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Treatment plants are typically located at the bottom of watersheds or coastal and riverine areas. Given these locations, many utilities have recently undertaken studies to assess vulnerability to more extreme flooding events and sea level rise. For instance, during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, several wastewater treatment plants in New York and New Jersey were inundated with storm surge, causing hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated sewage to spill into neighboring waterways. In the years since, many of these plants and others across the U.S. have developed resilience plans and increased infrastructure fortification against floods and storm surge.

Treatment plants are also rethinking biosolid disposal through nutrient recovery programs. Biosolids are the organic materials left over following the treatment process. Traditionally biosolids were considered waste and transferred to landfills. However, when properly treated and processed biosolids become nutrient rich organic material that can be applied as fertilizer or, through the use of anaerobic digesters and centrifuges, can be pelletized and incinerated at high pressure and temperature for use as energy. According to the American Biogas Council, there are currently 1,269 water resource recovery facilities using anaerobic digesters, with about 860 using biogas as a new energy source to reduce demand and costs from traditional, grid-supplied energy sources. More than 2,440 plants have been identified as ripe for future biogas development projects, which, when combined with other biogas sources such as agriculture, could produce enough energy to power 3.5 million American homes.

Through the advent of new treatment methods such as reverse osmosis, ozone, and ultraviolent light, treated water can be processed quicker than traditional chlorine contact methods. With less processing and holding time, plants can treat more wastewater and often discharge a cleaner, purer product back into the environment.

With heavy rain events in some regions of the country, and water shortages in others, wastewater and stormwater are increasingly reused. New methods and technologies of reusing water have allowed communities to better manage precious water supplies by treating wastewater products to levels required for commercial, irrigation, and industrial uses.

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