Monthly Archives: June 2022

Advancements in Wastewater Cleaning of PFAs

Polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAs for short, include thousands of chemicals found in all kinds of products. They’re an area of growing concern as they’re found in the blood of both animals and humans. PFAs are also being found in the air, the soil, and water. All of that has been a target of change for years, and the EPA is finally taking the necessary steps.

While research is ongoing, it’s believed that exposure to PFAs is harmful. That much is clear. As PFAs make their way into the water, removing them from wastewater is important. It’s leading to advancements in the processes that can be used to remove PFAs from wastewater in wastewater treatment plants and grant money communities can apply for to have financial help at upgrading their equipment.

What Are PFAs?

So, what are PFAs? PFAs are manufactured chemicals found in many household and commercial products. They’re called “forever chemicals” because they don’t easily break down. They’re there building up in the soil, groundwater, and the air.

Many PFAs contain organic fluorine and carbons. Carbon-fluorine is one of the strongest bonds there is, so PFAs last forever. Some can damage the ozone layer when they become airborne. In your body, research is ongoing into exactly what harm they cause.

When it comes to public health, the fact that PFAs don’t break down easily is alarming as studies find that 97% of people have PFAs in their bloodstream. It’s believed that PFAs can impact fertility, increase the risk of certain cancers, and reduce immune system function. PFAs may increase the risk of obesity and metabolism.

There are more than 9,000 kinds of PFAs. Do you have non-stick coatings on your pots and pans? There are PFAs in those coatings. Do you have stain-resistant clothing, furniture upholstery, or carpeting? Again, there are PFAs. You’ll find PFAs in things like cosmetics, personal care products, paint, lawn and garden pesticides, water-resistant clothing, microwave popcorn packaging, and takeout food containers.

Steps have been taken to reduce the number of PFAs in things like water bottles, food containers, and dishware, which is good as it has started to reduce the numbers of PFAs in people and the environment. But, they’re not completely gone.

The government’s attention is turning to what can be done to keep PFAs out of water that’s cleaned and released from wastewater treatment plants. The next steps are to find more effective ways at removing them from wastewater. It’s believed that a new method can help with that, and so far it’s proving to be extremely effective.

What Is the New Method of Cleaning PFAs?

University of California, Riverside found a way to clean PFAs from wastewater using a photochemical reaction. The process involves the addition of iodide and sulfite to wastewater that was in the treatment process. When those two additives are exposed to UV lighting, iodide speeds up a reaction between the PFAs and sulfite, destroying up to 90% of the PFAs in less time and with less energy. It becomes a cost-effective, effective way of removing PFAs.

If wastewater treatment plants switched to this process, it can lead to almost all of the PFAs in wastewater being removed before the wastewater goes back into lakes, rivers, and ponds. This keeps fish and animals from being exposed to as many PFAs, which in turn means humans wouldn’t be eating fish that contain higher PFA levels. Plus, it’s faster, so treatment facilities save money on energy consumption.

How Are PFAs Currently Handled in Wastewater Treatment?

Removing PFAs from wastewater or public water sources can be a costly process. The most effective methods involve the use of high-pressure membranes, anion exchange resin, and granular activated carbon that is formulated specifically to remove PFAs from wastewater. As it’s expensive, it’s not really something that many water districts have thought about until recently. Things are changing, however, as the EPA is taking steps to check for and address contaminated water systems.

In September 2021, the EPA changed three requirements to try to limit the amount of PFAs going to drinking water supplies, waters with aquatic animals, and bodies of water that are used for recreation. Before wastewater can be released to those three water supplies, PFAs from manufacturing plants, metal finishing facilities, and poultry/meat processing plants must have been treated to meet effluent guidelines.

How Could a Wastewater Treatment Plant Incorporate This New Process?

As treatment processes improve, what can you do to be ready? Start by applying for grants.

With 2022 came changes to the Clean Water Act. The new Infrastructure Law is marking millions of dollars to help fight PFAs from entering water systems. The goal is to reduce PFAs being released to bodies of water or being returned to public water systems. Even if there are no standards required in your area yet, you may need to issue health advisories if the wastewater levels exceed the EPA guidelines of:

  • GenX Chemicals – 10 parts per trillion/Minimum reporting at 5 ppt
  • PFBS – 2,000 parts per trillion/Minimum reporting at 3 ppt
  • PFOA – 0.004 parts per trillion/Minimum reporting at 4 ppt
  • PFOS – 0.02 parts per trillion/Minimum reporting at 4 ppt

Now is a good time to address making changes. In June 2022, the EPA announced $1 billion in grants from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These grants will be used to help establish wastewater treatment systems that can remove PFAs from drinking water supplies. If your wastewater treatment plant provides drinking water to a community, especially small or low-income communities, it’s important to apply for these grants and take the next steps to improve water quality.

Even the smallest changes can help. If there are manufacturing plants, metal finishing facilities, or meat and poultry processing plants in your area, make sure they’re treating their industrial wastewater before releasing it into sewers. They should be, and your district should be making sure they’re taking steps to properly treat wastewater before it’s released.

Right now, the tests on iodide and sulfite are still in the early stages. But, you could take some steps to get ahead and be ready to try it out. Look into UV disinfection systems. They’re currently used to help kill germs and microbes. As this technology could become helpful in removing PFAs, it’s a good time to look into using grants to upgrade your existing system with things like granular charcoal filtration and UV disinfection.

Lakeside Equipment offers a full range of equipment to help your wastewater treatment plant clean water in the most cost-effective way possible. Whether you want to upgrade existing equipment or add new equipment and filtration solutions for cleaner water, our experts can help you out. Reach us online or by phone to learn more.

What Leads to Clogs at Wastewater Pump Stations, and How Do You Stop Them?

Clogged pumps in a sewer and wastewater system aren’t new issues, but they have been increasingly frustrating to districts across the nation. The main issues tend to be sanitary wipes that are marketed as flushable that do not break down in the water as quickly as advertised. Double- and triple-ply toilet papers, paper towels, and facial tissues also don’t disintegrate quickly.

 Consumers purchase the items thinking they’re flushable and will dissolve in their wastewater, but they don’t. They build up in pipes, get caught around pumps in the equipment, and lead to blockages that can become costly as sewer and wastewater workers need to locate the blockage and remove it. In South Carolina, a blockage required divers at the cost of $140,000, and that cost ends up driving up prices for households and companies in that municipality.

Recent Clogs That Led to Costly Problems

Back in August, the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal in Delaware was flooded with upwards of 8,000 gallons of raw sewage. Why? A pump station in Lewes developed a clog that caused tremendous issues. At the heart of the clog were unflushable items like baby wipes.

As the clog built in both the lead and secondary pipes, a backup pump took over, but that pump also failed. The sewage backed up into pipes leading to a backflow situation that caused a cleanout lid to open. Sewage then entered the canal. It took workers about six hours to correct the situation.

A few months later, officials in Chaska, Minnesota, posted a picture of a shredded cotton towel that clogged a pump. Lift stations that usually get cleaned every three months were cleaned four times in one week due to clogs.

Why a towel was flushed down a toilet is unknown, but the city made it a goal to inform the public that paper towels, baby wipes, “flushable wipes,” tissues, and menstrual products should not be flushed as they do cause clogs.

The North Charleston Sewer District in South Carolina recently had to bring this issue up again. Not only is this sewer district dealing with baby wipes and flushable wipes that have been flushed down the toilet, but those wipes are mixing with the grease that people are pouring down sinks and solidifying in the sewer lines.

It’s clear that this is an issue that’s occurring across the country. What can sewer districts and wastewater treatment plants do to help put an end to clogs at pump stations?

Educate Those in Your District

You can’t always control what people flush, but they may not know what they are doing is driving up prices. Raise awareness. One of the first steps is to educate the people in your wastewater and sewer district. People see the term flushable and don’t realize that these wipes do not disintegrate as well as advertised

Go on social media and publish pictures of the clogs. If people see how these wipes do not break down effectively, it helps them understand the issues they’re causing. Make it known that it’s best to throw these wipes into the trash.

People may not pay attention to postcards or flyers you place in the mail. But, they may catch ads on Facebook or YouTube, if you have that budget available. Hold an open house with tours of your facility, if possible, and spread the word that way.

Make sure you bring up the different items that are marketed as septic-safe but aren’t. Wipes are just one item that are marketed as flushable but cause problems in sewers and wastewater treatment plants. Tampons, “flushable” cat litter, and toilet bowl scrubbers are other items that do not break down, even though it says they’re septic-safe products.

It’s also useful to point out the risks of untreated sewage being leaked into waterways. If you’re near an ocean, the area shellfish becomes contaminated and is no longer safe to eat. Lakes are exposed to high levels of bacteria and nitrogen, which makes lakes unsafe to swim in and can cause algae blooms to thrive.

Charleston, South Carolina’s District Filed a Lawsuit

South Carolina’s Charleston Water System took a surprising, yet logical step. After spending more than $300,000 to fix blockages and pump failures, they filed a lawsuit against manufacturers and retailers marketing wipes as being “flushable.” Consumers see that a wipe is flushable and don’t realize the damage it can cause to wastewater treatment systems. These flushable wipes and other flushable products like “flushable” cat litter do not disintegrate as people expect.

Kimberly-Clark was the first company to offer a settlement with Charleston Water System. The company is working on a new design to ensure the wipes disintegrate faster.

Upgrading Equipment Helps

Another step a wastewater district and sewer system can do is make sure older equipment is upgraded. Go through your system’s equipment and see how old the pumps, screens, trash rakes, and other components are. Modern equipment may be more effective at removing items that cause blockages. Sometimes, additional screens or more efficient trash rakes can help.

If your district doesn’t have grinder pumps, they can make a big difference. The pumps grind materials, which reduces the risk of a blockage. Grinder pumps work at slow speeds with high torque to grind up items like flushable wipes and cat litter, menstrual pads, paper towels, rags, and things that shouldn’t be flushed.

Another option would be a rotating drum screen. They’re great at capturing finer particles from wipes and tissues that have broken down some and impact wastewater treatment processes. The screenings caught in a rotating drum are compacted, dewatered, and spray washed to remove organics and water that continues to the next stages of wastewater treatment.

Talk to the Experts in Wastewater Treatment Equipment    

It helps to discuss possible upgrades with an expert in wastewater treatment systems. Engineers understand the best ways to come up with ways to prevent future issues. It may be upgrading your equipment or adding equipment that helps lower your energy bills, which balances out the cost of the new screens, pumps, etc.

When you’re moving wastewater, Archimedean screw pumps offer non-clog designs. These systems can be open or closed and are easy to maintain. Because the design helps prevent clogs, you don’t have to pre-screen wastewater. They’re a good choice for wastewater treatment plant lift stations.

Raptor screen products screen, wash, dewater, and compact waste at one time. The stainless steel construction provides longevity, while the all-in-one design handles several components of wastewater treatment at once.

Depending on the capacity of your system and the number of residential and business customers using your system, the best solution will vary. The experts at Lakeside Equipment are happy to discuss the issues you’re having and the best possible solutions. We’ll work with your budget and come up with designs and equipment that lower the risks of blockages and raw sewage releases. Call us to learn more.