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What is wastewater?

Wastewater or commonly referred as sewage is the byproduct of many uses of water. There are the
household uses such as: showering, dishwashing, laundry and flushing the toilet. Additionally, industries
and commercial enterprises uses water for these and many other purposes including processes, utility,
products and cleaning parts. After the water has been used, it enter the wastewater stream and flows to
the wastewater treatment plant.
Why treating wastewater?
Pollutants must be removed from the water to protect the environment and public health. When water is
used by our society, the water becomes contaminated with pollutants. If left untreated, these pollutants
would negatively affect our water and environment. For example, organic matter (commonly referred as
COD and BOD) can cause oxygen depletion in lakes, rivers, and streams. This biological decomposition of
organics could result in fish kills and/or foul odors. Nutrients in wastewater, such as phosphorus, can
cause premature aging of our lakes, called Eutrophication. Waterborne diseases are also eliminated
through proper wastewater treatment. Additionally, there are many pollutants that could exhibit toxic
effects on aquatic life and the public.
How do we treat wastewater?
Pre-eliminary treatment
Preliminary treatment processes are the first processes that the wastewater encounters as it enters the
treatment process. This involves flow measurement so that the operator can quantify how much
wastewater is being treated. Flow monitoring is followed by screenings removal. Screenings are string
like materials, rags and large foreign objects like sticks or perhaps an errant golf ball. These materials
need to be removed because they can damage machinery or clog processes.

Figure 1. Bar Screen
Screenings are removed using a bar screen. The next process in preliminary treatment is grit removal.
Grit is comprised of inorganic material such as sand, gravel, eggshells, etc. These items are removed to
prevent wear and abrasion on pumps and other mechanical equipment. Grit can also plug lines and pipes
and does not respond to biological treatment. In this influent area, sampling equipment is used to collect
small portions of the wastewater for analysis. Sampling enables the operator to determine the pollutant
loadings entering the plant.
Primary Wastewater Treatment
Primary treatment is a physical process, which is intended to remove most of settleable solids. In a
typical municipal plant, 40 60 % of all solids are removed in primary treatment. It includes clarification
by settling or flotation depending on the components in the wastewater.

Figure 2. Clarifier Unit (for Suspended Solids Sedimentation/Heavy Solids)

Figure 3. Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) Unit (for Suspended Solids Flotation/Light Solids)

In industrial applications, chemicals may be added to improve solids removal. Primary treatment is
usually the first stage of wastewater treatment. Whats left after we remove the pollutants that settle
and float? The wastewater still has solids remaining after primary treatment. These solids are either
dissolved or suspended. Dissolved solids are very small solids (e.g., dissolving sugar in water). You
cannot see the solids but they are there. Suspended solids can be likened to the same ends of a magnet.
The solids repel each other. These solids are small, but are visible to the human eye. We remove these
dissolved and suspended solids through the next phase of treatment: Secondary Treatment.

Secondary Wastewater Treatment
This step is intended to remove the dissolved organic matter that escapes primary treatment. This is
achieved by microbes consuming the organic matter as food and converting it to carbon dioxide, water,
and energy for their own growth and reproduction.

Figure 4. Trickling Filter Unit
The wastewater is sprayed (or trickled) over a plastic media where microorganisms feed on the waste in
the water. Oxygen (or not, it depends on treatment condition, aerobic or anaerobic) must be provided for
these aerobic organisms to work properly and efficiently. A large amount of fresh air is blown through the
media to keep the bugs happy and doing their job. An integral part of secondary treatment processes is
another set of settling tanks or clarifiers. These secondary clarifiers (final clarifiers) remove the biological
mass that has grown during biological treatment. The resulting sludge is combined with the sludge
collected in the primary treatment process. The sludge is pumped to the solids treatment system for
further processing.
Tertiary Wastewater Treatment
Tertiary wastewater treatment, also called Advanced Wastewater Treatment, treats the effluent from
secondary treatment to meet specific requirements such as: phosphorus removal, metal removal, further
organic removal (with oxidation), and many other processes depending on water quality required.
Sludge Removal
Sludge-that settle out in the primary and secondary treatment-is one of the major byproduct of treating
the wastewater. The most common method to handle this is by dewatering. Dewatering is the removal of
water from sludge to reduce the volume of the sludge that will be disposed.