Exploring New Green Solutions For Wastewater Treatment Plants
With the world putting more stake in green solutions, it’s no surprise that the same is being done when it comes to wastewater treatment. This once-traditional industry is now being challenged to undergo a radical transformation to become greener and more sustainable.
Wastewater treatment plants are a big consumer of electricity, taking up as much as 4% of the total electricity production in the US. In fact, it’s such an important part of plant work that electricity costs alone can make up between 25% and 40% of the wastewater treatment plant’s annual budget.
The shocking thing about these statistics? It’s expected to skyrocket in the next few decades as the demand increases around the country based on population growth and more stringent water quality regulations. With freshwater basins and other water sources throughout the US under threat, it’s no surprise that wastewater treatment is becoming more prominent.
This high electricity usage is bad for the environment and is doing more harm than good - at the same time, it’s a key part of many processing steps undertaken in waste treatment. That’s why the industry is starting to pivot towards more environmentally-friendly solutions that can help turn the tide. More and more plant leaders are setting long-term energy efficiency goals that are related to introducing more renewable options.
Green solutions for wastewater treatment plants are ensuring safe drinking water and better environmental awareness for the future: in this article, we’ll go into the finer details of why these solutions hold so much potential:
A Look Into Wastewater Treatment Until Now
Wastewater treatment comes down to taking contaminants and other potentially dangerous pollutants out of domestic and industrial wastewater so that it can be reused for drinking water, irrigation, or another purpose.
These treatment processes and outcomes are heavily regulated by local and federal regulators, and more recently those regulations have started to include strict guidelines for water that is set to re-enter the environment after treatment.
For wastewater to go through the cycle and be reintroduced as clean, usable water it needs to undergo a few different steps. First, any solids are separated out of the untreated wastewater using a variety of filters and catchment equipment. Once all the solids have been removed, the liquid wastewater goes through several different treatments to remove any smaller solids, chemical pollutants, and other impurities that are still present.
The water is then finally put through oxidation and even UV filtration before it is tested, graded, and deemed ready to be released into the environment.
It’s these very processes that are contributing to the heavy energy use that takes place in wastewater treatment plants. Take UV treatments, for example. In order to sanitize wastewater, plants will need several if not dozens of UV lights, all of which are heavy when it comes to electricity usage. Pair that with the specialist equipment needed for other parts of the treatment and the rate of usage goes even higher.
This is why the wastewater treatment industry is looking to lower its energy consumption while driving more reliance on more renewable options.
New Green Solutions That Hold Promise For Wastewater Treatment
Many wastewater treatment plants around the country have set energy-neutral goals that they hope to achieve in the next few years. This means that they need to reduce as much of their energy usage as possible while introducing new, more eco-friendly methods that are more sustainable.
Now that regulators and an increasing amount of plants are coming to the table to develop initiatives that are more environmentally friendly, there are several promising new solutions that are becoming more commonplace.
Here are some of the most exciting green treatment options that are coming to the forefront:
One of the simplest green solutions now being introduced to wastewater treatment is the use of bioreactors and natural microorganisms.
In essence, a bioreactor with naturally occurring bacteria is used to process wastewater, either via a moving biofilm reactor or some sort of biofilm membrane. This bioreactor is typically also linked to tanks that have separators for any of the biosolids present in the water. It will also have some kind of aerator that ensures the microorganisms in the water have a sufficient supply of oxygen to do their job. The wastewater is run through the biofilm, giving the bacteria the opportunity to go to work.
What happens from there is that the bacteria sparks biochemical reactions in the wastewater that transforms any remaining contaminants into less-toxic forms without the need for copious amounts of electricity.
Another green solution that is taking over wastewater treatment is bioremediation, a process that also relies on natural bacterias. In bioremediation, these microorganisms work to neutralize and cut down on hazardous pollutants that come from industrial processes.
Bioremediation can also be used to reclaim polluted soil. Instead of using expensive electrical equipment or heavier chemical processes, biological microbes are introduced to the polluted area. These microbes are already present in the environment, and by using their inherent properties the environment can be treated without concerns for what happens after. The microbes simply get absorbed afterward and contribute to the repair of the area.
At the same time, these microorganisms do have their limits and they won’t be able to tackle heavier contaminants like lead, cadmium, or mercury. This has led to the development of other green technologies that are able to do so, known as electrowinning or electrocoagulation.
Why Green Technology Is More Advantageous For Wastewater Treatment
So other than cutting down on power usage, why is green technology better for wastewater treatment plants as a whole?
The benefits of taking a more systematic, or strategic, approach to energy management are clear. Plants across different size categories, geographic locations, and treatment types have achieved significant energy and cost savings through energy management approaches, which generally feature top leadership commitment, clear targets, accountability systems, and robust data tracking
The first major benefit is the environment. Studies have found that as much as 40% of all lakes in the US are too polluted to support aquatic ecosystems and life. This pollution is a direct result of poor waste management policies and is having a real, tangible effect on the safety of our drinking water. Using the green solutions listed above, it’s possible to clear up the environment and reduce the usage of fossil fuels and overall electricity usage in one move.
On the other hand, this is not the only benefit to making use of greener solutions to treat wastewater. The other major advantage is the impact it can have on the general operational costs of the plant. Compared to other methods of cleaning such as activated sludge, using bioreactors is much more affordable.
Think about groundwater that has been contaminated. By simply adding a few natural microorganisms, the level of work needed to clean up the groundwater as a whole goes down significantly.
The other advantages that cannot be overlooked are the impact that greener solutions have on the infrastructure life of the treatment plant. Energy-sucking options like UV lights and other specialist machinery require regular maintenance and repair, while natural options like microorganisms last longer and grow in number for as long as they are present.
This type of leadership from wastewater treatment plants can bolster the local economy by producing more trust in local regulators and governments and in turn improve the relationships that the public has with wastewater treatment as a whole.
In-Pipe’s Green Wastewater Treatment Technology
What if it was possible for a wastewater treatment plant to reduce the amount of organic material in the water they have to deal with and keep increasing the efficiency and performance of the plant without driving up power costs?
This one technology can increase the capacity of the plant and reduce the need for expensive, intensive processes that are dependent on costly machinery. That technology is In-Pipe, a greener solution for water treatment that works with bacteria commonly found in soil.
In-Pipe controls the biofilm in the collection system by introducing facultative bacteria that thrive whether there is oxygen present or not. This type of bacteria grows quickly and on a continuous basis that will spread throughout the sewer system and convert carbon into carbon dioxide and nitrogen compounds into gaseous nitrogen, all without energy input.
What’s extra special about In-Pipe bacteria is that they do not need aeration to perform, yet another factor that will reduce how much energy is used for the treatment process.
Having introduced this technology to wastewater plants over the span of two decades, the most common results have been as follows:
Up to 40% reduction in the number of influent pollutant loads
Up to 40% increase in the amount of bioavailable organic material (rbCOD)
A 30% reduction in influent solids
A 45% reduction in aeration requirements
A 20% reduction in total nitrogen count
Up to 100% reduction in the need for carbon use
Up to 100% decrease in filamentous outbreaks
A 40% increase in nitrogen and phosphorous uptake rates
These results have been replicated time and time again in wastewater treatment plants around the country, and they can be in your plant too. Contact our team to find out more about our science-based treatments by clicking here.
Green Solutions Going To The Next Level
The solutions listed in this article are the latest and greatest in green technology, and the best part about it is that they’ll just keep getting more advanced from here on out. Even though there is an initial cost to implementing these initiatives, the long-term benefits and cost savings far outweigh any potential cons.
As populations grow and more pressure is placed on water sources, effective and sustainable wastewater treatment is the only way to ensure that there will be clean water for decades to come. This means that more wastewater treatment plants need to commit to renewable options and implementing them as soon as possible.
Not onboard yet? Reach out to our team at In-Pipe with your questions and we’ll talk you through the science and how it can benefit your treatment process today.