Navigating the Complexities of Disinfecting Wastewater

Striking the Balance Between Clean Water and Environmental Impact

Allie Parks

Allie Parks

Citylitics - Navigating the Complexities of Disinfecting WastewaterHow to tackle the challenges of disinfecting wastewater while effectively minimizing harmful byproducts – highlighting new technologies to strike a balance between clean water and environmental impact in infrastructure projects.

In today’s world, ensuring clean water access is a one of the most critical responsibilities of the infrastructure industry. Disinfecting wastewater is a crucial step in the process, but it brings its own set of complexities. Companies must find a balance between effectively disinfecting wastewater and avoiding the creation of harmful byproducts that can have detrimental effects on the environment. In this article, we will delve into the challenges of disinfection and explore new technologies and approaches that can help infrastructure industry leaders achieve this delicate balance.

The Ongoing Battle for Clean Water

Since the establishment of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972, the United States has made significant progress in addressing water pollution. However, the work is far from over. With the emergence of new contaminants and the passage of the recent infrastructure bill, it is essential to understand the challenges that persist in the realm of clean water.

By analyzing data from the EPA’s Clean Water Act violation database, using the Citylitics Environmental Monitoring Dashboard, we can identify the most persistent threats to clean water and regional hot spots for each pollutant category. This investigation focuses on federally regulated facilities, including publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) and non-publicly owned treatment works such as manufacturing facilities.

Understanding the Pollutant Landscape

Over the past three years, US wastewater and industrial facilities have faced a staggering total of 300,128 effluent violations. However, these violations are not evenly distributed, and specific regions face unique challenges influenced by various factors.

Concentration of Pollutants by State

The analysis reveals that over half of all violations in the US are concentrated in just eight states, with Louisiana at the forefront, accounting for over 14% of overall recorded violations. Several common threads contribute to the perfect storm for unhealthy waterways:

  • Aging and deteriorating infrastructure, particularly in rural and underfunded communities.
  • Industrial manufacturing, mining, and agricultural practices.
  • Geographic considerations such as low elevation, regular heat/humidity, and reliance on waterways, which make ecosystems more vulnerable to disruptions.

The majority of Clean Water Act violations fall into five main pollutant categories:

  1. Nutrient Violations: fuel for algae which in turn stimulates other types of pollution problems
  2. Microbial Violations: microorganisms presenting the most pervasive of the pollutant problems in this list
  3. Sediment and Turbidity Violations: challenges with murky water
  4. Chlorine/Disinfection Violation: the backlash from effluent disinfection gone wrong
  5. Heavy Metals or Toxic Chemical Violations: a wide range of pollutants that particularly plague industrial areas

Disinfecting wastewater is a critical step of the treatment process. One of the most traditional ways of removing pathogens and bacteria is through the use of chlorine. However, improperly regulated chlorine causes issues of its own, threatening the health of aquatic life and humans through the creation of disinfection byproducts. However, advances in technologies are giving communities groundbreaking new options when it comes to water disinfection.


New Technologies and Approaches

To overcome the challenges of effective disinfection without harmful byproducts, infrastructure industry leaders can turn to innovative technologies and approaches:

Advanced Disinfection Techniques

Explore alternatives to traditional chlorine disinfection, such as UV disinfection. UV disinfection utilizes ultraviolet light to kill microorganisms without the use of chemicals, thereby minimizing the risk of harmful byproducts. This approach has gained popularity as a safer and more environmentally friendly option.

Enhanced Monitoring and Control Systems

Implement advanced monitoring and control systems to optimize the disinfection process. By continuously monitoring water quality parameters and adjusting disinfection parameters accordingly, companies can achieve more precise and efficient disinfection while minimizing the use of chemicals.

Green Infrastructure Solutions

Incorporate green infrastructure solutions into wastewater treatment processes. Green infrastructure utilizes natural systems like wetlands and constructed wetlands to treat and purify wastewater. These nature-based solutions not only promote effective disinfection but also provide additional environmental benefits, such as habitat creation and water filtration.

Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs)

Consider the application of advanced oxidation processes, such as ozone or hydrogen peroxide-based systems, to enhance disinfection efficiency. AOPs can effectively eliminate pathogens and organic contaminants while minimizing the formation of harmful disinfection byproducts.

Nutrient Removal Technologies

Implement advanced nutrient removal technologies to address nutrient-related challenges. These technologies, such as biological nutrient removal and enhanced biological phosphorus removal, can help reduce excess nutrient levels in wastewater, thereby mitigating the risk of algal blooms and associated ecological disruptions.

Upgraded Infrastructure

Invest in infrastructure upgrades to address the issue of aging and deteriorating facilities. By improving treatment plant infrastructure, companies can enhance the efficiency of disinfection processes and reduce the likelihood of pollutant releases into waterways.

Collaborative Approaches

Foster collaboration between industry stakeholders, regulatory agencies, and research institutions. By sharing knowledge, best practices, and innovative solutions, companies can collectively work towards effective disinfection practices that prioritize clean water and minimize environmental impact.

Effectively disinfecting wastewater is a crucial step in ensuring clean water for communities and protecting the environment. By embracing new technologies and approaches, such as advanced disinfection techniques, enhanced monitoring systems, green infrastructure solutions, and nutrient removal technologies, infrastructure industry leaders can strike the delicate balance between clean water and environmental impact.

Furthermore, investing in infrastructure upgrades and fostering collaborative approaches will play a vital role in addressing the challenges faced by the industry. The recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides an opportunity for states to improve their infrastructure and bridge the gap between well-funded and under-funded regions.

Are you interested in disinfecting wastewater, tracking microbial violations, water pollution and other environmental issues? Citylitics’ Environmental Monitoring Dashboard (EMD) provides access to real-time data which helps our customers who help with solutions to these challenges. Book a Live Demo.

Popular Stories

Let’s Stay In Touch

  • Get relevant monthly industry content and insights delivered to your email inbox
  • Get updates about new tools, features and products
  • Receive sample datasets and reports, and learn how Customer Intelligence can accelerate your business

Join Over 2000+ Industry Leading Companies and Professionals