development and use of

operator educational material are outlined in this paper.  In

summary, the procedure involved:

     1.  Defining educational objectives

     2.  Identifying knowledge and procedures essential

         to achieve objectives

     3.  Reviewing educational techniques, materials,

         and media

     [4..  Developing curriculum

     5.  Selecting qualified instructors and/or writers

     6.  Administering the program

     7.  Evaluating the program

     8.  Repeating administration and evaluation until

         material and method of presentation were


     9.  Providing procedures to revise'program when



     A field study manual on the operation of wastewater

treatment plants was developed and tested by experienced

operators which is capable of providing operators with the

information they need to know to operate their plants and

solve operational problems.  Operators studying alone or

enrolled in regular courses who use this manual are provided

helpful learning material and a useful reference.
                        KNOW LEDGE ME NTS
     This project was funded by the Environmental Protection

Agency, Office of Water Programs, under Technical Training

Grant No. £TT1-WP-16-03.

     The authors wish to express their gratitude i^o the many

operators who participated in the development of this program.

Special thanks are due to the men who wrote the chapters and *> ,

our technical and educational consultants.  Illustrations in

the manual were drawn by Martin Garrity.  F. J. Ludzack,

Chemist, National Training Center, Office of Water Programs,

Environmental Protection Agency, provided many helpful

suggestions throughout the entire developmental period.


1.  Austin, John H., "Current University Activities in
         Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Training,"
         Proceedings Educational Systems for Operators of
         Water Pollution Control Facilities, USDI/FWPCA
         and Clemaon University, Atlanta, Georgia,  Nov.  3-5>»
         1969, p. 133-11*9.

2.  "Basic Mathematical Computations for the Sanitarian,"
         CDC Training Program, Homestudy Course Series,
         U.S. Department HEW, PHS,  Bureau of Disease Preven-
         tion and Environmental Control, Atlanta, Georgia,
         19-68, 37 PP.

3.  Bloodgood, Don E., Sewage Treatment Practice, Scranton
         Publishing Company, Inc.,  Chicago,  79 pp.

U.  Dale, Edgar, Graded Word Lists, Ohio State University,

5.  ERM, published by Educational Research and Methods
         Division, American Society for Engineering Education,
         published quarterly in October, December,  March, and

 6.   Erdos,  Renee  P.,  Teaching by  Correspondence--A UNESCO

          Source Book, Longmans, Green &  Co. Limited, London,

          1967,  218 pp.

 7.   Jeter,  Harold, Audio Visual Scripts  for Laboratory

          Analysis, EPA/OWP,  National Training  Center,

          Cincinnati,  1970.

 8.   Kerri,  Kenneth D. and Bill Dendy, Operation of Wastewater

          Treatment Plants--A Field  Study Educational Program,

          Environmental Protection Agency,  Office  of Water

          Programs, distributed by Sacramento State College,

          Sacramento,  California,  1971, l^Oij. pp.

 9.   Manual  of Instruction for Sewage Treatment Plant

          Operators, New York Health Education  Service,  Albany,

          New York, 2i|7 pp.

10.   Manual  of Wastewater Operations, Texas Water  Utilities

          Association, Austin, Texas, 1971, 755 PP-

11.   Manuals of Practice, Water Pollution Control  Federation,

          Washington,  D.C.

12.   McCullough,  Celeste and  Loche Van Atta, Statistical

          Concepts, A  Program for  Self-instruction, McGraw-Hill,

          New York, 1963, 3&7 PP»

13.  Nagano, Joe, Film on Laboratory Procedures,  presented to

          the Operators' Short School,  CWPCA,  Anaheim,

          California, May 7, 1969.

ll|.  Nagano, Joe, Laboratory Procedures for  Operators  of Water

          Pollution Control Plants,  California Water Pollution

          Control Association, Anaheim, California,  1969.

15.  Programmed Inst r uction Courses, Industrial Training

          Service, E.I. DuPont De Nemours &  Co. (Inc.),

          Wilmington, Delaware.

16.  Pursglove, L.A., "Programmed Manuals,"  Proceedings

          Educational Systems for Operators  of Water Pollution

          Control Facilities, USDI/FWPCA and Clemson University

          Atlanta, Georgia, Nov. 3-5, 1969,  p. 305-328.

17.  Pursglove, L.A. and K.K. Mancy, Elements  of Biological

          Wastewater Treatment--Overview, Unit 1, Part 1,

          University of Michigan, School of  Public Health,

          Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1968.

18.  TEMAC, Programmed Learning Materials, General Science

          Series, Encyclopedia Britannica Press.

19.  Thompson, Willard M., The Basics of Successful Salesman-

          ship; a Self-teaching Programmed Rook.  McGraw-Hill,

          New York, 1968, 292 pp.

20.  U.S. Department  of  the  Navy,  Training Courses in Water

          and Sewage  Plant Operations,  Basic and Intermediate

          Courses, Bureau of Yards and Docks, Navdocks P-33U>

          Washington, D.C.,  March  I960.
                } :-lr:,j'y^ f. '~": :^ V

                 , __„",, v o ., j. j. J..,«. —.j