Is Wastewater Treatment a Solution to Pollution?

In case you didn’t know about it, wastewater treatment is the process that converts waste water into bilge water. As such, the water that people no longer need or don’t want to use again can be thrown back into the environment. Basically, the water we are talking about is the one resulted from washing, bathing or using the toilet. Here we can also include the rainwater runoff.

In general, wastewater contains lots of contaminants, such as toxins, chemicals, and bacteria. By treating it, people want to reduce the level of substances until it is acceptable. Consequently, they can then discharge it into the environment without damaging the latter. The discharge can take place with surface waters (rivers, ocean) or groundwater.

Wastewater Plants

There are two types of wastewater plants:

1. Chemical or Physical Treatment Plants

These are used for treating wastewater that comes from industries, manufacturing firms or factories. Most of the water coming from these sources is filled with chemicals and toxins. People here use chemical reactions together with physical processes to treat this water.

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2. Biological Waste Treatment Plants

These plants take care of wastewater coming from business premises or households. Just as the name says, here they use biological matter, as well as bacteria to break down the waste matter.

How Is Wastewater Treated?

There are various steps to be followed when working with wastewater. Though it may sound quite complicated, the process is necessary for cutting down on pollution. But let’s see what steps are needed for wastewater treatment.

1. Collecting the Wastewater

The first step is to collect the wastewater to be cleaned. Usually, municipal administrations take care of the collection systems. However, more and more home owners and business owners are taking an active part in collecting and directing the wastewater to a central point. The water is sent to a treatment plant like the ones described above. For this, people install underground drainage systems or exhauster tracks. Naturally, you need to fulfill some hygienic conditions when transporting wastewater.

2. Controlling the Odor

After the water reaches the treatment plant, it’s important to take care of the odor. Wastewater is full of dirty substances that create a very unpleasant smell in time. Of course, everybody wants the surrounding area to have a fresh air, which is why people use odor treatment processes. All the odor sources are isolated and then treated with chemicals. This is the first process that takes place at the treatment plant.

3. Screening

The next step in wastewater treatment is to screen and remove large objects. There may be plastics, diapers, sanitary items, cotton buds, face wipes and much more in the water. If they don’t get them out, the waste can lead to machine and equipment problems.

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4. Primary Treatment

Now the team at the plant separates the wastewater from the macrobiotic solid matter. The primary treatment consists of pouring the water into big tanks. As such, the solid matter will remain at the surface and then removed.

5. Secondary Treatment

Called the activated sludge process, the secondary treatment consists in adding seed sludge to the water. This is important because it makes the water further break down. The sludge triggers the growth of oxygen-using bacteria, as well as other microorganisms. They eat up the organic matter.

6. Handling Bio-Solids

After the first treatments, solid matter settles out. Now, this is directed to digesters, which are at room temperature. The wastes are treated here for a month, undergoing anaerobic digestion. The resulting methane gas is further used as a source of energy.

7. Tertiary Treatment

One of the last steps in wastewater treatment is to clean up the impurities. This process is able to remove 99% of the waste in the water. The result is quite close to a drinking water quality. However, this step is quite expensive, requiring special equipment and well-trained operators, as well as chemicals and energy supplies.

8. Disinfection

Even after the primary and secondary treatment process, the water still has organisms and diseases. For this reason, the specialists disinfect the water for 20-25 minutes with chlorine and sodium hypochlorite. Now the water is healthy enough to be released back into the environment. Once it goes through the disinfection process, it can be used for irrigations, cooling machines in various plants etc.

9. Sludge Treatment

Finally, the last step is to process the sludge that previously resulted. Then people store it in tanks, where it thickens and separates from water. They treat the remaining water again, as well as the sludge. Both of them go back to the environment afterward.

Pros and Cons

But is this a solution to pollution? There are plenty of benefits when it comes to wastewater treatment. One argument is the fact that this process keeps the environment clean. Thus, people make sure that there is no water pollution. There is also less waste since communities often reuse the cleaned water for cooling machines or irrigations. Another advantage is that it prevents the waterborne diseases from breaking out.

However, there are also some cons. Some people are against wastewater treatment since it doesn’t remove completely all the harmful components. Moreover, it is expensive in comparison to other methods.

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Indeed, there are some voices against using wastewater treatment for eliminating pollution. The main argument is the fact that it’s expensive and it doesn’t make it 100% clean. However, the best part is that in order to reuse it, you don’t always need it to be completely clean. As shown above, you can use it to cool off equipment even if it’s not clean.

This further leads to saving water from the environment. Moreover, you have more clean water to use for drinking or washing, for instance. The procedure may cost a lot, but the prices come back in time from the saved water.

All in all, the answer is yes. Wastewater treatment is indeed a solution to pollution. This is valid whether we are talking about environment pollution or water one, which is even better. The more we start using this practice, the cleaner our cities and communities will be.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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