Aerial view of the Warren, Maine lagoon system. Photo courtesy of Woodard and Curran.

Lagoon Systems In Maine 

Systems In Maine

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Mars Hill Wastewater Lagoon System - Mars Hill  Maine. Photo Courtesy of Wright-Pierce Engineers.
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Wastewater Engineering



SOPs: Standard Operating Procedures
by Tim Loftus 

    SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, should be part of every wastewater treatment laboratory. These are instructions on how to perform a variety of tasks including, but certainly not limited to, procedures for analytical analyses, sample collection, reporting and data transfer, the testing frequency of quality control samples, and equipment calibration and maintenance.

    Most of us do have some form of SOPs in our laboratories. And if you’re like me, some are in oral form. However, it is important to put these SOPs in written form. By putting SOPs on paper, it keeps the procedures from being misinterpreted, personnel can always review the SOP which will reduce confusion, and it forces the person responsible for writing them to evaluate what is and what is not required.

    SOPs are not photocopies of test methods or equipment manuals. Instead these are very specific directions on how you or your technicians should perform certain tasks. Basically, it is a “how-we-do-it” document. SOPs incorporate your laboratory set-up, your plant layout, your equipment and chemicals, and any special conditions that need to be noted.

    Below I’ve outlined the general format that I use when I write SOPs. Use it as a guideline. Add or delete sections to enhance your application. When writing SOPs, remember to keep the document as short and as precise as possible.

I)                   Title of SOP

II)                 Description of SOP

    What is the purpose of this SOP? What is it written for? For example, is this applying an EPA approved test (list which one) for NPDES reporting, or is it a non-approved test for process control only.

III)              Equipment and Chemicals Needed

    List where these are stored. Include sizes needed, how many, or how much. I also put in catalogue numbers with the disposables listed here so I can easily reorder.


IV)              Procedure

   This is where the step-by-step instructions for a procedure are written.

   Include a sample calculation if appropriate. If this SOP were for sample collection, you would put in here a detailed description and a map of the sample area.


V)                Notes

   There may be special situations that need to be addressed here. Is there a common interference with this analysis? Are there any other SOPs the reader should refer to – such as a maintenance and calibration SOP?


VI)              Data Sheet

   Keep a clean copy of the data sheet or daily record sheet if referred to in the Procedure section so you can make copies of it when needed.


   Written Standard Operating Procedures are very beneficial not just to the operation of the laboratory, but to the whole treatment plant as well. Write SOPs so that the technician following them will be more efficient and have a greater understanding of the tasks that need to be completed. Also, by incorporating written changes into existing SOPs, it keeps everyone informed and everyone on the same page (pun intended).

   The recommendations here for SOPs are very general. Always check your state and local regulations especially now that a national laboratory accreditation program is being adopted by many states. You may have additional requirements to meet.

   If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please contact LPC Chair Paul Fitzgibbons at (401) 222-6780 ext. 118 ( or Tim Loftus at (508) 949-3865 ( You can also visit our website at Once on the website, press the Lab Practices button.



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