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Most Effective Commercial Sewage Grinder Pump System

A sewage grinder pump grinds the matter in wastewater to help it flow from a low spot to sewer lines. In a commercial setting, such as a restaurant, the grinder pump would work like a garbage disposal to grind up foods and items that go down the drain. The smaller pieces travel through pipes with a lower risk of creating a clog that could damage lines.

A grinder pump system handles things that get flushed down the toilet that shouldn’t be. If you have clients that flush baby wipes even though they do not dissolve, a grinder pump helps prevent clogs. Patrons may not realize that flushing a tampon applicator is terrible news for sewer lines. Your kitchen staff can put food scraps down the sink without causing blockages.

Meanwhile, the pump ensures the wastewater makes it up slopes and from low points. Imagine your restaurant is at the bottom of a hill, but the wastewater district’s pump station is at the top of the incline. If your building has any basement-level kitchens, laundry rooms, or bathrooms, a grinder pump helps process the solid waste with the wastewater. From there, the pump pushes it up and to the sewer lines.

Pumps push the water so that it moves in the right direction and don’t backflow into your sinks, toilets, and drains in the lowest point of your business, costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars to sanitize and clean surfaces.

Tips for Choosing Sewage Grinder Pumps

Choosing the best commercial sewage grinder pumps comes down to your needs. A sewage grinder pump needed in a large building with multiple office spaces will be far different from a pump required in a food processing company. Restaurants, bars, and hotels are other businesses that benefit from commercial sewage grinder pumps. These are the things you need to consider when you start researching your options.

#1 – The Motor’s Horsepower

A commercial sewage grinder pump will be different from a sewage grinder pump you’d use at home. It handles more wastewater, so the pump needs to be equipped to handle the higher capacity. Many residential grinder pumps range from 0.5 HP to 1 HP and have an RPM of around 3,000. A commercial grinder pump has a more powerful motor that’s often 2 HP or higher, and the RPMs usually are in the area of 3,500.

In a building with multiple bathrooms or kitchens, this is important. A pump with less power is more likely to become overwhelmed and need repairs or replacement. You have to make sure you’re installing a pump that can meet your wastewater demands. The right size pump lowers your maintenance and repair costs over time.

#2 – The Grinder’s Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)

Higher RPMs help the pump grind solid materials into a slurry. The faster it does this, the better it is to prevent backups or clogs. If you own a brewery with its own small wastewater treatment plant, you’d need a grinder pump that can handle any grains or hops that make it through filtration.

#3 – The Max Flow Rate

Check the pump’s max flow rate. If your business has upwards of 100 gallons of wastewater each minute, you want a pump that handles that much sewage. You’ll know this by the max flow rate that’s given in terms of gallons per hour. If it can handle 6,340 gallons per hour, it would manage an average of over 100 gallons per minute.

#4 – The Pump’s Construction

How does the pump work? For a commercial sewage grinder pump, you may need a control panel setup. Otherwise, systems use a float to turn the pump on and off when needed.

Check the grinder pump’s discharge design. Most have a vertical pipe that comes out of the top. A vertical design is often ideal. Ensure you have this type over a horizontal discharge requiring a 90-degree pipe section for the wastewater to travel upward.

You also need to look at the type of materials the grinder pump is made from. Many have cast iron bodies with stainless steel cutters to grind the materials into small pieces. You want a clog-free design on the impeller. Look for oil-filled, sealed motors that don’t require a lot of maintenance.

#5 – Head Height

Look at the head height. Head height is the distance (vertically) from the lowest level of the wastewater at the pump to the high point where it exits the building for sewer lines. Sewer lines usually run from the building into the sewers at the lowest level of a building. In some constructions, this means you’re sending water from the top floor to the basement and out of the building to the sewers.

If the head height offers a lift of 20 feet, but your basement or lowest area is 30 feet below the drainpipe, the head height is not sufficient. The pump needs to be powerful enough to push the water up and away from your building. If the head height is lower, the lift will not be as great, so it will struggle to move the wastewater.

Know Your Local and State Codes

A commercial sewage grinder pump system may even be required in your city or district. And it has to follow the rules outlined in city or state legislation. For example, where sewage pumps are necessary for “backwater protection” in a Wisconsin business, the grinder pump has to have opening and discharge piping diameters of no less than 1.25 inches.

It’s up to you to make sure you’re meeting those laws. The best way to ensure you comply is by working with an expert in wastewater equipment and design. Meeting your budget is essential, but it’s not always the best path forward if it means you’ll be fined or shut down for ignoring these codes.

Have You Considered Screw Pumps?

If your company is larger, screw pumps may suit your needs. There are both open and enclosed screw pumps available to help move wastewater up slopes. No matter which you select, they’re designed to avoid the need to grind solids as they do not clog.

Open screw pumps can handle 22 to 40 degrees inclines, and they do not clog, so screens are not needed. A benefit to the open screw pump is that it can handle anywhere from 90 gallons per minute to 55,000 gallons per minute with lifts of up to 50 feet per stage. Maintenance costs are low, too.

You also have enclosed screw pumps where the screw pump is hidden inside a steel tube. Type C enclosed screw pumps move anywhere from 540 to 35,000 gallons per minute at lifts of up to 60 feet. A Type S enclosed screw pump handles up to 10,000 gallons per minute with a lift of up to 30 feet. You can talk to a screw pump expert to learn more about the pros and cons of these systems when compared to your needs.

Lakeside Equipment Corporation has been a leader in water purification equipment and designs for more than 90 years. We’ve been designing screw pump systems since 1969 and have the expertise you need to ensure you meet codes. Call our customer service team at 630-837-5640 to learn more about using screw pumps for your sewage pump needs.

Does Wastewater Go Into the Ocean?

Have you ever wondered how much wastewater ends up in the ocean? Concerns grew when Japan announced they wanted to release 1.25 million tons of wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean. The country’s prime minister promised the wastewater would be treated, but there are still concerns about the impact on the aquatic life and fishing industry.

The Nature Conservancy released a shocking report in 2020 that alarmed some people. The environmental organization reported that the percentage of untreated wastewater released into oceans and seas worldwide was as high as 80%. In the Caribbean alone, it’s as high as 85%.

Is it concerning that this amount of untreated wastewater enters the oceans and seas around the world? Yes, but it’s also a good thing as it’s a correctable problem. It’s something that people can work on changing. The U.S. already has many measures in place to keep this from happening, but it’s not a perfect system in the U.S. either.

Cruise ships and other large vessels can dump raw sewage into the ocean or sea as long as the ship is more than three miles away from the coast. Some cruise lines have onboard wastewater treatment systems to help reduce pollution, but not all of them do.

There’s also the issue of microplastics making their way into the waterways from wastewater treatment plants. A British study found that high quantities of microplastics were found downstream of six wastewater treatment plants. Even though the wastewater had been treated, microplastics remained behind. Additives that can remove the microplastics affect fish, but the microplastics are equally harmful as they hold onto chemicals that harm fish. Plastic pollution in wastewater is one topic being focused on during Stockholm’s World Water Week in August.

Could steps be taken to ensure only clean water is released into our oceans, seas, and rivers that feed into saltwater? It’s possible, and the U.S. already takes some steps to make sure wastewater meets a rigid set of standards.

The Role of the Clean Water Act in the U.S.

Part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s job is to issue permits to wastewater districts around the country. Through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, municipal wastewater treatment plants apply for permits to operate. Once approved, the plant has strict guidelines to follow regarding the allowable levels of different contaminants found in the water. Failing to meet the guidelines can lead to hefty fines.

Before wastewater treatment plants can release treated wastewater, they must meet the standards outlined in the Clean Water Act and the permit granted to that community’s wastewater district. The EPA keeps a Priority Pollutant List that contains dozens of pollutants that plants must remove from wastewater before it’s released to a river, stream, pond, lake, ocean, or sea. On this list are things like arsenic, asbestos, benzene, copper, lead, etc. Bacteria and viruses also must be removed.

Additional steps must be taken before wastewater goes into saltwater. For example, alpha-Endosulfan must be less than 0.034 or 0.0087 micrograms per liter. Arsenic must be no more than 36 or 69 micrograms per liter. The chlorine used to kill bacteria must be lowered to 7.5 or 13 micrograms per liter of treated wastewater before it’s released. The Recommended Water Quality Criteria contains the rules to freshwater and wastewater that treatment plants must follow.

Leaks and Problems That Threaten Our Oceans

How often do wastewater treatment plants leak into the ocean? It occurs more often than you might think.

In April, experts found a leak at a wastewater reservoir in Tampa, Florida. Around 480 million gallons of wastewater had to be removed due to the threat of flooding after one leak in a containment wall was discovered. The Piney Point waste station had closed down 20 years earlier following a bankruptcy. Had the reservoir’s walls burst, it would have flooded the area and made its way to the ocean.

A Seattle wastewater treatment plant leaked raw sewage at the end of April. Days later, the same thing happened, making two sewage spills happen in Puget Sound. In the first spill, around 1,700 gallons of untreated wastewater went into Elliott Bay. The second spill leaked approximately 880,000 gallons. Both of these spills were caused when a backup power supply failed during routine testing and maintenance. This wasn’t the first time this plant has had issues. Another spill happened in January and involved 11 million gallons of untreated wastewater.

Quincy, Massachusetts, faced a lawsuit filed by the EPA after untreated sewage and wastewater leaked into Boston Harbor in 2019. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to invest over $100 million in upgrades and repairs of its wastewater treatment plant.

Another city slapped with a lawsuit was Sunnyvale, California. Lawyers for the city requested the charges be dismissed, but a federal court judge ruled against them. In the end, the city was fined $187,000 because close to 300,000 gallons of wastewater leaked into San Francisco Bay. The spill occurred due to antiquated piping that is more than 100 years old in some areas.

Back in 2020, Portland, Maine, also dealt with a spill during a power failure. The exact amount of untreated wastewater that went into Casco Bay is unknown as the computer system also went down in the power outage. It’s estimated that around 4 million gallons ended up in the ocean. That was the second leak in two years.

Two dozen New Jersey communities were given four extra months to develop better wastewater treatment plans to stop raw sewage spills during heavy rains. The communities’ wastewater treatment plants often end up spilling wastewater into the ocean during a storm, and the EPA demanded new Long Term Control Plans be filed. The pandemic led to a four-month delay, but those cities and towns had to have plans in place and came up with a plan that would cost around $3.5 billion in infrastructure improvements.

In many of these recent leaks, outdated piping and wastewater treatment plant equipment were to blame. It’s essential to check backup generators regularly and test equipment. If piping or equipment is getting old, it’s time to look into replacing systems. Repairs work for a time, but a complete replacement can help lower energy costs, saving money in the long run.

How Can Your Wastewater District Help Keep Untreated Wastewater Out of the Ocean?

If wastewater treatment plants located near oceans make sure their equipment meets the current demand, it lowers the risk of untreated wastewater reaching the saltwater. Have a qualified company look at your plant’s design and make sure your equipment can meet heavy loads.

Heavy loads include unexpected amounts of runoff during a storm. When families use more water in the morning before getting to work or return from work and have dishes to wash and laundry to run, it increases the amount of wastewater entering the sewer system. This puts a burden on the equipment if the system isn’t designed for a sudden rush of sewage.

Towns and cities continue to grow. If your wastewater treatment plant was designed decades ago, it might not be operating efficiently. A small investment in new pumps, automated screening, automated process controls, and upgraded grit collection makes a big difference.

Lakeside Equipment has experts ready to help you make sure your wastewater treatment plant is doing everything possible to meet and exceed the requirements needed to ensure you’re releasing clean water into the ocean. Give us a call to learn more.

Is It Safe to Live Near a Wastewater Treatment Plant?

The odors that come from a wastewater treatment plant aren’t always pleasant. People who live near the plant may start to wonder just how safe it is to have windows open and be breathing those smells all day. What about the fecal matter that’s found in wastewater? Can any of it fall on the surfaces in their home and lead to health issues? When they’re not sure, they come to your plant managers or the district with concerns.

As the plant manager, you’re not sure how to answer. Do they have valid concerns? You can’t dismiss them, so what do you tell them? Here’s what you need to know about the safety of living near a wastewater treatment plant.

What Studies of Air Quality Find?

So, what are the risks? Is your plant releasing bacteria into the atmosphere that makes your community members sick? It’s not likely.

A study was performed in Greece to find out exactly how much pollution impacted residents who lived near a wastewater treatment plant in Patras. The plant’s basic set-up included screens, grit chambers, outdoor primary and secondary settling tanks, outdoor chlorination, and indoor sludge treatment.

The study looked at a 1,640-foot radius and only focused on people who lived in their homes for at least eight hours per day. Once a week for an entire month, samples of the air were taken in six different neighborhoods. The samples were collected in the morning, afternoon, and evening to account for different flow rates coming into the treatment plant. Researchers also collected notes on the temperature, weather conditions, and humidity levels.

Once samples were collected, they were delivered to the processing lab within two hours. Bacteria were treated and allowed to incubate for the next 24 hours. At that point, an expert analyst looked at each to count any colonies that had formed. In bacterial colonies that did form, around 36% were Strep, 29% were Staph, 21% were not identified, 9% were E. coli, and 5% were Enterococcus. Salmonella was not found. All had less than 800 colony-forming units per cubic meter each day.

While the researchers identified airborne contaminants, there were very low concentrations. The two sampling stations that had the highest concentrations were right near the wastewater treatment plant.

This sounds concerning but consider this. An NSF International Public Health and Safety Organization study of germs in the household found Coliform on 3 out of 4 kitchen sponges or dish rags. Coliform was found on almost half of the kitchen sinks in the study. The bacteria were also found on 3 out of 10 counters and 2 out of 10 cutting boards. There were more Coliform colonies on toothbrush holders than there were on bathroom faucet handles.

Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments. It’s why more bacteria are found in sponges than on a computer keyboard. If a homeowner isn’t constantly sanitizing their sponges, towels, sinks, and bathmats, Coliform is likely already in their home. Bathrooms and kitchens are the most common areas to find bacteria, but it’s not limited to those areas.

Coliform bacteria are not the only bacteria in the home. Pet toys and pet bowls turned out to be a significant source of Staph. Staph was also commonly found on game controllers and remotes. The five germiest items in a household were the kitchen sponge or dishrag, the kitchen sink, the toothbrush holder, pet bowls, and the coffeemaker’s water reservoir.

Plant Upgrades Help Lower Odors and Airborne Contaminants

Go back to the days of Hippocrates for some of the earliest evidence that airborne pollutants can impact health. As early as 460 B.C., Hippocrates notes that men were becoming sick after being outside and breathing smelly air. The smells were likely from composting materials in swamps and ponds during the warmer summer months. That helped spark changes leading to more sanitary ways to dispose of those killed in wars or human waste in camps and communities.

Fast forward dozens of centuries later. Today’s wastewater treatment plants do everything possible to lower the risk of airborne contaminants. Through the use of tank covers, it can help stop hydrogen sulfide and methane from being released into the air. Covers also help keep debris like leaves, dust, and tree pollen from getting into wastewater basins. Are these covers enough, or do additional steps help reduce the risk of airborne contaminants?

You do need to start by determining where the odors come from. Check everything from the pump station to the settling tanks. It could be one specific area or several of them. Your findings help you determine the best solution. If you use open screw pumps to move wastewater from one location to the next, odors will escape. Switching to closed screw pumps stops the smells from releasing.

Some wastewater plant upgrades can help lower the odors of your plant. One of the first to consider is covers. A gas-tight cover stops hydrogen sulfide from entering the environment. Whether you choose aluminum, steel, or fiberglass, you can get retractable covers, floating covers, or flexible geomembranes. How do you choose the best one? Consider these factors.

  • Is it airtight?
  • Can it stand up to environmental factors like temperature changes and weather conditions?
  • Will it make your employees’ jobs more difficult?
  • Does it impact your plant’s safety?
  • How easy is it to get a custom cover that matches your plant’s needs?

These covers become a money-saving step to take as it also keeps algae from growing, and it adds thermal protection in the winter. When you add a gas collection cover, the methane produced during wastewater treatment is captured and can be used to heat and power your plant. That lowers operating costs.

Deodorizing misting systems throughout the plant help neutralize the smells. Another option is to start adding chemicals that react with the compounds that cause the odors. Adding an air purifying system that captures the air, filters it through biofilters or carbon filters is also helpful. Once the air is filtered, it can go out into the atmosphere without leading to unpleasant odors.

While each of these methods will help, a cover is highly effective. You may find you need multiple plans to combat odors. Don’t get discouraged. Weather extremes are changing average annual temperatures and conditions. Smells may be worse in high humidity. A windy day may make the odors travel farther than usual. If you’re having a hard time figuring it out, don’t forget wastewater equipment specialists have the answers you need.

Keeping the people in your wastewater district is one of the best ways to ensure they’re happy. If water costs are low, they’re less likely to complain. Covers are the most cost-effective solution in a wastewater treatment plant. If you don’t have covers on your tanks, you should consider them. Talk to Lakeside Equipment about equipment upgrades that help reduce odors and lower your operating costs.

Also, keep them informed. If there are more odors in the summer, explain why and assure them it’s temporary. Be honest and reassure them you’re doing everything possible to lower the smells that are emitted. Offer free tours, show why the odors occur, and listen for feedback. If you’re still not sure how to help reduce the odors that bother your neighbors, Lakeside Equipment’s specialists help you find the right solutions to incorporate in your wastewater plant design.

Lakeside Equipment SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Removal System vs. Smith & Loveless Pista Grit Removal System

The wastewater you treat contains more than organic materials. Cinders, gravel, sand, and other heavier solids are also found in wastewater. This grit must be removed if you’re going to prevent clogged piping and abrasive damage to the equipment. If grit isn’t removed, it moves on to aeration tanks and digesters where it impedes the treatment process.

Grit Removal Methods

You have wastewater to clean and grit removal is one of the first steps towards clean water. What are your options? Several methods are available for grit removal. Take a look at the options you’ll encounter when discussing the equipment for your water treatment plant.

Aerated Grit Chambers

In an aerated grit chamber, air is pumped in on one side, which forces incoming wastewater into a spiral flow. As the water flows, the heavier grit falls to the bottom of that tank while lighter organic materials and water continue to the exit. Energy use is higher with an aerated grit chamber. Maintenance costs can also be higher in this type of system.

Detritus Tanks

Detritus tanks are square in design and have to be followed with grit washing to remove the organic materials that get trapped in the grit that’s removed. Augers and rakes are typically used to remove the grit, which means electricity will be running and driving up energy consumption. The rake arm can also agitate the wastewater and stir up some grit and lead to some of it escaping as wastewater flows out. It’s also harder to control flow rates when you use a detritus tank.

Horizontal Flow

Horizontal flow grit chambers are one of the older types you’ll come across. Wastewater enters the horizontal chamber and flows through several small dam-like areas (weirs) that trap grit while the water keeps moving from one area to the next. Grit is removed using scrapers. Flow rates can be harder to control with this system, and headloss is also a concern. The equipment may wear faster, too.


Hydrocyclone systems find wastewater being pumped into the grit chamber and the cyclone force traps the grit and solids on the sides and bottom where they’re removed. The benefit is that both grit and solids are removed at the same time. If you do not screen wastewater before the grit removal process, the hydrocyclone system will run into issues with solids like plastics, rags, and sticks.

Stacked Trays

Some water treatment plants use stacked trays. This system has several trays stacked in a round chamber. Water comes in at the top and circulates over each of these trays. Grit falls to the bottom chamber while the water flows out the other side. Grit is then removed from that lower chamber. While stacked tray systems do not always need electricity, they can be cost-effective, but the depth of the system requires excavation that can be costly. Headloss can also be a concern.

Vortex Systems

Vortex grit removal technology may seem similar, but it’s not. There are differences in technology that you need to consider to ensure you’re getting optimal grit removal and efficiency. One area where vortex grit removal is similar is that wastewater flows into a circular tank. With that tank is a mechanical rotor that creates a vortex that can slow down or speed up depending on flow rates.

Paddles rotate to stabilize the flow velocity. This keeps organic particles suspended within the wastewater while heavier particles of grit sink to the floor. At floor level, the vortex pushes grit to the center where it moves into a grit hopper. From there, it travels to the grit classifier by being pumped, airlifted, or pushed out through an impeller. Grit is washed in the grit classifier to remove any remaining organics. The final step is to move it to trucks, hoppers, or dumpsters where it goes to a disposal facility or landfill.

Vortex systems are popular due to the space that’s needed for installation, the effectiveness, and the overall cost. You should put a vortex grit chamber at the top of your list.

How Effective Are Vortex Grit Chambers?

You’ve narrowed down your choices for vortex grit removal systems. Two of the leading options are the Smith & Loveless Pista Grit Removal System and Lakeside Equipment SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Removal System. The Smith & Loveless Pista Grit comes in several models that are capable of removing up to 95% of the grit in your wastewater. Pista Grit uses a hydraulic design with a flat chamber floor and propeller that creates the vortex. This propeller doesn’t require a lot of energy, so it can be a cost-effective grit removal system. You choose if you want the system to be baffled or not.

Lakeside Equipment’s SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Removal System allows you to choose a few things. It’s also an energy-efficient model where it adapts to a range of daily flow rates. Paddles keep the vortex flow moving steadily, so organics float to the top while heavier grit moves downward to the bottom where it falls into a grit hopper and is pumped out using a self-priming pump, airlift pump, or impeller. At that point, you can have the grit move to Lakeside Equipment’s Grit Classifier or the Raptor® Grit Washer as the next step.

Why is the Lakeside SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Removal System the Ideal Choice?

Lakeside’s SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Removal System has one of the highest removal efficiencies on the market. It doesn’t matter what the flow rate is, this grit removal system does an exceptional job in a compact size. Head loss rates for the SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Removal System are also low. You don’t need a lot of space for the SpiraGrit®  Vortex Grit Removal System. It’s designed to be efficient and compact. It’s also designed to separate grit and perform dewatering at the same time, which adds to the efficiency.

If you’re worried about high maintenance costs, don’t worry. There are no submerged bearings. This grit removal system is easy to maintain. You can also have the SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Removal System crafted from stainless steel to prevent corrosion.

A Headworks Packaged System Covers Everything You Need

With Lakeside’s H-PAC system, you get the SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Chamber within a full headworks system that’s capable of flow rates of up to 12 million gallons per day. Start with the Raptor® Screen that removes, washes, and dewaters items it captures on the screens. From there, the pre-screened wastewater enters the grit chamber where fine particles of grit are removed. This protects equipment used later in the wastewater treatment process.

For more than 90 years, Lakeside Equipment has provided solutions for treatment plant designers and engineers. Lakeside’s experience with water purification and water treatment processes cannot be matched. Our engineers will design a system that meets your needs and matches your budget. Our goal is to design a system that is built to last, and should you ever need parts, we have a stellar parts department who are happy to help you.

Choose Lakeside’s H-PAC® system with the SpiraGrit® Vortex Grit Chamber for a cost-effective, highly efficient grit removal system. It doesn’t require a lot of space, so you don’t have to worry about having a lot of room available for your grit removal needs. For more information on how you can achieve Lakeside quality and performance, contact one of our experts at 630-837-5640, email us at or visit our website

Wastewater Treatment vs. Sewage Treatment

Most people look at wastewater treatment and sewage treatment as being the same thing. They are, but it’s not that easy. While there are similarities, sewage treatment is a part of the wastewater treatment process. It’s handled differently. To understand the differences, it helps to understand precisely what wastewater is.

Why does it matter? The overall wastewater treatment process has to clean the water of chemicals, food particles, and grit. It also has to remove human waste, which is where sewage treatment comes in.

Wastewater Contains Black Water and Gray Water

Wastewater is made up of black water and gray water. These two types of wastewater go to the same facility for treatment, but they’re different and require different steps. Start by understanding the differences between gray water and black water.

What’s black water? Every toilet flush goes into the sewer lines or the private septic system. The water from that toilet is called black water. It’s human waste, water, and toilet paper.

There may be cleaners, too. People may have bleach tabs, toilet sanitizers, and other toilet cleaning products. While it shouldn’t contain additional items like wrappers, menstrual pads, and other trash, sometimes it does.

Gray water is the other part of wastewater. Gray water comes from dishwashers, washing machines, showers, sinks, and bathtubs also goes into those sewer lines and septic systems. It’s the water from washing things, but it also contains cleaners like soap, shampoo, and detergents. There’s also grease from washing dishes by hand or in a dishwasher.

Industrial firms may have gray water from running machines. For example, a company that extrudes plastic may run water over the materials to quickly cool or set the plastic coatings. The water will have the chemicals and small particles of plastic, so it can’t simply go back into a body of water. First, it has to be cleaned.

You also have dairy treatment plants, food processors, and breweries that add to the wastewater mix. They all release wastewater that contains high levels of biological and chemical pollutants that add additional strain on wastewater treatment plants. Municipalities need to carefully plan their wastewater treatment system to handle the wastewater that’s received.

What’s in Wastewater That Has to Be Treated?

Wastewater and sewage contain a variety of components that have to be treated. Here are the different things that are treated during wastewater and sewage treatments.

  • Inorganic Materials: Inorganic materials include metals and minerals. How do they end up in wastewater? They leach from pipes that carry water, and they come from cleaning products.
  • Nutrients: You also have nutrients like nitrates, nitrogen, and phosphate. If you live near a lake with algae blooms, that’s the result of too many nutrients winding up in the lake water. The nutrients cause the algae to flourish, which uses up oxygen that the aquatic life relies on.
  • Organic Matter: Organic matter, like food particles, are also common. You wash dishes, and small pieces of food go down the drain. They rot and can cause harm if they end up in ponds or lakes because they use up oxygen to help the organic matter decompose.
  • Organisms: There are several organisms found in wastewater. If a pet owner flushes the cat’s waste in the toilet and that waste has roundworms in it, you now have roundworms in the wastewater. Bacteria and other microorganisms are also found in it.
  • Pathogens: Plants must kill bacteria, parasites, and viruses to remove them from wastewater before returning to homes, businesses, or bodies of water. These pathogens include things like cholera, E. coli, and norovirus. When COVID-19 hit, wastewater treatment plants were finding that virus in wastewater, too.

How Gray Water is Handled at a Wastewater Treatment Plant

Wastewater comes into a treatment plant through sewer lines or at a septage acceptance plant. If the wastewater is being trucked in, septic trucks drive up to the septage acceptance plant and unload the materials pumped from septic systems into the facility.

Pretreatment occurs as wastewater enters the treatment plant. Here, screens catch debris and trash from the wastewater. It goes to the grit removal, which is equally important. If sand and gritty particles get into pumps and valves, it can damage that equipment and lead to costly repairs or replacements and valves.

Wastewater treatment plants may use self-contained units that take care of the screening and grit removal at the same time. The Raptor Complete Plant is ideal for the pretreatment of septage and wastewater from the sewer lines. You can add a grease trap to it to help remove extra grease before the primary treatment begins.

From the grit chamber, wastewater goes to a clarification tank to start primary treatment. The wastewater sits for several hours to allow solids to sink to the bottom of the tank. Grease floats to the top, where it’s skimmed away. Scrapers keep moving over the bottom so that the sludge is transferred to pumps and removed from the wastewater.

The wastewater starts going through the secondary treatment process. Oxygen is added to the leftover water to help stir it up and get oxygen to begin breaking down any particles of waste or organic materials that didn’t sink to the bottom. Again, the wastewater moves to a clarification tank to allow the remaining sludge to settle, get scraped to pumps, where it goes to sewage treatment.

Tertiary treatment is the third step. Chemicals are added to remove phosphorus from the remaining wastewater. Chlorine is used to help kill bacteria that remain after the other two treatment steps. Water goes through filters and may be exposed to UV rays to remove the chlorine before the water returns to bodies of water or storage tanks.

How Black Water is Handled at a Wastewater Treatment Plant

The sludge that’s removed from clarification tanks goes through sewage treatment. Anaerobic digesters break down the sludge, and carbon dioxide and methane are removed and captured during that process. That biogas can be used to provide electricity and heat.

What happens to the fecal matter that’s left behind? It varies from one area to the next. It could be dried, ground, and turned into fertilizer. Anaerobic digestion removes bacteria, so it’s safe to use. Workers move the remaining sludge to trucks where it’s sent to a landfill to become part of the soil. It could also be incinerated. If it’s burned, the methane gas can heat the wastewater treatment plant, which is a cost-effective option for many municipalities.

Careful Planning Creates a Comprehensive Wastewater Treatment Plant

When deciding on the equipment a wastewater treatment plant requires, it’s important to know how much wastewater flows each day. Some hours will have a higher flow rate than others. When people get home from work, have dinner, do dishes, and take baths and showers, the wastewater flowing into the sewer lines increases.

You need to consider where the wastewater is coming from. If you have breweries that lack their own wastewater treatment systems, you’ll have a lot of extra wastewater coming in on brewing days. It’s essential to plan for these increases. Plant managers need to be prepared for the increases.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by hiring an expert to design your wastewater treatment system. Talk to Lakeside Equipment. With close to 100 years in the business, we can help you develop a system that treats both wastewater and sewer water. We work closely with you to help you stay on budget without cutting corners and ending up with an inefficient system.

All About Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants

Municipal wastewater treatment plants take the wastewater from sewers and private septic systems and ensure it is clean and free of contaminants. Once it meets the EPA’s standards, the wastewater is released into bodies of water or returned to the public drinking supply.

Have you ever thought about what led to the creation of the first wastewater treatment plants? From the earliest days, these plants have come a long way thanks to advancements in technology and scientific breakthroughs.

A Historical Look at Wastewater Treatment

Go back in time to Ancient Rome. It had one of the earliest wastewater systems. Rainwater would travel from streets and rooftops to several drainage paths that led to a larger one known as the Cloaca Maxima that traveled right to the Tiber River.

While it was a good way to keep streets from flooding, there was a problem. At first, people threw their waste from windows in homes to the streets for water to wash away. When toilets and bathrooms became common, the piping went to cesspits where wastewater soaked into the ground over time or backed up into gardens and cellars.

In the 1860s, a Frenchman designed a tank that would hold the waste and keep it contained. After 10 years, he found that the solids had broken down and all that was left was a layer of scum and liquids. He patented his invention in 1881, which led to the creation of septic tanks in countries like the U.S., England, and Africa.

In cities and large municipalities, septic tanks weren’t possible due to the lack of space. Instead, piping from cesspools was connected to storm sewers and drains where the waste ended up in the river. This created water pollution and increases cases of bacterial diseases like cholera.

It wasn’t until the late-1800s and early-1900s that cities in the United States and the United Kingdom considered how to stop the water pollution that wastewater was causing. One of the first changes was to create separate wastewater treatment and stormwater run-off systems. The wastewater treatment system used chemicals and biological treatment plans to treat the water before it was released into lakes, streams, and rivers.

The first U.S. public water systems were developed in the late-1700s. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were leaders by creating delivery companies that would bring water to houses. New York City created wells, but the wells were problematic as they were polluted. Eventually, water was brought into the city from Croton River, which was north of the city.

Pollution in the rivers was another concern as cholera and typhoid were spreading. By the start of the 1900s, there were more than 3,000 public water systems in the U.S. Focus turned to the best ways to keep those water systems from spreading disease. Congress passed a law in 1912 regulating the quality of water. Service drinking Water Standards followed in 1914 and set limits on the number of bacteria allowed in public water. This led to the use of chlorine to disinfect water. Thanks to these measures, waterborne diseases dropped by 100x by the 1940s.

In 1974, Congress enacted the Safe Drinking Water Act, which required public water systems to ensure public water did not exceed any of the contaminants on the EPA’s list. Several different bacteria are on the list, but so are heavy metals, chemicals, and carcinogens.

How Wastewater Treatment Plants Work

The basics of wastewater treatment are that wastewater comes in, foreign objects and solids are removed, the remaining water is aerated and clarified, microorganisms digest any tiny particles of waste/food, and chemical additives kill off anything that’s remaining. UV is the final step and that helps remove chemicals that were added.

You have combined systems that combine sewage with stormwater and bring them into the wastewater treatment plant for treatment. Separate systems are more common. All new wastewater treatment systems are separated from stormwater. Stormwater goes back into streams or rivers, while wastewater goes to a treatment plant for processing.

Primary Wastewater Treatment Steps

As the wastewater reaches the plant from sewers, it may need to be pumped from a lower elevation to a higher one for primary treatment. You have open pumps or enclosed screw pumps that bring the sewage to the settling tanks. Wastewater will pass through screens first and move to a grit chamber to remove contaminants like plastic applicators, plastic wrappers, or grit like coffee grounds.

Grit removal is important for maintaining the life of your equipment. Sand and grit can wear parts down over time. If you remove the grit, you extend the life of your pumps and valves. You also prevent blockages. This helps with aeration and digestion as the treatment process continues.

When wastewater is pumped into the next area of the treatment plant, the pumps need to be able to handle varying flow rates. A sewer may seem higher flow rates in the morning when people are getting ready to go to school and to work and again in the evening when people come home for the day. When people are sleeping, flow rates will slow down.

Secondary Treatments

In the primary clarifier, the sludge settles to the bottom. Liquids (primary effluent) flow to the aeration tank for the fluid to be stirred up and oxygenated. Sludge is pumped out where it will go to be treated and disposed of. It doesn’t get rid of all of the tiny particles of sludge. In aeration tanks, the water is mixed up to create the oxygen that microbes thrive on. Microorganisms are kept alive by the oxygen and will feed on organic materials that remain.

Before moving to a secondary clarifier, some wastewater treatment plants also use filters to help remove impurities. Activated sludge treatment is another option that comes before secondary clarification. Again, the sludge settles and some pumped out, some returns to the aeration tank for a second round, and clear water moves on for tertiary treatments.

Tertiary Treatments

Tertiary treatment may include biological treatment solutions. Disinfectants are added to the water to help kill any remaining contaminants. Just as they used chlorine in the past, it’s still used by many plants to ensure bacteria are killed. The water that remains is then exposed to UV light to help remove the chlorine that’s often used to help disinfect the water. Water is tested to make sure the cleaned water meets EPA standards.

To best manage the biological treatment system, many facilities use a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. This helps control and monitor all of the different pieces of equipment within the wastewater treatment plant. It notifies operators of potential issues and allows for remote monitoring. Also, consider adding a Sharp Biological Nutrient Removal (SharpBNR) to your plant. It’s a process control system that makes sure you meet your goals for treatment while also minimizing your energy consumption.

Work With the Pros

Any municipal wastewater district has to work hard to make sure water meets the EPA’s guidelines while also being affordable for the water district’s members. If taxpayers struggle to afford the cost, it can become a problem. You also don’t want to have a plant that’s unable to meet the rising demand as more homes and businesses are built in that district. With a well-designed wastewater treatment plant that considers growth, energy efficiency, and effectiveness, you’ll do well.

It takes a lot of work to clean municipal wastewater. You want to partner with an expert in wastewater treatment equipment and design. Lakeside Equipment has been in the business for close to a century. When you work with us, we assign engineers and other specialists who help you design your plant from the ground up or assist you in making improvements to help you become more efficient and cost-effective. Call us to discuss your project.

Tips To Maximize Your RFP For Wastewater Treatment

Running a wastewater treatment plant requires a lot of thought when it comes to safe operations, fiscal responsibility, and keeping an eye on future needs. A wastewater treatment plant manager has to know how to maximize any request for proposal (RFP). Any company can ask for bids for upgrades and repairs, but an RFP often takes a lot of negotiation and tough choices to lead to exceptional results.

How do you maximize your RFP for wastewater treatment? The most important decision you’ll make cannot be rushed. You want to give possible contractors a clear picture. From there, you’ll need to take your time selecting the best team for the work. These steps can help you arrange the best contractor for your needs.

Lay Out Your Goals

Make sure you clearly lay out your reason for the project, the current set-up, and what the goals are. Give a description of your municipality including how many miles you serve, the population, and any budgetary information you can share. How is the wastewater treatment plant funded? Is it through property taxes, fees, grants, etc.?

Go over the budget for any improvements or repairs. The companies that you’ll work with do need to know if your financial goals are manageable. For that budget, what do you expect?

While you’re going through your goals, bring up the purpose for the RFP. Are you looking to be more efficient or increase the number of households you support? You want to choose a wastewater treatment contractor who meets local, state, and federal laws and regulations. Make sure you’re clear regarding how long you plan to work with this contractor. Will you be working with the contractor just for this project or are you also looking for someone to help with the repairs and maintenance over the decades?

As you discuss repairs and maintenance, you’ll want to cover other aspects of wastewater management like the management of construction workers and projects. You may want to work with a contractor who will arrange where the biosolids go when they’re removed during the wastewater treatment process. Will they be helping secure the chemicals and required testing?

Create a Complex Picture of Your Treatment Plant

When you’re writing out your RFP, present a full picture of your current plant’s design. You want to share the location, your acreage, the current layout, and the equipment you own. Talk about the plant’s capacity and average daily flow. Your plant should have a permit from the EPA, what is your NPDES permit number?

Once you go over what you currently have, discuss what the improvements need to include. If you’re often reaching your plant’s maximum daily flow, you’ll want to increase that. Where do you need the new plant capacity to be? Are you adding grit removal, improving your screens, or seeking energy-efficient changes? Do you want equipment that requires less routine maintenance?

When the water is treated, where does it go? Does it go into a local body of water or into water storage or reservoirs where it goes back to homes and businesses in that municipality? What types of pump stations are needed to get the water from these storage tanks or reservoirs back to homes and businesses? That’s another consideration that your RFP must mention. Give a list of locations and their flow rates.

Through each step of wastewater, including pump stations and reservoirs, is the city responsible for maintenance, or are you looking for a contractor to arrange the maintenance in these areas? Do you want the contractor to help find the right maintenance crew?

Be Clear About Contact Information

Provide updated contact information for possible contractors who have additional questions. Provide both phone and email and check messages at both. Some people may have more time to respond by email than phone or vice versa. If you’re amenable to both contact methods, you’ll get more responses. Give a deadline for questions so that you have time to answer them and schedule interviews and plant tours.

Take time to answer everyone. Even if the answer is “we’re going a different way,” it’s common courtesy to give a response. If you ever are in a position where you’ll need to work with a different contractor in the future, you haven’t upset anyone by ignoring their questions or proposal.

Don’t Forget the Equal Opportunity Requirements

It is your legal responsibility to make it clear that you will not be engaging in any discriminatory practices. When you select a contractor, you’re not basing your decision on gender identity, race, nationality, disability, religion, etc. You welcome everyone to apply, including veterans and aged workers.

Arrange a Tour Date and Timelines for Decisions

For contractors to come up with the right quote, they need time to tour the facility. Provide tours on a few dates so that every interested contractor can find a date that works with his or her schedule. Make sure you’re there for the tour and address any questions that arise during the tour.

About a month after the tours take place, set that as the date you require all proposals to be submitted. If you’ll be interviewing, follow the proposal deadline with the interviews. You want to narrow down your list of contractors shortly after the interviews.

Once you have selected your first choice, start the negotiation process. That will be the final step to awarding the contract to the winning company. In all, you want to do this at least six months before you want your project to start. That way, the contractor has time to schedule the project and get the equipment and supplies ordered in time.

Give Clear Instructions for Proposal Submissions

Give a step-by-step guide to how proposals need to be submitted and where they need to be delivered or mailed. If you want multiple hard copies and/or a PDF proposal, be clear about it. Give a date and time for those proposals to reach your office. Include the name, address, fax number, and email. Finish this up with a statement that you are not responsible for mail delays or lost emails and faxes if you even agree to receive the proposals electronically.

You want contractors to detail their qualifications, experience, cost proposal, and project details. Training and qualifications need to be given to every person who will be working on your wastewater treatment project.

Have a plan in place for any protests from contractors who are not awarded the contract or who become upset that they submitted a proposal that you never received. Give them a deadline to submit complaints and go over how to submit them.

Have a Back-Up Plan

What happens if you don’t like any of the proposals? Have a plan in place for this situation. If no one meets your needs, you’ll need to start the process over. While this isn’t ideal, you have to put the public and City budgets and needs first. If all proposals are too high or will take too long to complete, you may need to go back to the drawing board and see if there are ways to scale down your goals.

Be Open and Honest

As the public is usually the group paying for the cost of upgrades beyond any applicable grants, you need to be open and honest. Proposals have to be part of the public records for taxpayers to look at. Be clear about the scope of the project and why the improvements or project is needed.

If you take time with your RFP and are clear about the scope of the project, you’ll end up with great proposals. You don’t want to partner with a wastewater treatment contractor that leaves you and, therefore, your taxpayers hanging.

Lakeside Equipment has close to 100 years of experience in water treatment. We have a solid team of engineers who work with you during every step of your installation or improvements. We help you come up with a wastewater treatment design that matches your city’s needs and budgets. Give us a call to discuss your project.

Lakeside Raptor® FalconRake® Bar Screen vs. Duperon FlexRake

Wastewater contains organic materials, but inorganic and organic solids also make their way into sewer and septic systems. How do these items get into the wastewater? It depends on the setting. Homeowners with a septic system may not realize the damage that’s caused by flushing tampon applicators or using too much toilet paper. Children may flush toys, coins, or marbles down the toilet and never tell their parents. In a city setting, items like candy wrappers or water bottles may blow into the street on recycling days and end up in storm drains.

When items like children’s small toys, plastic wrappers, and other personal products get flushed or go down a drain, it’s a problem. Whether it’s intentional or not, plastics, glass, and metal items do not break down. Items like paper towels, cigarette butts, and diapers may break down, but they do so slowly. If they’re not removed in the early stages of water treatment, it can block pipes and damage water treatment equipment. The screening process is an essential first step in any water treatment plant.

Wastewater treatment plants have screens to capture these items before they make it into grit removal systems, clarifiers, aerators, etc. Screens are also helpful in industrial settings like paper mills with wood pulp, wineries where the grape skins and pulp need to be removed before the yeast is added, or breweries where grains and hops need removal before yeast is added for the fermentation process.

Who removes the items from the screens that are getting blocked by these solids? That’s where a mechanical rake comes in. Rakes continually move across a screen to remove the items that are trapped. There are different types of rakes. One of the most efficient is the Lakeside Raptor® FalconRake® Bar Screen. How does this system work, and how does it compare to the Duperon FlexRake?

How a Bar Screen Works?

A bar screen is a vertical screening system with multiple rakes. Those rakes are on a link system that continually moves them around the vertical screen. The rakes are spaced evenly and continually rotate around the screen and tank floor. The screen captures items like plastics, sticks, logs, rocks, glass, etc. and the rakes scoop them up as it passes under the bottom of the screen. They travel up the back and are dropped into a discharge chute as the rakes pass back over the top of the bar screen. From there, items can be washed and recycled or composted, and the rakes continue in another circle to repeat the process.

When you’re looking at bar screens. There are a few things to keep in mind. First, look for construction that prevents corrosion. Stainless steel is the best. After that, you want to look at the placement of bearings, bushings, guides, and sprockets. If they’re underwater, repairs may be more common and difficult to manage. Efficiency and headroom are other factors to consider.

The Pros and Cons of the Duperon FlexRake

The Duperon FlexRake is engineered specifically to meet your demands in many of the same ways the Raptor® FalconRake®  Bar Screen does. The link system can hold up to a total of 60,000 pounds, which is impressive. The links are self-lubricating, so the maintenance is minimal. Gear motors are also sealed to help prevent excessive wear. Bearings, bushings, guides, and sprockets are in higher positions to also reduce the risk of jamming, which can lead to excessive maintenance or repair. It’s also designed to avoid jams when the debris is larger than usual. If something larger goes through the screen rake, you do not have to shut it down and have someone manually remove it.

The bar screen is cleaned automatically. That makes it possible to run it 24 hours a day without having a person to operate it. It’s installed in a vertical or almost vertical position. The motor is low RPM and energy-efficient.

There are several models available. Some are better for industrial settings like food processing plants and breweries, others are ideal for wastewater plants. To find the right screen rake, you need to look at the bar opening (as small as 1/5th of an inch up to just over an inch). Look at the installation angle, too.

How Does the Lakeside Raptor® FalconRake® Bar Screen Compare?

How does the Lakeside Raptor® FalconRake® Bar Screen compare? Much of it, including the chain link system, is crafted from stainless steel, and you get a choice. You can choose 304 stainless steel or 316. Both provide protection from corrosion, but 316 has more nickel and offers more protection in water that is chlorinated or contains more chlorides. If you treat water that has high chloride levels, consider 316 for the best protection from corrosion.

The drive system is low horsepower and incredibly efficient. Lower electricity costs in your municipality by choosing this bar screen. Variable speeds ensure comprehensive cleaning of the screen. The rake is stainless steel, and the ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene scraper is also durable and long-lasting. Teeth on the rake fit into the screening for optimal removal. If you’re worried about possible damage happening, don’t worry about it with this model. The bearings, bushings, guides, and sprockets are located near the top to reduce repairs from jams. It’s very unlikely that this bar screen system will need repairs. If it ever does, the drive system is above the water, which makes it much easier to manage.

With over a dozen rakes working together to remove solids, it’s an efficient removal process and headloss is minimal. It’s also adjustable, so you can space the bars to meet your needs. Bar spacing can be as little as ¼th of an inch to much larger sizes. You can also have a cover added to minimize odors. Teardrop-shaped bars are optional and reduce headloss even more. There’s also an optional weather protection system and explosion-proof design to provide peace of mind. Our Lakeside experts will help you determine the appropriate bar screen.

Where should you use the Raptor® FalconRake® Bar Screen? It’s useful in industrial and municipal settings. It’s an ideal screening system in a wastewater treatment plant. You can use it in your pump stations or sewer overflows. If you own a brewery, winery, or food processing plant, it’s good in those settings, too. As the system is customized to match the depth you need, you’re certain to have a screening and rake system that matches your needs.

Pair the Raptor® FalconRake® Bar Screen with a Raptor® Wash Press to clean, compact, and dewater the items that the bar screen removes. The Raptor® Wash Press cleans and presses the trapped materials to reduce the volume and weight of materials that go to the landfill. Lower volume and weight mean less money spent disposing of these items in a landfill. It also helps reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill.

For more than 90 years, Lakeside Equipment has provided solutions for treatment plant designers and engineers. Lakeside’s experience with water purification and water treatment processes cannot be matched. Our engineers will design a system that meets your needs and matches your budget. Our goal is to design a system that is built to last, and should you ever need parts, we have a stellar parts department who are happy to help you.

For more information on how you can achieve Lakeside quality and performance, contact one of our experts at 630-837-5640, email us at or visit our website

Do Wastewater Treatment Plants Remove Pharmaceuticals?

Wastewater treatment plants are there to clean and purify water that arrives through sewer lines, septage haulers, etc. The process removes bacteria, solids, and other impurities until the water is clean enough to go back into the district’s water supply or get released into area bodies of water.

What about pharmaceuticals? Can wastewater treatment plants remove pharmaceuticals before the water returns to public water sources, lakes, streams, and other water sources? Studies show that many drugs end up in treated water even after a normal treatment process.

Wastewater Treatment May Not Remove Everything

In a month’s time, it’s estimated that close to 46% of Americans have taken at least one prescription drug. As you get older, chronic health conditions are more likely. Around 85% of American’s aging adults (60 or older) take medications daily. Adults aren’t alone. It’s found that about 18% of children 12 or younger take at least one prescription medication.

You probably take vitamins, herbal remedies, over-the-counter meds, and/or prescriptions on a daily basis and never stop to think about the impact they have on wastewater. Pharmaceutical plants and the liquid manure from livestock treated with veterinary pharmaceuticals that gets spread on fields aren’t the only cause of these compounds getting into groundwater and streams.

The reality is that the medications people take also find their way into your wastewater. They’re excreted through fecal matter and urine or expired or unneeded pills are flushed down drains or toilets. The wastewater treatment process does what it can to remove them. The problem is that water treatment can’t get all of the drugs out of the water.

A study looked at the wastewater from 50 of the nation’s wastewater treatment plants. Pharmaceuticals were found in all 50 samples. Valsartan (blood pressure medication) had the highest levels, but atenolol (blood pressure), carbamazepine (epilepsy), and metoprolol (heart/beta-blocker) were also found in high levels. While it’s uncertain the levels remaining after the water is cleaned is dangerous to humans, questions arose as to whether the drugs would harm aquatic animals.

In 2020, a University of Cincinnati biologist decided to look at the effects of estrogen (birth control pills) on freshwater fish. As estrogen had been found in streams near wastewater treatment plants, the study looked to see what would happen if native fish were exposed.

In the study, the researchers focused on a native fish that has live births rather than lay eggs. They put them in fresh water that contained a controlled level of estrogen. The fishes’ fertility was affected and fewer babies, especially males, were born to the fish in the study. The shocking thing is that the researchers had used levels of estrogen that were 16 times lower than was found in the streams.

Many people today take antidepressants. How well is wastewater treatment removing antidepressants? Researchers took a look at the tissue of fish found upstream from two wastewater treatment plants in Colorado and Iowa. Fish found upstream showed no signs of antidepressants.

They also collected fish five miles downstream of where the same wastewater treatment plants were releasing treated water. Those fish had noticeable levels of common antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Xanax). The water samples also tested positive for containing those and bupropion (Wellbutrin), citalopram (Celexa), and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

What about antibiotics? One of the first was penicillin, but science advanced and many of today’s antibiotics are synthetics like sulfonamides or semi-synthetics like amoxicillin. A study of water within the Great Lakes found that wastewater contained several pharmaceuticals including two antibiotics.

So many medications are being found in water that’s been treated and released to streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. They’re making their way into the oceans. It’s shown that the drugs can impact fish, mammals, crustaceans, shellfish, and other aquatic creatures.

Federal Regulations on Wastewater Treatment Don’t Cover Pharmaceuticals

The Federal Government maintains a list of chemicals, metals, and other contaminants that must be removed from wastewater before it’s released. Pharmaceuticals are not on that list. While attention is being raised, only four compounds found in pharmaceuticals for human use are even being considered. Three of them are in birth control pills and one is an antibiotic.

This is concerning as a 2007 study tested for 17 different pharmaceuticals in samples taken from 20 different municipal water systems. More than 50% of the water samples tested positive for carbamazepine (anticonvulsant), ibuprofen (NSAID pain reliever), iopromide (contrast agent for scans of the body), meprobamate (tranquilizer), and phenytoin (anticonvulsant).

A second in-depth study went back and found meprobamate and phenytoin in 50% of the samples. While the levels were too low to impact humans, it does raise concerns on how these medications affect fish and other aquatic creatures.

Many wastewater treatment plants are already removing pharmaceuticals, but only a percentage is removed through typical wastewater treatment plans. There’s still a percentage making it into the water. Which leads to the question of what else can be done.

What Steps Help Remove Pharmaceuticals?

How well wastewater treatment removes pharmaceuticals depends on what system a district uses. Activated sludge is one of the more common treatment processes. It uses microorganisms to break down contaminants. It’s not overly effective on pharmaceuticals. Dr. Diana Aga, a chemistry professor, says more pharmaceuticals would be removed if wastewater treatment plants paired activated sludge with granular activated carbon filters.

What steps in water treatment help remove the medications people take? A study looked at the different water treatment steps and whether or not they were partly effective at removing certain medications.

  • Anabolics/Steroids – Reverse osmosis was most effective, but nanofiltration, ozonation, and granular activated carbon was also useful.
  • Antibiotics – Ultrafiltration with powdered activated carbon and reverse osmosis were effective.
  • Carbamazepine (Anticonvulsant) – Ultrafiltration with powdered activated carbon and reverse osmosis were the most effective treatment methods.
  • Diazepam (Sedative) – Reverse osmosis was the most effective with ultrafiltration using powdered activated carbon as a second-best choice.
  • Diclofenac and Ibuprofen (NSAID) – Reverse osmosis and soil aquifer treatments were the best options, and granular activated carbon filters also worked well on
  • Paracetamol (Tylenol) – Ozonation and reverse osmosis were the most effective ways to remove this pain reliever from wastewater.

There is a lot of evidence in filtration being the best way to remove pharmaceuticals. Your wastewater treatment plant can help get pharmaceuticals out of the wastewater that’s treated and released. What is your plant’s design? Have you set up a system that pairs activated sludge with some form of carbon filtration? Maybe it’s time to consider a change that helps keep pharmaceuticals out of the water while also improving your plant’s expenditures.

Is it time to upgrade your wastewater treatment equipment? If you’re looking to clean wastewater effectively and efficiently, modernizing some equipment can help improve your plant’s performance while lowering electricity costs. Your district saves money, which makes everyone happy.

Lakeside Equipment has been a leader in water purification for close to a century. Talk to us about our Learn more about the steps to take for cleaner water and lower energy costs.

Do Wastewater Treatment Plants Smell?

Stop and think about what wastewater treatment processes do. It’s not surprising that plants release noxious odors. The goal is to remove fecal matter, urine, and other waste products from the wastewater to make sure it’s clean before it’s released to lakes, ponds, rivers, or storage tanks where it’s reused by homes and businesses. The very nature of wastewater makes it a smelly venture.

While wastewater treatment plants do smell, it’s important to reduce those smells for several reasons. First, you don’t want people who live nearby to constantly complain to the town or city about the odors. Second, those odors are linked to harmful gases being released during the treatment process. Odor management helps protect the environment.

To best understand how to take care of problems with unpleasant odors, you have to look at each step of a wastewater treatment process. Figure out the best ways to reduce odors along the way.

The Steps to Wastewater Treatment

The exact steps to wastewater treatment depend on a plant’s design. Most follow these steps.

#1 – Screening: Wastewater that comes in from the sewer or is dropped off at a septage station is screened to remove things like plastic wrappers, tampon applicators, grease, rags, and other objects that could clog equipment.

#2 – Pumping: Once the wastewater is screened, it’s pumped to the next station for grit removal.

#3 – Grit Removal: Grit removal systems separate grit like sand where it sinks to the bottom of the vessel and is removed and trucked to landfills or compost piles.

#4 – Primary Settling: After grit is removed, the wastewater is moved to clarifiers where it sits so that sludge can settle at the bottom and grease floats to the top. Grease is skimmed away and joins the sludge in digesters. Some plants use chemicals to start removing phosphorus from the wastewater. The remaining water leaves the tank.

#5 – Aeration: The wastewater that remains is aerated so that microorganisms can start feeding on the pollutants.

#6 – Secondary Settling: As microorganisms finish their job, the wastewater goes to a secondary settling tank or lagoon and any remaining sludge goes to the bottom where it’s pumped out and goes back to aeration tanks.

#7 – Filtration: Wastewater is almost fully treated at this point. Any contaminants that remain are captured in the filtration materials. Filters are regularly rinsed out and that liquid goes back to the start of the wastewater treatment plant.

#8 – Disinfection: The final step in wastewater treatment involves the use of disinfection to kill remaining bacteria to 98% or higher. Ultraviolet disinfection is common and brings the now clean water to the levels needed to release it back to the environment or public water storage tanks. Before water goes back into rivers, ponds, and lakes, it may be aerated one more time to boost oxygen levels.

What Causes the Odor and How Do You Stop It?

Sewer and septic water smells anyway. As anaerobic digestion of the waste takes place, the organisms that break down the waste release certain gases like hydrogen sulfide and methane. These gases do not smell pleasant. Some liken it to the smell of a really rotten egg.

To understand what causes the foul odor, you need to understand what happens to the sludge removed during wastewater treatment. Here’s what happens to the sludge that’s removed from wastewater.

#1 – Sludge is separated and goes through anaerobic digestion. It’s heated to a certain temperature and uses anaerobic bacteria to break it down. In this process, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, and methane are produced and add to the smells found in a wastewater treatment plant.

#2 – Once the anaerobic digestion process ends, sludge is pumped from the digester onto a belt that allows water to drain. The water (filtrate) goes into tanks that will sit for several months before going to a site to be spread onto land. Remaining solids go to a facility where it’s composted and sometimes used to fertilize the soil.

If an anaerobic digester is sealed off with a cover or similar enclosure, the smell can’t go far. If the digestion tanks are open, that smell will permeate the air. The smell can travel, so people who live nearby may complain. It’s not too different from the way a farm that spreads liquid manure on fields ends up making an entire neighborhood smell of the manure. It’s important, but people do not like it. You may also know the foul odors that come from a manhole when you walk past on a hot summer’s day.

The odors can seem worse on some days over others. On a windy day, neighbors may notice the smell more. On a hot, humid day, the smell will likely seem worse.

Your first goal is to find where the odors are worse and address those issues. Consult with a wastewater treatment expert if you’re having problems narrowing it down. Sometimes, equipment upgrades and the installation of biofilters or carbon filters within ductwork systems can help reduce odors. Deodorizing systems can also help.

Be aware that masking the odor won’t stop it. You’re still going to find the odor leads to complaints from time to time. It’s most likely that you’ll hear the bulk of the complaints in the spring and summer when people want to open their windows and let fresh air into the home.

Benefits to Covering Your Wastewater Lagoons and Tanks and Other Equipment

Start with the screw pumps you use to move wastewater from plant lift stations or to return sludge from clarifiers back to aeration tanks. Open screw pumps will allow odors to escape. You should consider if enclosed screw pumps are better for your odor reduction goals.

If you put a cover over the open tanks and lagoons at your wastewater treatment plant, there’s a second benefit to consider. You could trap the gas that’s released and use it for biogas. That biogas can lower your plant’s heating costs by using it to fuel your heating system. You gain twice the benefits as you slash your heating bills and eliminate odors that may have locals complaining.

When you cover your open tanks and lagoons, there’s a second benefit. Less water is lost to evaporation. This reduces the quantity of chemicals your plant needs to use in the wastewater treatment process. You’ll save money on the cost of chemicals, too.

Covers are a smart investment, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. Covers may be made of metals like aluminum or steel or fiberglass. Some float on the surface, some are retractable, and some are flexible and made from geomembranes. They have to be airtight and designed to stand up to your area’s weather. You need to be able to remove them in a timely manner for testing, repairs, and emergencies. To know which best fits your needs, you need to talk to an expert in wastewater treatment plant design and installation.

Is it time to upgrade your wastewater treatment plant? Are you looking at making changes that help lower energy costs and make the people in your district happier with your dedication to quality and costs at the same? Contact our experts for advice. Lakeside Equipment has been in the wastewater treatment industry for close to 100 years. We’ll assure you achieve your goals.