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What is Tertiary Wastewater Treatment?

Proper tertiary wastewater treatment can eliminate over 99 percent of impurities from sewage. Tertiary wastewater treatment involves a set of additional steps following secondary treatment to further reduce organics, turbidity, nitrogen, phosphorus, metals, and pathogens.

Tertiary wastewater treatment improves the quality of the water for industrial and domestic standards, or to meet specific requirements around the safe discharge of water. For example, water handled by municipalities with tertiary treatment also involves the removal of germs, which ensures that water is safe for drinking purposes.


Tertiary treatment of wastewater gives extra protection to wildlife after discharge into rivers or lakes, and is also essential when water is to be reused for irrigation (e.g., food crops, golf courses), for recreational purposes (e.g., lakes, estuaries), or for drinking water.


In a tertiary wastewater treatment process, most procedures involve some form of physicochemical treatment such as coagulation, filtration, activated carbon adsorption of organics, reverse osmosis, and extra disinfection. Nutrient removal in wastewater treatment comprises two main treatment processes: primary and secondary treatment, with a few additional preliminary methods.


Primary treatment, which typically removes 50% to 70% of the suspended solids in wastewater, utilizes physical processes like planting and settling to remove debris, grit, oil, grease and a few lighter solids. Where secondary treatment applies additional biological procedures like aeration and activated sludge treatment to break down dissolved and suspended biosolids using good bacteria.


Tertiary wastewater treatment adds a third, more innovative and rigorous amount of treatment. Primary and secondary treatment typically gets wastewater clean enough to discharge safely into the surroundings. A tertiary wastewater treatment process can attain levels of water purification which make the water safe for reuse in water-intensive processes or for human consumption.


Main and secondary treatment are usually adequate for many functions, but not all wastewater treatment plants use tertiary wastewater treatment methods. Those that use tertiary wastewater treatment attain more stringent levels of cleanliness to meet the exact standards that regulate water reuse, especially in public water supplies.


Tertiary wastewater treatment can also be beneficial when centers must release water into sensitive aquatic ecosystems such as estuaries, sluggish waters or rivers close to coral reefs.

It is more effective than primary or secondary treatment at eliminating unwanted color from wastewater, therefore it's essential in industrial pulp and paper software and textiles manufacturing.


Many treatment plants use tertiary wastewater treatment specifically to make the water safe for human ingestion. After tertiary treatment, the water has undergone sufficient purification to be clean enough for drinking.


Nutrient removal in wastewater treatment is essential for many industries and safety standards. Water that has gone through the full process of tertiary wastewater treatment appropriate for many operations that require clean water, including industrial and manufacturing processes, gas and oil extraction and refining, utility cooling systems, and agricultural methods like irrigation.


Want the highest standard of cleanliness and safety? Call us to chat further about how we can implement these solutions for you and your communities today.

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