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Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy found that the annual expenditure on energy used by the nation’s wastewater treatment plants exceeded 30 terawatts. That equates to 30 billion kilowatts. The cost of all that electricity comes to just over $2 billion using average 2020 electricity rates.

Electricity makes up about a quarter to half of a wastewater treatment plant’s budget. To keep costs down, municipal wastewater treatment plant efficiency must be a top priority. Not only does it reduce energy usage, but it also helps make sure a plant is meeting the needs of the growing population. An efficient plant can help reduce downtime from maintenance and repairs with upgraded equipment.

Establish a System for Energy Management

Start by establishing an energy management system. ISO 50001 says that an energy management system is a set of policies and objectives to help manage energy followed by the steps taken to follow through and continually monitor and manage energy use.

You need to understand what uses energy within your plant. Think about office equipment, water treatment equipment, fans, and lighting. Pay close attention to the things that use more electricity than others. Older equipment is going to be less efficient than newer ones. Even little changes like upgrading fluorescent lighting fixtures to LED ones help you start saving money. Consider every part of your plant to start creating a comprehensive blueprint of what’s in your wastewater treatment plant and how much energy it uses.

Leaders within the municipality should create energy-efficiency and cost-cutting goals as they look at everything within the plant. Start coming up with ways to meet those goals and commit to the measures that need to be taken. Do not be unrealistic. It’s hard to make something happen if the odds are already against you. Upgrading all of your aerators, pumps, etc. may be ideal, but if you’re short on money, it’s not realistic. Instead, look at things other plants have done that worked well, get a better understanding into how much those changes would cost, and see if you could make that work for your municipality.

If you plan to reduce electricity consumption by 25%, start looking into the ways you can make that goal happen. You might want to offset how much power you get from the local power plant by adding solar panels to your wastewater treatment plant. Maybe upgrading to newer aerators or pumps will help you reduce energy use by 35%. If that would work, start researching the cost of new pumps versus the savings you’ll gain in the next months and years. Often, upgrades pay for themselves in a year or two.

Equipment Upgrades That Improve Efficiency

There are two ways to approach upgrades. Improve performance and it reduces your operating costs. Something as simple as a new grit removal system can lower costs by allowing for the highest level of aeration and improving the volume in digester tanks, both are essential steps in wastewater treatment.

Automate your plant and you’ll save money. When you have equipment that is automating the process, it lowers power consumption. A process control system monitors the different stages of wastewater treatment and can lower pump and motor speeds. It wastes energy if you have pumps running at full speed at hours when incoming wastewater from sewers and septic haulers is barely flowing.

Wastewater often contains grit. That grit can be sand that’s rinsed off after a day at the beach. Coffee grounds that get rinsed from cups and reusable coffee filters. Small food particles that go through a garbage disposal also can lead to grit. Some wastewater treatment plants see an average of more than 13 cubic feet of grit remaining after treating a million gallons of wastewater. That grit can impact efficiency and cost your plant money in repairs and maintenance. A high-quality grit removal system improves efficiency and reduces wear and tear on parts within wastewater treatment equipment.

Lakeside Equipment specializes in high-efficiency screw pumps. They’re designed to be efficient and lower your electricity costs for the entire life of the screw pump. There are enclosed and open screw pumps. Open screw pumps are designed to be up to 75% efficient. Type C enclosed screw pumps are up to 86% efficient, while Type S enclosed are up to 75% efficient.

Alternative Energy Sources

Look at ways to power your wastewater treatment plant that doesn’t rely solely on grid electricity. What are your options when it comes to renewable energy? Here are the two most common options and their pros and cons.

#1 – Solar Power

Solar power requires panels that are installed either on a roof or on supports on the ground. The panels capture the sun’s rays and convert them to a DC current that’s sent to an inverter where it is converted to AC power. That power is used to power the plant. If any is left over, it’s sent to the grid. Solar power generates on cloudy days but not at the same rate as on a sunny day.

Solar is expensive starting out, but energy-improvement grants and leasing programs may help. Talk to your local electricity company for advice on what programs are available. Some are strictly for residences, but others consider plants and businesses.

Snow covering the panels will temporarily stop production. Some solar companies recommend that you don’t clear the snow, especially if you’re leasing the panels. If you live in a snowy region, you may need to pair solar with your city or town’s grid electricity. This can be one of the biggest downfalls to solar.

In 2019, a 137-kilowatt/hour solar array was installed to provide power to the Sprague Wastewater Treatment Plant in Connecticut. That array is estimated to meet 80% of the plant’s electricity needs. Some of the energy is sold back to the town to help cover the initial cost.

On average, solar panels have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years before their production dwindles. Once they no longer produce, they have to be replaced. Recycling solar panels is still a new process. Components include metal, photovoltaic cells, plastic, glass, and silicon or film that covers the panels. Recycling takes time and training to break down the different components. Few states in the U.S. have policies regarding solar panel recycling. Europe is a leader in solar panel recycling, but it’s expensive to ship them overseas. You have to consider what it will cost to dispose of the panels at the end of their life.

#2 – Wind Power

Windmills or wind turbines have been around for over a century. When the wind blows, it moves the blades. Those blades are attached to a rotor that spins a generator to produce electricity. That electrical current goes to a transformer where it is converted into a voltage that travels through electrical lines to the grid that’s used to power the wastewater treatment plant.

Rhode Island’s Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment Plant paid to have wind turbines installed. The $14 million installation may seem like a lot, but the power generated by the three wind turbines cut the plant’s electricity bill by over $1 million a year.

Wind power is one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy, but you need space for the turbines. They can be noisy and not everyone finds them appealing to look at. That can draw complaints from homeowners who live close by. That can make it difficult to get the permits needed. The other drawback is that wind isn’t a constant. A stretch of non-windy days will affect production.

Partner with Lakeside Equipment to discuss, plan, and install equipment upgrades to improve your municipal wastewater plant’s efficiency. Our engineers and sales team have decades of expertise in the best ways to lower energy costs while considering population growth and quality wastewater treatment at the same time.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Construction

A wastewater treatment plant is only as good as it’s designed to be. If you cut corners and fail to consider growth, demand, and equipment durability, you end up wasting money. If you try to get the system constructed and up and running too quickly, it’s just as likely that costly issues will arise.

The EPA estimates that pre-construction alone can take up almost three years. Construction can take up to five years. The larger the plant, the longer it can take. This is why it’s important to partner with an expert in wastewater treatment plant construction with each step.

Five Steps to a Wastewater Treatment Plant Construction

Any wastewater construction project has five key steps. It starts with initial research and project planning and progresses to getting land and permits, construction, and testing operations. It sounds simple, but each of these steps is complex and must be carefully completed.

#1 – Initial Research

Prior to any wastewater treatment plant project, you need to do your research. You need to look into your available funds through grants, loans, etc. The system you design needs to provide the capacity you need. If your plant will be supporting 35,000 homes and businesses, you have to think about the land that’s currently being developed. Talk to town managers and zoning boards to see what goals have been set when it comes to development.

How many households or businesses will your system be supporting a year, five years, or a decade from now? It’s better to plan larger than needed to avoid having a system that’s at capacity and needs upgrades before you’ve paid off any loans and can comfortably afford upgrades without drastically increasing the fees or taxes those in your wastewater district have to pay.

Your plant will need power. Do you want to have solar panels added to help power the plant? Will you be incorporating boilers that can burn the solid waste that’s removed during water treatment? Burning the leftover solids can slash your heating bills and save money. If you’re being connected to the local power grid, make sure you’ve talked to them about costs and how to run lines from the nearest poles and substation to your new plant.

You also need to install roads. You need to see where the best access points are to main roads and do traffic studies to see if the extra traffic will cause traffic jams. You also have to make sure that trucks hauling waste from homes and businesses with septic systems aren’t going to be overweight.

Finally, look at where there is enough available land for a wastewater treatment plant. You may not be able to build it where you first hoped if there is no land for sale or lease. While looking at availability, you also have to stop and think about the pros and cons of buying the land outright versus leasing it.

#2 – Project Planning

You need to hold meetings with shareholders, government agencies, and owners to discuss a budget. Go over possible delays and issues and figure out the best ways to address problems. If you have a plan in place, an unexpected issue with weather, permits, or illness can quickly be resolved.

While figuring out the budget, you also want to consider how much the people in the district can afford in extra taxes. If you can find ways to save money, it helps them out. They’re less likely to be upset by the cost of a new plant if the impact on their living expenses isn’t great.

What types of wastewater will your plant handle? Will you also be dealing with storm runoff? Is it only going to be piped in from the sewer system or will you have a hauled waste receiving system, too? Maybe you need both? Do you want to pick and choose the equipment that’s installed or would an all-in-one system like a Raptor Complete Plant be better for your needs?

You can take time researching all of the equipment, flow rates, and capacities on your own, but will you understand all of the intricate differences. That’s why it’s better to hire engineers that specialize in wastewater treatment to help you make these decisions.

As you go through all of this, create checklists to follow during the permitting and construction phase. You’ll go over these checklists with the company you hire to help you with the construction and installation of your wastewater treatment plant.

#3 – Permits

You have your plans in place. The budget is set and funds are available. You’ve chosen the company you want, and they’ve lined up engineers and technicians to work with you. Before construction can start, permits must be acquired. Not only do you need building permits from the town or city, but you also have to have permits from the EPA.

The EPA is going to set limits on how much untreated sewage is allowed to be discharged if storm runoff levels are higher than expected. A Pollution Abatement Facility Operator License is needed. Your wastewater treatment plant will need to be classified depending on if it is low flow or high flow.

#4 – Construction

With a new wastewater treatment plant, you’re not just constructing the plant. You’re also creating the roads that lead to your plant, getting utilities connected, and putting in any additional buildings that are needed for storage or administrative functions.

Someone needs to keep the project on schedule. You’ll have engineers working with construction managers to make sure workers stay on track. If there are going to be delays, you’ll need to understand why. Every day of extra labor and delays will eat into your budget. It doesn’t take long before you’re running over the budget and struggling to come up with the extra funds.

#5 – Testing Operations

Once the wastewater treatment plant’s construction is done. You have to run tests to ensure everything is running. You don’t want to open straight up into full capacity before the team has tested to make sure the pumps are working properly and that nothing is leaking. Once the system is up and running, you need to keep testing the cleaned water to make sure it meets requirements. Computerized systems and monitoring can make this easier to manage.

Questions to Ask Your Project Partners

Before you choose a partner to help you plan, choose the right equipment, and get your plant operational, you need to know how to choose the right company. This choice is the most important one you’ll make. How do you know how to find the right company? You need to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers.

Start by asking the company about their experience. Lakeside Equipment began designing, developing, and installing water purification systems in the 1920s. We pride ourselves in creating high-quality systems that match our clients’ budgets. Using the most current CAD programs, we design systems that are meant to exceed expectations that require minimal maintenance in many situations. Field engineers are on-site for installations.

Ask for details about projects the company has worked on. Morgan City, Utah, needed a new wastewater treatment plant to meet the needs of a growing community. The city worried about the current system’s downtime while the new system was readied. They opted to have Lakeside Equipment install a stainless steel H-PAC system, which was oversized to increase the peak flow to exceed the estimated peak flow rate for the next 20 years. Morgan City has since found that maintenance is minimal and the new wastewater treatment plant is exceeding expectations.

Give Lakeside a call. Our specialists are happy to help you plan and construct a wastewater treatment plant that helps you as much as Morgan City’s new system is helping them.

Understanding Food and Beverage Wastewater Solutions

Many companies in the food and beverage industry create massive amounts of wastewater each day. Take beer for example. A pint of beer is around 95% water, but far more water is used up making that pint of beer. It’s estimated that you need as much as seven gallons of water to make one gallon of beer. Of that, about 70% of that water is discharged as wastewater to city sewers.

Now, think about it this way. The entire U.S. beer industry sold just over 203 million barrels of beer during 2019 One barrel is about 31 gallons, so about 6.29 trillion gallons of beer were sold in 2019. That means more than 44 trillion gallons of water were used to make all of that beer and an estimated 30.8 trillion gallons became wastewater.

That’s just the beer industry. If you think about all of the other food and beverage industries that produce wastewater, it’s easy to see how problems arise. If you have a wastewater district that accepts wastewater from the area’s breweries, meat processing plants, dairy plants, wineries, etc. that’s a lot of liquid. Too much poses the risk of overwhelming a plant. If the wastewater is released before it’s treated, it can harm the area’s wildlife and increase pollutants in area water sources. This is why it’s so important for the food and beverage industry to carefully consider wastewater solutions.

What’s in Your Wastewater?

You need to consider what’s in the effluent you produce. Wastewater treatment plants must meet local, state, and/or federal guidelines on the contaminants in water that’s released. Bacteria like coliform must meet the maximum levels. Restrictions are also in place for things like biological oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, phosphorus, nitrogen, and total suspended solids.

Breweries often produce high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. That’s the first part of the problem. Grains and hops must be filtered to prevent them from clogging lines. Plus, the gritty grains can damage equipment. There’s also the sludge from the yeast. If you’re a contributor to the higher levels of suspended solids, bacteria, and nutrients, you may pay sizable fees to be connected to that wastewater district.

A plant that processes poultry, pork, or beef may contribute to higher coliform counts due to the animals’ intestinal tracts and feces that are removed and rinsed from the floors. Ammonia counts can be higher with larger animals that urinate on the floors. Fat from the animal and its blood also poses a problem.

Dairy plants that make cheese or yogurt have bacteria that are flushed away at the end of the production cycle. Like a meat processing plant, there are also fats and greases to consider.

How Can Companies Better Manage Their Wastewater?

If you look at the amount of water used by many companies in the food and beverage industry, it’s substantial. The amount of wastewater produced is also immense. It often becomes cost-effective for companies to recycle their water for reuse or start the cleaning process before the effluent goes to a local wastewater treatment plant. These companies have implemented wastewater solutions within their businesses.

Alchemist Brewery in Vermont

Take Alchemist Brewery in Vermont for instance. The popularity of Heady Topper and Focal Banger had people coming from around the world to try the beer. When the demand became too much at their second facility, they decided to open a visitor’s center in Stowe and open a cannery in Waterbury. The brewery has a lot of organic matter from the yeast, hops, grains, and malt sugars. They started sending them to Vermont Technical College’s anaerobic digesters to create energy and fertilizer for area farms.

At the same time, the visitor center had room for the brewery to put in its own water treatment system. The wastewater goes into a settling tank before going to the pumping tank. Solids go to an aerobic digester where as much as 6,500 gallons are treated each week. The water that’s sent back to the water district is already cleaned, which lessens the impact on the wastewater treatment plant.

Two Cheesemakers Install Their Own Wastewater Treatment Plants

Cheesemakers process a lot of cream and milk with cultures that turn it into curds and whey. Those curds become some of the cheeses people buy at specialty shops and grocery stores. Not only is water consumption high, but the whey and bacteria become a lot for a water treatment plant to process. Rothenbühler Cheese aimed to solve this by adding an on-site water treatment plant.

A few years ago, Rothenbühler Cheese hired a wastewater treatment expert to design and install an anaerobic wastewater treatment system containing pumps that send the wastewater to a digester tank. It continues to a membrane bioreactor. The biogas that’s produced during water treatment is captured and used in the plant’s dual-fuel boiler.

Montchevre is another cheesemaker that installed an anaerobic digestion system after weighing the pros and cons of anaerobic digestion and sequencing batch reactors (SBR). This system cleans the wastewater and produces electricity from the resulting biogas at the same time. While you might think the cost of installing such a system is expensive, they were able to use special funding programs from the government to afford the upgrades.

Sometimes Wastewater Districts Must Expand

Some wastewater districts expand their treatment plants instead. In North Carolina, production at the Tyson chicken processing plant steadily increased, but that also put the wastewater district at max capacity. Heavy rains were putting the plant at risk of releasing untreated effluent, which is not ideal. While the district has no restriction on the amount of wastewater that can be released into the area river, there are limits on the biological oxygen demand.

To resolve this problem, the town officials decided it’s time to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant to make sure that the equipment does an exceptional job of treating the water. With a plant expansion, the district cleans the water, releases it to the river, and doesn’t change the biological oxygen demand. Experts in wastewater treatment will help design the upgraded system.

If your town needs to look at increasing capacity, it’s important. Recover the cost by working with area food and beverage manufacturers to upgrade and enlarge your wastewater treatment plant.

What if You’re Short on Space?

A Package Extended Aeration Treatment Plant is a good solution for those in the food and beverage industry. It has a compact design, which is ideal for a company that doesn’t have a lot of space available.

What does this all-in-one water treatment system include? It’s designed to screen, aerate, clarify, disinfect, and contain sludge in one tank. This makes it very easy to install. You get a Closed Loop Reactor Process where the mixing and extended aeration take place in an outer loop before it goes to the inner Spiraflo Clarifier for the final settling process.

Is your water district looking for ways to be more cost-effective and efficient? Do you own a food or beverage company? If you think an on-site treatment plant could help your impact on your area wastewater treatment plant, see what it would take to build your own small plant. You may find you save money by reducing or stopping the fees you pay to be part of that district.

Lakeside Equipment’s specialists help design systems of all sizes. Let us know what your goals are and what budget you have. We’ll help you establish a wastewater treatment system that matches your needs.

How Data & Analytics Can Improve Industrial Wastewater Operations

Industrial waste is cleaned before it is sent back to your company’s production lines, a local water source, or allowed to enter city sewers to go for treatment in your local waste district’s water treatment plant. As the wastewater produced in different industries can be full of pollutants, treating the water is important. The food industry may have high levels of ammonia, fat, and coliform bacteria. Power stations can have high levels of heavy metals. Treating water from these industries must be done correctly to prevent harm to people or the environment.

Managers and owners of industrial operations must carefully monitor and analyze each aspect of wastewater operations. Why? It’s important when it comes to your company’s bottom line. You need to make sure wastewater is treated effectively. You don’t want to risk releasing untreated overflow or water that doesn’t meet current guidelines for some reason. Fines for the release of untreated or poorly treated water can be costly both in terms of money and in damage to your company’s reputation. You also need to make sure you’re not wasting money on inefficient operations and excessive maintenance.

Optimizing industrial wastewater treatment is best done by paying attention to the data your systems collect. Use your operational data to look for trends and patterns in all stages of the wastewater treatment process. If you have updated wastewater equipment, it’s easy to capture data and analyze it. From there, you can predict trends, optimize your processes, and get the best practices in place for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

What Can You Learn From Data Collection and Wastewater Analytics?

What can you learn as you analyze your data? There’s a lot to be learned. An efficient wastewater treatment plant is one that handles the highs and lows, doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and repairs, and provides real-time reports to ensure water meets standards before it’s recycled or returned to a body of water. Through predictive analysis, you should be able to get a better understanding of these five areas.

First, you’re able to see what equipment is not operating as well as it can. If you have machines that are often down for maintenance, it’s costing you money. It’s impacting your wastewater treatment processes. You’ve collected data and find that one piece of equipment struggles to keep up with flow rates. Upgrading may be what it takes to have a more productive wastewater treatment system.

Second, you can track energy usage and flow rates. There may be specific times of day that wastewater rates slow down and other times when they peak. If pumps are operating at the same speed during all of these changes, it’s wasting energy. You can cut energy costs by creating systems that better accommodate the highs and lows.

Third, you’ll see where chemicals are used and if they’re being overused or not used enough. This helps keep your chemical costs to a minimum while also meeting the requirements for the water quality being released to a body of water or reused.

Fourth, you can look at the wastewater you do have and see if there are better ways to reuse it or clean it for release into the environment. Recycling wastewater is one of the best ways to keep costs down. If you could reuse water several times, you’re saving money on water bills. You don’t want dirty water impacting production. Data and analytics help you find the right balance.

Fifth, the other benefit to analytics in wastewater treatment has to do with your equipment. Say you’re seeing data that shows one pump is often breaking down and needing maintenance. You can see how much extra time and money is being spent on repairs. You’ll know if the equipment is still worth keeping or if it’s time to replace it.

How Do You Collect the Data You Need?

Of course, there are hurdles companies face when collecting the information. If even one piece of equipment isn’t connected and communicating with the others, data will be missing. That makes it hard to get a complete picture of the treatment process and quality. Data management tools that connect everything become essential. You may need to invest in additional training so that you and your employees understand what the data means and how to use it to your advantage.

You’re probably already taking the first big step in collecting data at each key point of your water treatment measures. If you have a SCADA system like many industrial settings, you have access to important data. You’re seeing the flow rates as water comes into the screens and grit collectors. You get measurements of the pollutants in the water that’s being treated. Before it’s released, you can see the numbers and make sure they meet federal and state standards. Pair the SCADA system with modern control systems and you have all of the information you need to start analyzing your plants’ processes.

A Sharp Biological Nutrient Removal (SharpBNR) control system helps you monitor your system and adjust aeration as needed to balance the oxygen levels in the wastewater as it’s treated. The computerized control system continually monitors the system status and makes adjustments. Alarms go off if there are problems beyond the system’s scope.

SharpBNR can be partnered with your plant’s SCADA system. Within a SCADA system, you have sensors taking readings at different pieces of wastewater equipment. Readings typically include measurements for flow rates, suspended solids, pump speeds, and Dissolved Oxygen. Those readings are shown on a screen for supervisors and operators. Each screen, grit pump, basin, etc. shows yesterday’s flow and today’s flow. That data can be analyzed to look for unusual changes and peak hours.

As your system begins to analyze the numbers, it learns the necessary adjustments to effectively manage each component. You can also add motor starters and Variable Frequency Drives with the SharpBNR for optimal management. As this information is available from any authorized and connected computer terminal, you can monitor readings from your office and get alerts wherever you happen to be at that moment.

What does that mean? The system is going to be more reliable than it has been because the computer can monitor several components at the same time. Instead of having workers in different areas communicating what they’re seeing, the computer has all of the information in real-time. Adjustments are made by the computer, which continues monitoring the changes and making small adjustments until everything is running smoothly. That reduces energy costs at the same time.

You do need to keep the sensors clean so that the data that’s returned is accurate. While your maintenance team may not be doing as much on repairs, remember they’ll be beneficial at cleaning and calibrating older sensors. This ensures you have accurate information to use as you analyze your industry’s water treatment processes.

SCADA systems are great at real-time tracking and giving warnings of problems as they come up, the systems don’t do as well at predicting future problems weeks or months in advance. Smart analytics fills this gap. Analyzing the data carefully is one way to predict machines or components that are reaching their end-of-life stages.

How modern is your equipment? Would upgrading help you? If your older wastewater equipment lacks some of today’s computerized controls, it can turn data and predictive analytics into a time-consuming task. Talk to Lakeside Equipment about your current set up and learn ways to make your industrial wastewater operations more cost-effective and efficient.

Ways to Reduce Operator Time Spent on Wastewater Operations

In 2019, the median pay for wastewater treatment plant and system operators was just under $23 an hour. It’s an important job, but it’s also imperative that districts try to manage costs for the residents and businesses in that area. Optimizing your workforce is an important step, but it’s just the first step to take.

There’s another reason to optimize your employment strategies. The recent pandemic is forcing wastewater treatment districts to make sure employees are spaced for social distancing. With a goal of six feet, careful planning is important. Plus, some workers may be unable to return to work if they have COVID-19 or are caring for someone with the virus. Thought needs to go into the adjustments that keep the right staffing levels without sacrificing productivity.

How do you best manage your employees and make sure the time spent on wastewater treatment operations isn’t wasted time? How do you optimize your operator’s time? These are the best ways to cut costs without sacrificing work quality.

Evaluate the Strengths and Weaknesses in Your Current Wastewater Treatment System

Complete a thorough site review. Look at the equipment you have in your wastewater facility and track flow rates, the amount of maintenance that’s performed each week, month, or year, and how old it is. See how many hours the equipment is at peak flow rates and when the wastewater isn’t coming in as fast. In many communities, morning showers and dinner hours are going to be the busiest. See if that matches up with what the operators experience each day.

Take time to ask the operators of that equipment how comfortable they are and if they encounter frequent issues. If there are problems, what has to be done to fix them. How many hours are operators spending on fixing issues or waiting for maintenance? Now, ask them how much time they spend sitting back and monitoring the different processes. This impacts productivity.

Look at the growth in your district. If the population has increased by 20% in the past couple of years, you have to consider how well your system can keep up with the growth. It could be time to rethink things and plan a major upgrade.

Is weather impacting the amount of wastewater entering the system? Has winter snow accumulation drastically increased over the past decade? Are sudden downpours or an increase in hurricanes more frequent than in the past? You can’t control the weather, but you can design a system that handles the unexpected and more frequent stormwater rushing into the plant.

Put Extra Time and Energy Into Training

Productivity also relies on the employees you have. Operators need to know what they’re doing and how to accommodate any surprises that pop up during the day. If you run into employees who seem to struggle more than others, they may just need some additional training. Look into workshops for them or put them with your best worker to hone their skills.

People learn at different rates. What took one operator a week to learn may take someone else two weeks. Try not to rush workers who are doing their best. If you train them too fast, they’re more likely to make mistakes. Operators who are pushed to learn quickly and don’t feel supported may just walk away. Can you afford to lose an employee and have to start from scratch?

On the other hand, you don’t want to waste time training a worker who is more interested in checking a phone than working. You should take time with someone who is trying hard to master the equipment, but you need to know when it’s a lost cause. Try to spot the dedicated employees from those who simply want the money and aren’t willing to put in an effort. The quicker you can weed out the good from the bad, the more time you’ll be able to dedicate to training the right people.

Embrace Automation and Real-Time Monitoring

When your operators are spending a lot of time fixing issues and manually changing settings, it wastes their time. Embrace automated wastewater treatment equipment that uses modern technology like real-time monitoring and adjusts settings automatically. You still need wastewater treatment plant operators, but they have a helping hand in meeting efficiency goals.

You want a system with real-time monitoring. When equipment points out problems at the exact moment they happen, it’s far more helpful than learning that something’s wrong as wastewater backs up or exits the plant before the raw sewage is properly treated. Untreated raw sewage during heavy rainfall or flooding isn’t ideal and can lead to fines. Real-time monitoring adjusts for increased flow rates and makes changes accordingly.

Computers help operators with efficiency and water treatment quality. Look for equipment that has computerized systems that can handle the routine tasks and alert the operator to potential problems before things get really bad.

Use the Sharp Biological Nutrient Removal (SharpBNR) process control system to monitor and optimize aeration rates during wastewater treatment. If more aeration is needed, the computer automatically adjusts rotor speeds. If aeration can be slower, again the computer will take care of it. SharpBNR is easily paired with SCADA to make sure water treatment processes are meeting goals. The system is designed to send out alerts and alarms as warnings of issues to make sure nothing gets overlooked.

Upgrade to Low-Maintenance Equipment

It’s a good time to look at upgrading older equipment with equipment that doesn’t require the same amount of maintenance. You’ll save money on maintenance, have less downtime, and increase productivity. Your maintenance team may not need to be as heavily staffed, and you’ll be able to transfer workers to other areas where they’re needed.

Start with the screw pumps. Depending on your plant’s size, you may need to save space with a Type C Enclosed Screw Pump. If you have plenty of space, an Open Screw Pump may work better. Your key consideration needs to be clog-free designs that improve efficiency.

Screening products are another component in wastewater treatment plant efficiency. The Raptor Multi-Rake Bar Screen uses a set of rakes to get into the screen’s openings to remove debris quickly and completely. This system is designed to be low maintenance and goes into reverse to free up jams.

Those are good places to start. Look at your list of current wastewater treatment equipment and see what’s older and going through frequent repairs. Upgrading that equipment is ideal. If it’s simply not in the budget, replacing worn parts is the second-best option. Energy-efficient motors and pumps will make a difference.

Partner With an Expert

When it’s decided that you should upgrade or replace equipment, select engineers and installers who will make sure your system meets your budget and exact needs. Choose your partner in wastewater treatment upgrades carefully. You need to balance costs with expertise, and some companies just don’t have the same experience as others.

Have you considered having experts walk through your wastewater treatment plant and offer suggestions for optimizing your system? It’s a good place to start. Lakeside Equipment’s engineers design efficient, cost-effective systems that are customized to a client’s needs.

Lakeside Equipment’s foundations go back 92 years. Our experts have helped communities across the U.S. plan, engineer, and maintain their water treatment systems. We provide quality wastewater treatment equipment that’s designed to meet your budget and operation goals. Give us a call to discuss your needs.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Efficiency Tips

How do you make your wastewater treatment plant energy efficient? It’s estimated that upwards of 60% of a plant’s operating expenses are electricity costs. The EPA believes that around 4% of all U.S. electricity usage occurs in wastewater treatment. It also results in over 45 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Before taking any steps to improve your plant’s efficiency, look into an energy audit. It will help you create a blueprint of what equipment uses the most energy. That gives you the important first step into figuring out where to upgrade equipment and technology in order to cut costs.

Once you’ve completed an audit, pay attention to energy use from one week to the next. Are there extreme increases in usage? Do they happen as expected in the morning rush when people are getting to school or work and again at night when people return home? Those increases are expected. If you’re seeing a drastic increase at 2 a.m., there could be a problem that needs to be addressed.

While upgrades and changes to your water treatment system can cost some money, you can’t automatically dismiss it due to the cost. Over the next months and years, the money you’ve spent is likely to be paid back just in savings on your plant’s electricity bills. These are some of the areas of concern and changes you should consider making.

Add an On-Site Renewable Energy Source

Have you thought about investing in a renewable energy source at your plant? Solar and wind are possible options. With grants and solar rebates, it’s possible to pay very little to have this type of system installed.

In a sunny location, solar panels can draw the energy from the UV rays and convert it to electricity. Wind turbines do the same. How well they work depends on your location. If your water treatment plant is located in an area where the sun shines most days, solar energy is a must. Even in areas where there’s a mix of sunny days and rainy ones, you will generate some energy on rainy days, too.

Prineville, Oregon, decided to upgrade the water treatment plant with solar panels. They worked out an arrangement with the city to slash power bills in half. Westlake Solar Panels installed panels on seven acres at the wastewater treatment plant without a charge. In return, Westlake will provide a lower electricity rate that is low enough to cut the wastewater treatment plant’s electricity bills from an average of $200,000 a year to $100,000.

Not every day is windy, but a higher elevation or valley may have consistent breezes. Those winds can turn the blades on a wind turbine and create some of the power needed to run a wastewater treatment plant. If it’s windy in your area, wind turbines are beneficial at cutting electricity bills.

Rhode Island’s Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment Facility received a grant to study wind power. The plant spends about $2.5 million each year on electricity. By spending $14 million installing three wind turbines, estimates were that the plant would save over $1 million each year and also reduce greenhouse gases.

Check for Leaks and Malfunctions and Make Repairs ASAP

You don’t want wastewater lines leaking all over. It lowers pressure and can affect efficiency. It’s also messy and takes extra work to clean up leaks. Broken or malfunctioning equipment is also going to impact efficiency. There’s another important factor to consider. You could be fined if you released untreated wastewater into the environment.

You should be checking your equipment regularly to make sure things are working as expected. If repairs are needed, delaying them can impact productivity, use more electricity, and end up costing you more. A strong maintenance team is a great defense here. If you have a team who are experienced in diagnosing, troubleshooting, and determining when a piece of equipment has outlived its usefulness, you’ll have someone who can quickly get your equipment back up and running and let you know when it’s time to upgrade to something new.

Purchase Systems Controls That Use SCADA Feedback

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a system that analyzes equipment in a plant and uses the data it gathers to tell systems controls what to do using that real-time information. With SCADA managing controls, it makes sure flow rates and pumps and other equipment are in sync to prevent overflows. If something is way off, it can set off alarms and alert workers.

Suffolk County Department of Public Works installed a SCADA system to manage the sewer system in Long Island. Doing so saved the county more than $180,000 each year. In just one year, the system helped Suffolk County reduce emergency calls and allow technicians to stop having to travel miles to inspect over 80 pump stations each day.

Update Lighting Fixtures

Some older wastewater treatment plants still use fluorescent lighting and fixtures that use up far more electricity than necessary. If you upgrade your plant’s lighting to energy-efficient LED fixtures, you can save a lot of money.

Oklahoma’s A.B. Jewell Water Treatment Plant upgraded hundreds of fluorescent, metal halide, and high-pressured sodium light fixtures to LED ones. That cut energy consumption by almost 450,000 kWh each year resulting in an annual savings of $22,000. Plus, the new light fixtures and bulbs were still working perfectly five years later, so maintenance costs were minimal.

Installing Newer HVAC Systems

Some plants have also turned to trapping methane from the water treatment process and using methane for heating. It can drastically reduce heating bills for plants that rely on more expensive heating fuels. Geothermal heating is another option.

In Appleton, Wisconsin, the wastewater treatment plant was heated with cost-effective natural gas. The plant upgraded to a biogas boiler in 2019 and is saving $100,000 in heating costs. It dropped natural gas usage by up to 90%. The cost of the new biogas boiler was just shy of $800,000 and they received a $167,000 rebate for the upgrade. In the end, it’s expected that the savings will pay off the cost of the boiler upgrade in just six years.

Upgrade Aged Water Treatment Equipment

Is upgrading worth the expense? If your equipment is older, there are three reasons to consider an upgrade. One, today’s technology helps plants run at optimal efficiency while using as little electricity as possible. Two, it helps prevent plant overload that leads to raw sewage getting released to the nearby river or lake. Three, older equipment is more likely to break down, which can lead to expected downtime and costly repairs.

Even newer equipment may not suit your needs. If there’s been a rush of growth in your area, you may be straining your system with more homes and businesses than your system was designed to manage. Newer equipment will meet the increased demand.

Older equipment hasn’t been designed to reduce electricity consumption. Newer pumps and blowers help to cut electricity bills. Entire components can increase productivity when needed and turn things off during slower times.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, they updated the blowers on their aeration equipment in two plants. By switching to energy-efficient blowers, they cut electricity usage in half. The Albert Lea Wastewater Treatment Plant in Minnesota installed a combined heat-power system and saved around $100,000 every year.

Even a small change at your wastewater treatment plant can make a huge difference. Lakeside can help you plan the right upgrades to cut your power bills and help your plant run at optimal efficiency. Reach us by phone or email to discuss your energy-efficiency goals.

How COVID-19 Will Impact Wastewater Treatment

Every corner of the country has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Across the nation, there have been more than 5.75 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 177,700 deaths. It’s alarming to think of how fast this virus has spread during 2020. One area people don’t think about is the impact of COVID-19 on wastewater treatment.

While it might not be something you stop to consider, COVID-19 has impacted the wastewater treatment industry, too. It’s affected wastewater treatment in several ways ranging from increased residential wastewater to clogged pipes and equipment. There’s also the fact that the body does shed the virus through the waste that ends up in the wastewater traveling through sewer lines and into residential septic systems.

The CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have started a surveillance program to track the levels of COVID-19 in wastewater. While no one has found evidence of the virus spreading through wastewater (treated or untreated), the virus is present in the feces of those who have the virus. By studying patterns, experts know where they should be looking for COVID-19 clusters and making testing available.

The other reason it’s important for wastewater treatment plants to test for COVID-19 is to keep workers safe. Employees who work in wastewater treatment plans should take protective measures with personal protective equipment and safe practices at work. Doing so can eliminate the risk of contamination from untreated wastewater.

Problems With Clogged Lines and Equipment

One of the problems wastewater treatment plants are facing with the pandemic has been trash in the sewer lines. Around the nation, wastewater treatment plants are facing issues from a large increase in protective gloves, masks, and disinfecting wipes making their way into sewer lines and wastewater treatment plants. People are flushing these items instead of disposing of them in the trash as they should.

Most toilet papers disintegrate in water. It usually takes no more than 24 hours. Wet wipes don’t break down as quickly. They may flush and make it through toilet pipes, but as they travel through the sewer, they can catch on tree roots, curves, and other items and collect other items. Soon, there’s a huge blockage of fat, feces, napkins, tampons, and wipes that isn’t breaking down. It slows down the wastewater’s flow and can lead to sewer backups and spills.

As the pandemic started, toilet paper stocks decreased. Soon, toilet paper shortages were affecting everyone. People were turning to baby wipes, makeup removers, and any other moist wipe they could use in place of toilet paper. Napkins and paper towels were other items people were using in place of toilet paper. Rather than throw them into the trash, as they needed to, they were flushing them. These items do not break down quickly. They were causing clogs in sewer lines and water treatment equipment.

Latex or non-latex gloves and disposable masks were other items getting flushed. Again, they don’t degrade in water, so they were clogging lines. In Washington, a bill was signed making it illegal to flush non-flushable wipes starting on July 1, 2022. In Tennessee, one town’s sewer workers started cleaning sewer pumping stations twice a week instead of once a month. An Air Force base in California has crews working 16-hour shifts to remove clogs from pipes. In Maryland, one wastewater pumping station saw an increase of more than 37,000 pounds of wipes during the first quarter of 2020.

All of this is costing cities and towns a fortune in additional hours and repairs. People need to remember to only flush toilet paper and human waste. Despite the pleas from one side of the nation to the other, people keep flushing things that cause harm. That’s one of the biggest ways the pandemic has impacted wastewater treatment. Grinder pumps and screens are essential to handling all this increased trash, but not every district has the money available to install them.

Increased Wastewater Flow in Residential Areas

With more people working from home, residential water consumption has also increased. A water monitoring company studied water usage and found it increased by about 21% per day. Some cities saw higher increases. For example, New York City’s residential water consumption increased by 28%. In Minnesota, the increase was 25%. People working from home are doing more laundry, using the toilet more, washing more dishes, and taking more showers. People are also washing hands more as is recommended by the CDC.

This increase in water usage means wastewater treatment plants are treating an increase in water. Water treatment plants that treat a lot of water from commercial industries may see decreases, but water treatment plants serving mostly residential structures are facing large increases that older equipment may not be able to handle.

Another change with water usage is when peak water usage is happening. It used to be that most families showered and ate breakfast in time to catch buses/trains and commute to work or school. Families had to have kids ready to get on the bus for the early morning pick-up. Commuters had to be out of the home early to beat rush hour traffic. Wastewater treatment plants expected the highest water flow around 7 a.m. and again around dinner time or 6 p.m.

Without the rush to commute or get to a bus or train, people shifted their morning routines an hour or two later than normal. Peak water usage is now around 9 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. Water treatment plants expect changing flow rates throughout the day and may use computers to speed up or slow down equipment accordingly. Not every plant is set up this way, however. Changes in flow rates at unexpected hours can cause problems. If treatment plants have flow rates that are higher than anticipated, they may have to ask residents to avoid running appliances during certain hours to reduce the strain on older equipment that cannot keep up.

Does Water Treatment Kill Coronavirus?

People who get their residential and commercial water from treated water do not have to worry about the virus still being present. Wastewater treatment processes kill viruses and bacteria. After filtering wastewater, aerating it, and using chemicals to kill any residual contaminants, water that’s returned to bodies of water or put into storage tanks for public water systems. No evidence of COVID-19 surviving water treatment has been found.

What if untreated wastewater makes it into lakes or streams after heavy rains? There is the chance that COVID-19 will be in untreated water, but there has not been any known case of the virus spreading through wastewater spills. Wastewater treatment plants should do everything possible to prevent untreated wastewater spills by making sure their system can handle an increased capacity and repair broken equipment and lines.

Can steps be taken to eliminate the chances of COVID-19 untreated wastewater from returning to the environment? How can plants anticipate changes in peak water flow? What can be done to stop people from flushing their gloves, masks, and wet wipes? Upgrading equipment is key. Older infrastructure needs to be improved to reduce energy consumption and keep up with changes in wastewater flow rates and screening.

Lakeside Equipment is here for districts that need to repair their equipment due to damage from items that shouldn’t be flushed. We can also help districts upgrade equipment to be more energy-efficient or handle an increase in residential wastewater as people are working from home and cooking more meals at home. Reach us by phone or email for more information on a new wastewater treatment system or to discuss upgrades that will save your district money.