4 Principles Of Biological Wastewater Treatment You Shouldn’t Be Ignoring (But Probably Are)

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In the busy-ness of day-to-day operations, it’s easy to overlook opportunities for improvement or simply live with your current challenges until a better solution comes along.

As the manager of a wastewater treatment plant, it’s your responsibility to operate it as cost-effectively as possible. That means keeping an eye out for incremental cost reduction opportunities, as well as new technologies that can help you make bigger leaps in productivity and efficiency.

It’s time to take a fresh look at solving these four operational challenges:

1. You don’t have to live with large volumes of sludge

The problem: The large volume of sludge produced in many wastewater treatment plants today is a by-product of suspended growth activated sludge treatment technology. Even a smaller municipal treatment plant can generate a tremendous amount of sludge – which is costing you more than you may realize.

Consider for a moment the steps you must take to manage waste-activated sludge:

  • Pumping,
  • Digestion,
  • Thickening,
  • Storage,
  • Hauling,
  • Disposal, and
  • Filing regulatory paperwork

Is it any wonder sludge management is costly? According to the EPA, it can represent up to 40 to 60 percent of the total budget for a wastewater treatment facility.

The solution: A different method of biological wastewater treatment can be designed to reduce biological sludge production by up to 80%. The Nebula® attached growth process from Aquarius Technologies uses proprietary textile media as the home for microorganisms. Oxygen for respiration and mixing of the microbes is provided through a fine bubble diffused aeration system.

Spatial succession of microorganisms (within cells) create a food chain, beginning with higher food-to-microorganism ratios in the early stages and lower life forms and lower food-to-microorganism ratios in the later stages – where higher life form microorganisms consume the remains of smaller ones.

Reduction in sludge production means that you can utilize smaller sludge facilities and drastically reduce the volume of sludge you must dispose of. That translates into major cost savings.

2. Operational costs of suspended growth wastewater treatment

The problem: Are you aware of the operational costs of your suspended growth wastewater treatment system? It requires a significant amount of energy, operational oversight and maintenance to produce the desired effluent quality. Suspended growth systems:

  • Are susceptible to performance deterioration due to hydraulic and organic load variations.
  • Require that the operator must constantly be aware of conditions that could lead to poorly settling sludge or inadequate treatment.
  • Require the operator to adjust the amount of biological solids in the system, the amount of oxygen provided, and the rate of return of biological solids from the clarifier to the aeration basin.
  • May require the operator to make other process adjustments.

This level of oversight prevents operators from focusing on other higher value-added activities. Operators should not have to babysit a biological wastewater treatment system..

The solution: Attached growth systems operate with little operator intervention and monitoring. Plus, they use simple, low maintenance equipment. As a result, their operating costs are lower than suspended growth treatment systems.

3. Accommodating changing hydraulic fluctuations

The problem: Suspended growth systems are susceptible to performance deterioration due to hydraulic and organic load variations. Here are two of the things that can go wrong:

  • Rapid flow increases may wash microorganisms out of the aeration tank at precisely the time that a high concentration of them is needed.
  • Microorganisms can be washed out of the system with the clarifier effluent, resulting in significantly reduced performance.

The solution: Because the microorganisms in an attached growth biofilm system are fixed to media, they can’t wash out with increased flows. Also, fixed biofilm systems typically have a greater mass of microorganisms, making them better able to handle organic load increases.

4. Cost of ownership

The problem: Because a suspended growth wastewater treatment system requires more attention to prevent poorly settling sludge which may result in poor treatment performance, its cost of ownership is higher than attached growth biofilm systems.

The solution: Attached growth biological systems deliver the lowest cost of ownership when designed and applied properly. The process has few moving parts and therefore is low maintenance. The biofilm media racks feature an air scoured in place for additional biofilm control. The media is durable; in numerous customer applications, it has lasted for more than a decade.

Only two parts of the system may need routine maintenance:

  • The fine bubble aeration system’s diffuser elements are typically replaced every seven to ten years, and
  • The blower and pump may require routine maintenance.

Next steps

As you’re looking for opportunities to reduce the operating costs of your wastewater treatment plant, don’t overlook these four areas. Savings may be closer than you imagine.

One specific way you can make significant progress in all four areas is to invest in an attached growth Nebula® MultiStage Biofilm System. It’s flexible design can reduce sludge production and operating costs, handles variations in hydraulic and organic loads and offers a low cost of operation throughout the life of the system.

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