How Can Automation Help Your Plant Streamline Wastewater Treatment?

Have you ever considered the benefits of automation at your wastewater treatment plant? Streamlining treatment processes is essential in today’s world. Getting water clean and returned to homes, businesses, and bodies of water needs to happen quickly.

Wastewater treatment is an essential industry in the U.S. While it’s hard to imagine running out of water, it’s possible. Changing weather patterns are finding temperatures heating up, and some areas see very little rainfall.

How can the nation protect the one thing people need to survive? Wastewater treatment is one of the most critical steps. Instead of losing valuable water to environmental factors like evaporation, municipalities can clean the water, move it to storage tanks and ponds, and send it back out to homes and businesses for reuse. Automation can help streamline wastewater treatment processes like this.

Parts of the U.S. Face a Water Crisis

So much of a person’s daily routine involves water. Washing hands to lower the risk of disease is only part of it. Showers, toilet flushes, and the water a person needs to stay hydrated all factor into daily water use. The average person uses over 80 gallons of water a day.

You also have factories across the nation that rely on water for operations. An extrusion machine responsible for making things like the brake cables in cars needs water to cool the product to set the plastic coatings properly and prevent ovality or irregularity when it goes onto the spool. A food manufacturing plant uses water to wash food items before packaging, such as a poultry processing plant.

Almost half of the water drawn from freshwater sources is used in the creation of thermoelectric power. This is why it’s crucial to find other ways to generate electricity, such as solar or wind.

Even smaller businesses use a lot of water. Restaurants use a lot of water for sanitization and cooking. A grocery store needs water for cleaning tasks, bakery, deli, and butcher departments, and produce where misters keep vegetables fresh.

Looking at the National Centers for Environmental Information, several states had deficient precipitation levels during 2020. According to the reports, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Montana were the lowest.

The Palmer Drought Severity Index Rank listed eight states as the worst in the U.S.: California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

In the fall of 2021, Lake Mead’s levels were low enough that the U.S. declared a water shortage. Arizona, Mexico, and Nevada all had their apportionments reduced by as much as 18%. This meant homeowners and business owners in dozens of cities and towns must reduce water consumption. One of the most significant effects is on farmers and ranchers who must find other ways to water crops and take care of their livestock.

When primary water sources like Lake Mead experience shortages, the effects can lead to hardship. Cities can overcome these shortages through efficient wastewater treatment plants and industrial wastewater treatment plants. Automation is one way to ensure a plant operates efficiently.

What Happens During Wastewater Treatment

Primary treatment steps in a wastewater treatment plant include screening out items like rocks, sticks, trash, and even animals like mice or rats that may find their way into sewers. Once screened from the wastewater, these items go to a landfill.

Pumps move the remaining wastewater into aeration tanks, where circulation adds oxygen to start the treatment process. Aeration helps oxygenate the wastewater to begin the breakdown of organic matter. Grit like coffee grounds and sand settle to the bottom of the tanks, where it’s removed and taken to compost piles or landfills. Excess water drains from the grit and goes to the next steps in wastewater treatment. The goal is to get as much water out of grit and solids as possible.

You have pumps, blowers, mixers, and motors all working together. They use energy and may need employees carefully monitoring levels of wastewater coming in. With automation, you save money by having technology tracking everything and turning things on and off as needed. Technology matches flow rates, maximizing performance and efficiency.

In sedimentation tanks, the sludge settles and is removed to digesters. Lighter materials like fat and oil rise to the surface, where they can be removed and added to sludge. Some water is added to the digesters, while the rest of it may go through filters to start cleaning any microscopic particles.

The waste in digesters is given time to break down, removing odor and bacteria. It can then go to landfills or be used as a fertilizer. The cleaner water goes into tanks where chemicals like chlorine are added to kill any remaining bacteria. Facilities may use UV lighting to remove excess chlorine before it’s returned to bodies of water or storage tanks for the public water system.

Water samples are drawn and tested throughout the process to collect essential data. It’s a time-consuming process.

Before wastewater can be released to the environment or public water systems, it must meet FDA standards. If it doesn’t and is released anyway, plants face hefty fines. Final water quality is another area where automation can make a difference.

How Can Automation Help?

Your aeration tanks and basins have blowers and pumps that use up to 60% of your plant’s energy. Are yours automated, or do you have employees turning them on and off as needed? Automation streamlines this and helps you avoid mistakes that can become costly if raw sewage is released.

The critical goals of wastewater treatment are to remove bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants and ensure ammonium, phosphate, and nitrogen levels are low before the water is released. Before release, you need to meet pH levels and remove any chemical disinfectants like chlorine. Properly cleaning wastewater requires much attention to water samples and blower rates. If you have automation monitoring the levels and adjusting as needed, you save money.

Plus, incoming wastewater flow rates change from one hour to the next. You might have more water coming in during peak hours before and after work and school and when manufacturing plants operate. When the members of your municipality are cooking meals, taking showers or baths, and doing laundry, the wastewater coming into the plant through sewer lines increases. When people are sleeping or factories are shut down, the flow is minimal.

Instead of having pumps and motors running at the same speeds during the day and night, automation adjusts their speeds to match the flow rates. That’s another one of the ways automation helps streamline your operations.

Talk to Us

How can we help? Lakeside Equipment’s SharpBNR Process Control system allows you real-time monitoring of your plant. Not only does it help improve energy efficiency, but it also works in tandem with your motors to ensure rotors adjust as needed to achieve the optimal oxygen levels for aeration.

Talk to us about SharpBNR Process Control and how it works with your SCADA system to streamline your wastewater treatment plant. Our experts can help you with equipment upgrades that ensure water is cleaned effectively, even if flow rates suddenly increase and put more demand on your equipment’s pumps and motors. We’d love to talk to you about streamlining your plant’s efficiency with automation. Give us a call.