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The Wonderful World of Wastewater Treatment Technologies 
El Paso Water Supply: Tap Water and Why It’s Safe to Drink 
September 17, 2020
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Modern urban wastewater treatment plant, blue tonedOne of the first things we’re taught in school is that about 70% of this beautiful planet is covered in water. We learn that about 60% of the human body is composed of water. We learn that you can survive up to 30 days without food, but no more than 3 or 4 days without water. It’s essential. It’s life. And yet the complex system needed to provide the world with the supply of clean water it needs every day is a true feat of engineering and innovation. It requires the ability to treat wastewater that is produced and bring it back to a usable level. It didn’t happen overnight, of course. The treatment of wastewater has seen its fair share of technological innovation. 

How is Wastewater Treated?

How it is treated many times depends on the setting and what the purpose is. Methods of treatment use nature’s own rules and processes expedited and aided by special equipment. In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established to address water pollution. It was here that it became federal law to regulate the pollutants that were being discharged into waters. This Act gave the EPA the ability to regulate and oversee pollution control and set standards for the wastewater industry. 

Before sewage systems and water treatment were standard operating procedures, wastewater was simply dumped into rivers and bodies of water. A natural purification process was set in motion and the ratio of clean water vs wastewater was such that the clean water was able to absorb and break apart the waste. Bacteria and other harmful organisms in the water would consume the sewage, converting it into new bacterial cells. Most treatment plants speed up the purification process by breaking it up into stages and using special equipment. 

There are two main stages in the water purification process:

Primary Treatment: The primary stage refers to the water entering the plant and flowing through a screen that removes the larger residue. After this stage, it passed through a grit chamber. After this process, there are still some solids remaining and these will sink to the bottom and become what is often known as sludge. 

Secondary Treatment:  The second stage makes use of the natural bacteria in the water and removes about 85 percent of it. The techniques most often used here include the trickling filter and activated sludge process. 

There are several ways that water is treated throughout the world. The four most common ways to do so are: 

Physical water treatment:  This employs some of the methods included in the primary stage of water treatment and it involves using processes like screening, sedimentation, and skimming are used to remove the solids. This process does not involve chemicals. Sedimentation refers to the process of suspending insoluble materials from the wastewater. 

Biological water treatment: The name says it all. This process makes use of biological processes that break down organic matters present in the wastewater including soap, waste, oil, and food. 

Chemical water treatment: This process involves the use of chemicals in the water. Chlorine is the main chemical used in the killing of bacteria. Chlorine is an oxidizing agent that kills pathogens when it breaks down their chemical bonds. 

Up-and-Coming Technologies and Methods

Like in every industry, there are always new technologies and methods that are developed to improve the process. Some of these might include some continuing development on some processes including:

Membrane filtration: This type of filtration provides a very effective pre-treatment to remove a wide range of dissolved contaminants. The membranes used are very versatile and can be used in a variety of applications.

Nanotechnology: nanotechnology and using living organisms has truly revolutionized the treatment process. This requires the very measured use of microorganisms in bio microelectronic devices. 

Automatic Variable Filtration Technology: This is another state-of-the-art technology that involves an upward flow of influence that is cleaned by a downward flow of filtered media. This process comprises two sets of media filters that can be operated in series or parallel. 

Microbial fuel cells: This is another type of technology that involves electrical energy. It looks for the electrical energy in organic matter present in the waste stream by using electron transfer to capture the energy. 

Many years of study and advancements in chemical biology have led to great leaps forward in wastewater technology. Today, government regulations and the demand for clean supply of water have put pressure on further developments of faster, more effective, and green technologies to improve our use of our planet’s most incredible resource. Here at Clowe & Cowan, we specialize in water treatment and provide our clients with the most effective and proven technologies and equipment in the industry. We serve the Southwest area. Are you looking for impeccably clean water? Call us today and find out how we can help!

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