Monthly Archives: April 2020

The Top Challenges Facing Municipal Wastewater Treatment

Every year, municipal wastewater treatment plants do what they can to become more efficient. Efficiency helps keep costs down, which makes the district’s residents happy. At the same time, these plants cannot lose sight of the goal of cleaning wastewater to meet government standards. These are the three challenges municipal wastewater treatment plants face with tips on how to handle them.

Newer Contaminants Are Harder to Remove

Today’s use of medications like birth control and antidepressants has increased. Hormones are being found in aquatic creatures at alarming levels. These prescription medications are hard to filter from wastewater. Even with top-quality equipment a certain level of these medications gets through and is returned to water sources like rivers and lakes.

The U.S. Geological Survey studied fish located about five miles downstream of a water treatment plant. Silt and water samples were also taken. Several antidepressants were found in the water and silt. The same happened with the tissue samples they took from fish. One thing was concerning, the fish had typically had higher levels of the antidepressants than the silt or water did.

The same is being found with one hormone found in birth control pills. A Swedish study found ethinyl-estradiol in roach, salmon, and trout. The fish that tested positive for this synthetic hormone struggle with breeding, which can deplete fish populations. It could diminish the number of fish in the rivers and oceans, which reduces the amount of fish available for food.

Expanding Populations and Business Growth Are Straining Systems

Cities and suburbs are growing faster than many municipal wastewater treatment systems can handle. Many of the nation’s wastewater treatment plants were designed decades ago. They’re not equipped for today’s residential and business usage.

In Huntingburg, Indiana, the city’s wastewater treatment plan is designed for up to 2 million gallons per day. Right now, the average daily flow is 1.4 million gallons. There are tanks to handle overflow on days they happen, but a study found that those tanks could only hold overflow from a day or two. At that point, wastewater goes into lagoons where bleach is added and it’s mixed with treated wastewater and released. If excessive amounts of wastewater happened multiple days, it could be disastrous. Growth is an issue that the city is working hard to address.

Vermont is a state well-known for its craft brewing industry. Some independent beer makers are feeling the strain of older wastewater plants. In Morrisville, two local brewers are worried about the impact of new wastewater rates they face. These rates will cost the breweries upwards of $16,000 per year. Far more than they can afford, but the municipal wastewater treatment plant is overburdened by the wastewater coming from these breweries, too. Stowe’s Alchemist Brewery worked with experts to build their own wastewater system to lessen the load on their town’s wastewater system. It’s something more companies may need to consider.

Outdated Equipment Fails More Often and Uses More Energy

Older equipment does use a lot more energy than today’s models. Upgrading may cost some money, but the savings in energy bills quickly pays for the expense of upgrading equipment. Models are designed to run with minimal interruption and automatically adjust flow rates without the need for a person watching monitors and making changes.

Great Neck Water Pollution District spent $13 million on upgrades. It’s expected that the upgrades will result in $150,000 per year in heating costs and more than $400,000 in savings for utilities. In several years, the upgrades will have been paid off through those savings. It’s a win-win for both the residents and businesses in the area and the water treatment plant.

Other innovative upgrades to consider are systems that convert the gases produced during wastewater treatment into heating fuel for the plant. Some systems reduce energy costs by tapping into solar energy with the installation of solar panels. These are all ideas that municipal wastewater treatment plants are using to boost efficiency and reduce energy.

Upgrades can be affordable investments. Lakeside Equipment has a package headworks system that is pre-engineered and pre-assembled to reduce engineering, installation, and excavation costs. The stainless steel design lowers the risk of corrosion. You can have this cost-effective system customized to suit your needs.

We’re ready to help your municipal wastewater treatment plant boost efficiency and performance. We have parts available if your system requires repairs. Our engineers at Lakeside Equipment also help with plant upgrades and efficient, cost-effective designs. Give us a call and let us know how we can assist you.

The Three Most Difficult Items to Remove From Wastewater

Wastewater is the water that comes from homes and businesses through sewer lines or after a septic tank is pumped. It’s the water from toilet flushes, showers, washing machines, sinks, and dishwashers. As wastewater is filled with fecal matter, urine, household or commercial cleaners, soaps/shampoos, etc., it has to be treated before it can return to water sources or public water supplies.

While this is something wastewater treatment plants do every hour of the day, there are things that homeowners may not think of. Wastewater treatment can only do so much. Three items come from homes and businesses that are very difficult to fully remove from water.

#1 – Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs)

Both prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements are wreaking havoc on wastewater. Even if people dispose of their unused medications correctly, some of those medications make their way into the urine stream. That urine ends up in a water treatment plant where the medications do not fully get removed. One study found that antibiotics and synthetic hormones (birth control) were being found in water sources and the fish living in those rivers and lakes.

It’s found that a secondary wastewater treatment process is still only able to remove a maximum of 95% of the estrogen. Antibacterial soaps that contain triclocarban are even worse. Scientists found that only 25% of the triclocarban in wastewater was removed by the end of the process. Not only are these drugs and chemicals ending up in bodies of water, but there is also the chance that trace amounts are in the water that goes back to homes and businesses. There are concerns that this may increase antibiotic resistance.

Many water treatment plants do not have the equipment needed to test for PPCPs. While scientists say trace amounts are not likely to pose a health risk, there still are questions regarding how to make sure a wastewater treatment plant removes as many PPCPs as possible. Systems with filtration and biological treatments are the best way to remove PPCPs. Older wastewater treatment plants could upgrade to help remove as many drugs and chemicals as possible.

#2 – Nitrites and Nitrates

Nitrates are used as a food additive in many cured meats. People consume them regularly in deli meats, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs.  As the body’s bacteria break down those foods, they convert to nitrite. Nitrites are incredibly harmful to bodies of water as they deplete oxygen and increase algae growth.

A wastewater treatment plant has to remove ammonia from the water it’s treating. Do do this, autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria help oxidize the ammonia, which leads to nitrite. The nitrite is then oxidized using nitrite-oxidizing bacteria, which turns it into nitrogen gas. It all takes energy to run the machines needed to complete the process. At that point, sludge is removed. There’s another process that uses anaerobic ammonia oxidation that cuts out a step. It’s effective and energy-efficient and by the end of it, only a small percentage of that ammonia has been converted to nitrate that gets converted to nitrogen gas.

#3 – Polyethylene and Polypropylene Microbeads

As early as 1972, plastic microbeads started popping up in many products. These tiny plastic beads gained popularity in facial scrubs, body washes, and other products used to buff away dead skin. They were even added to some toothpaste brands. As they are plastic, they don’t break down. The tiny particles of plastic get through water treatment and often end up in large bodies of water where fish and other aquatic creatures ingest or breathe them in. For this reason, the U.S. Government banned plastic microbeads starting in 2017. Manufacturers had to stop using plastic microbeads in their products from that point on.

Despite the ban, people were still able to buy the products containing polyethylene and polypropylene microbeads from retailers and discounters who still had the products in their warehouses. Not everyone understands the danger these plastic pellets pose to the environment. They’re still using them, which means those pellets that can be a fraction of a millimeter in size ends up in a water treatment plant. Wastewater treatment plants that use primary clarification have better success rates at removing microbeads, but the removal rate is still only an average of 87%. Some microplastics still get through.

Let Lakeside Equipment help you upgrade or install a wastewater treatment system that does as much as possible to remove these three difficult contaminants from the water you treat. Our wastewater treatment systems are designed for efficiency and automation. We’re happy to help you with everything you need from screening and trash rakes to grit collection and clarification. Give us a call and let us help you design cost-effective solutions.