Monthly Archives: January 2022

Maximize Infrastructure Funding By Upgrading Your Wastewater District’s Efficiency

The 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s wastewater infrastructure a lousy grade. There are over 16,000 wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S. What’s alarming is that 80% of them are nearing capacity, and 15% are at or over capacity. In 2019, the gap between the money needed for repairs and upgrades versus what was spent was over $80 billion.

When cities and municipalities receive money for upgrades and maintenance, they must prioritize where to spend the money. It’s equally important to properly use the money from the home and business owners in your wastewater district. Before making any improvements, carefully plan how to best spend the money you’ve set aside. What equipment should you upgrade first to maximize your district’s infrastructure? What can you do to lower costs and improve efficiency?

Factor the Growth Within Your Community

Before making any changes, it’s time to sit down and look at the growth trends in your municipality. How much population growth has happened in the past year, five years, or ten years? How long with your current setup before you reach capacity? Are you already there?

If the city is growing faster than your facility can manage, it’s something that you must address with city developers and planners. Impact fees can help offset the burden of each new home on your community’s infrastructure. Make sure those fees bring in the money needed to grow your wastewater treatment plant at a rate that keeps up with the changes. If not, it’s important to speak up sooner rather than later.

You don’t want to run into issues where the wastewater coming in is too much and requires emergency measures. Often, untreated sewage gets released into a lake or river. The fines for this can be excessive, so you have to plan for growth carefully.

Fines aren’t the only issue. In October, a wastewater treatment plant in Maryland had diluted, untreated sewage release into St. George Creek, affecting an oyster farm. The farm’s owners had no idea this had happened and harvested thousands of oysters that refrigerated and shipped to festivals in Northern Virginia. Over two dozen people who ate those oysters became ill, so there is a risk of lawsuits related to food poisoning cases on top of fines.

Invest in Alternative Energy

It’s estimated that up to 10% of a municipality’s budget goes towards energy bills. Much of this comes from the energy needed to run a wastewater treatment plant. You have motors, pumps, computers, and other wastewater equipment running all day and night throughout the year. Electricity alone eats up as much as 40% of a wastewater treatment plant’s operating costs. Saving money isn’t as hard as you might think.

A Palmyra, Wisconsin, wastewater treatment facility upgraded its aerators, reducing energy consumption by 50% and lowering electricity bills by over $1,000 every month.

A Chapel Hill, North Carolina wastewater treatment plant upgraded the aeration system and mixers, saving almost $30,000 a month.

In 2010, Appleton, Wisconsin, added a biogas (methane) boiler to the facility. That change saved the plant more than $8,300 per month. After rebates, the plan spent just over $500,000 for the boiler. Within five years, it’s expected the savings will have offset the expenditure.

Those were minor, cost-effective upgrades that led to impressive savings. It gets even better.

A wastewater district in the Boston area saved around $1.5 million each year by undergoing an energy audit to find where to best make changes. They didn’t make these changes overnight.

Over a decade, the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District spent about $4.5 million making smaller changes like upgrading the aeration system and adding variable-speed pumping system drives. It replaced older lighting with energy-efficient fixtures, installed solar panels, and insulated the digesters.

California’s Moulton Niguel Water District, logical controllers and variable-frequency drives were installed to control pump speeds. The facility saved about $300,000 per year by upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. If you made similar changes at your plant, you could save thousands and offset the cost of the improvements in little time.

The methane produced during wastewater treatment can heat your plant. Upgrade your heating system to trap the methane and reuse it as your primary heating fuel. You don’t have to spend thousands on natural gas, wood, heating fuels, or electricity. Renewable energy is the responsible, cost-effective way to start heating your plant. It also reduces greenhouse gasses.

If you haven’t looked into solar or wind power, it’s time to consider it. You can add solar panels to roofs or empty land. There are solar systems that float on wastewater treatment ponds. If it’s windy in your area, tapping into the wind’s power also helps you generate the electricity needed to power your wastewater treatment facility.

Consider the Savings Gained With Newer Equipment

How much of your equipment is older? Before you consider the changes to make, you should inventory the equipment you have, its age, and how much of your time is spent maintaining it. If you have equipment that is being shut down for maintenance each day or several days per week, it’s time to look into replacing it.

Learn how the energy is used within your plant. Outdated equipment will use a lot of energy, so replacing them helps lower your costs. But, there are other aspects to consider. If a room is empty for hours, do the lights get turned off, or are they on anyway. Motion-activated lighting might be a worthwhile improvement. Are light fixtures older with fluorescent bulbs, or have you upgraded to cheaper LED fixtures?

Upgrading your equipment is an excellent way to reduce your energy consumption. Older pumps use a lot more energy than new pumps designed with energy efficiency in mind. Pumps constantly run as pumps move the wastewater up hills and from one station to another before moving it to the mainline to go into the wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater is pumped through screens and grit removers before going to clarifiers. Sludge and grit are pumped out to be composted, sent to the landfill, or to incinerators. These pumps are always running, and that drives up costs.

Fine bubble aeration is one of the many effective ways to lower costs. If you’re using older aeration systems, upgrading is a smart move. Adding systems that automate the process helps you save more money on electricity bills. Together, aeration and pumping make up an average of 70% of a plant’s energy usage.

Where do you start? The best improvements come down to your current plant design. Automated process controls are one of the first steps to take if you want to reduce energy consumption. If you haven’t automated your plant, it’s time. With a Sharp BNR process control system’s Programmable Logic Controller, water treatment processes are monitored 24/7, and aeration is increased and decreased as needed to maximize efficiency.

Lakeside Equipment’s experts can discuss your goals and help you choose the best areas to upgrade. You’ll gain efficiency while meeting the increasing demand in a growing community. Talk to us about your treatment goals to better understand where your current system isn’t doing as much as it should.

Understanding How the Septage From Rural Septic Tanks Are Processed at a Wastewater Treatment Plant

In some towns and cities, wastewater treatment plants take care of more than wastewater that comes in from the sewers. Rural neighborhoods and villages may be near a city, but they’re too far to connect to the main sewer lines. The home’s wastewater goes into septic tanks at those houses, where it sits for months or years until it’s pumped out and hauled to a septage acceptance plant.

Over 26 million U.S. homes are on a septic system rather than a sewer. Maine and Vermont are leading states, with more than half of all homes being too far from sewer lines. Instead, septic systems are installed underground in the homeowner’s yard. Have you ever wondered how septage is processed or how these systems work?

How a Septic System Works

In city homes, you flush the toilet, run the dishwasher, do the laundry, or take a shower. That water leaves your home through pipes that travel to the main sewer lines. Rural homeowners don’t have that option. Their residences are too far from sewer lines to make it cost-effective to connect to them. Instead, their home’s main septic drain pipe travels through the basement wall or crawlspace and connects to a baffle box leading to a large concrete, fiberglass, or plastic vessel known as a septic tank.

Once the wastewater is in the septic tank, fecal matter and small food particles sink to the bottom, where bacteria break them down into sludge. Oils and fats (scum) float to the top, trapping the liquid sewage between the sludge and the scum. There’s an effluent filter and L-shaped pipe positioned just below the level of the liquid sewage. The liquids travel through the effluent filter and exit through a system of pipes that lead to a leach field.

The leach field is a series of perforated pipes over a porous liner or layer of crushed stone that allow the liquid waste to soak through the base material, filtering out some bacteria, and traveling deeper into the soil. As those liquids travel through the soil layers, the sand and rocks filter more of the bacteria. Eventually, any remaining purified wastewater ends up in the groundwater. This is why regulations require septic systems to be a reasonable distance from private wells.

Not every home has enough slope for liquids to travel into the leach field, or the ground may not drain quickly enough. In that case, a mound system is installed to use pumps to move the wastewater through filters and the manufactured mound before it travels down into the soil and groundwater.

If wastewater isn’t draining fast enough due to a blockage, flooding, or an overfilled septic tank, it can lead to overflowing toilets, sinks, and washing machine drain pipes. It can also cause raw sewage to puddle on the ground. To prevent pollution, homeowners hire local septic companies to pump out septic tanks every few years or less. Three years is the recommendation for the average four-person household. Larger households, duplexes, or apartment complexes need to have their septic tank pumped out more often.

Trucks use suction and hoses to pump out the tank into the back of a septic company’s truck. That hauler will pump out the wastewater from multiple houses and travel to an independent septage pump station or a water treatment plant. There, the wastewater gets filtered, disinfected, and returned to a body of water or a public water system.

What Happens to Septage When It Leaves a House

Septage is a mix of solids, oils/fats, and wastewater. The waste and fats must be separated from the liquids, and that’s one of the first steps when the wastewater reaches a treatment facility. The amount of septage that’s processed impacts the equipment that’s used. A small community may not need as large a system as a facility that serves an entire county.

The wastewater is pumped out of the truck and into the septage treatment or wastewater treatment plant’s screens and grit removal system, where solids and liquid sewage start to separate. Grit removal is used to remove things like coffee grounds that got into the coffee pot, sand, and other fine particulates that may go down the sink when items get washed, or people take showers.

Containers capture these solids where they can be incinerated to create energy or heat. In some areas, they are used as fertilizer. The grease and oils may stick to the walls of the tanks, so that needs to be removed. Scum also needs to be skimmed from the surface and removed from the processing tanks. System designs may include equipment that automatically skims the surface and removes those fats.

The remaining water is aerated to allow bacteria to start breaking down contaminants. Chemicals may be used to help kill any remaining bacteria. The use of chemicals will vary from one plant to the next. If chlorine or similar chemical agents are used, UV is one way to remove excess chlorine before the wastewater goes to water sources or back to homes.

A smaller independent plant may use lime to help the initial process of drawing the water from the solids. Filter presses, sand, or vacuums can also be used to separate the liquid waste from the solids. Odor control is essential as no treatment plant wants to become a nuisance to the neighbors. Enclosed tanks and treatment equipment also keep odors to a minimum.

Turn to the Pros for Your Septage Treatment Needs

Talk to Lakeside Equipment about your wastewater treatment plant’s needs. If you accept septage or want to add the equipment in order to receive it, we’re the experts you need to work with you and make it happen. We have a couple of options.

A Raptor Septage Complete Plant is an all-in-one plant with that screens, removes grit, and can aerate the septage. It’s an all-in-one system that’s ideal for treating wastewater and solids at an independent septage treatment plant. You can even add a grease trap and skimmer for efficiency.

Benefits to the Raptor Septage Complete Plant include:

  • A 3,000-gallon tanker can be unloaded in under 10 minutes
  • Affordable installation and operating costs
  • Combination screening and grit removal requires less space
  • Exterior maintenance access
  • Minimal carbon footprint
  • The optional control system takes care of invoices and reports
  • Optional equipment for reducing odors
  • Optional insulated unit with built-in heating for cold climates
  • Pre-engineered for quicker installation
  • Single-day installation
  • Stainless steel construction for durability

A Raptor Septage Acceptance Plant provides the equipment needed for wastewater treatment plants that handle wastewater trucked in from rural communities and that arrives through sewer lines. It pre-treats septage before it’s mixed into the wastewater coming from businesses and households through the sewers. An optional Acceptance Control System allows haulers to print out reports of the septage they uploaded at the facility.

Benefits to the Raptor Septage Acceptance Plant include:

  • Contained unit for odor control
  • Cost-effective, simple installation
  • Efficient screen cleaning cycles
  • Has a larger capacity
  • Low carbon footprint
  • One-day installation
  • Requires little room
  • Stainless steel reduces corrosion

Let us know your vision and budget. Our experts are happy to discuss the best options and supply the engineers and installers to ensure the upgrade at your wastewater treatment plant goes smoothly.