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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 sales@lakeside-equipmnet.com or visit our website www.lakeside-equipment.com

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.

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.