Microbiology Is Key to Optimizing Wastewater Treatment Sustainability

Effluent discharged from wastewater treatment facilities goes back into the environment, and outflow quality can have a significant impact on local ecology. Clean, safe effluent has a positive, sustainable impact on the environment, and it starts by changing the way we think about wastewater treatment.

As municipalities begin thinking about the sustainability of wastewater treatment operations, microbiology offers an array of far-reaching, positive benefits. Advanced microbiological treatments enable sustainability at the point of treatment for enhanced effluent quality.

Sustainability in wastewater treatment

There are two ways to think about sustainability in WWT: through the lens of plant operations or in the context of effluent quality. Both have environmental implications. Traditional WWT methods do not align with current environmental needs, and it is past time to explore advanced microbiological solutions for WWT efficiency and environmental sustainability.

Take the activated sludge process, for example. During this stage, traditional WWT plants expend significant energy, which not only drives up the cost of plant operation but also carries its own environmental implications (e.g., energy production, waste). Further, aging facilities must often do more in the tertiary treatment phase to reduce biological pathogens not eliminated during aeration and sedimentation. As a result, effluent is often overtreated with chlorine and other chemical agents harmful to the local ecology.

This example is indicative of many WWT opportunities to incorporate more efficient operational practices and produce more sustainable results. Advanced microbiology is instrumental to a more sustainable operation that also facilitates improved effluent quality.

The power of a customized microbiological solution

To understand the significance of an advanced microbiology solution, and its potential to vastly improve WWT sustainability, municipalities can look to applied results, like those generated by EnBiorganic Technologies’ EBS-Di in Jal, New Mexico.

In 2021, the City of Jal elected to try EnBiorganic Technologies’ bioaugmentation service to improve the sustainability and efficiency of its overburdened lagoon WWT plant. The facility serves a population of approximately 3,000, with an average treatment of 0.2 to 0.3 million gallons per day. Over the course of several months of advanced microbiological intervention, the plant saw astonishing results.

According to Jal City Manager Matt White, “From July through October — and these numbers are shocking — BOD [biological oxygen demand] has dropped to 5.5 milligrams, TSS [total suspended solids] is down to 5.2, and total nitrogen is at 10.9.” The city also reports significant reduction in sludge and odor, with a marked improvement in effluent quality. Previously facing noncompliance issues, the plant is now well within regulatory standards.

This case study illustrates the relationship between operation and output, and bioaugmentation’s ability to promote sustainability in both. Thanks to the EBS-Di, a 50-year-old WWT plant is using less energy to process higher volumes, with drastically improved environmental outcomes all around. It’s a continuum of WWT rooted in an advanced turnkey, technology as a service (TaaS), microbiological solution.

The growing need for advanced microbiology

Microbiology has long been part of WWT, but standard solutions are not keeping pace with increasingly stringent criteria for environmental compliance. Naturally derived, custom trained microbiology is crucial to combating the rising prevalence of complex contaminants in WWT plants.

According to a 2020 global review of treated effluent released into streams, “Despite the fact that technologies used to purify sewage have improved, unregulated novel pollutants originating from chemical products in modern society pose new concerns. These novel contaminants include endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals.” Without a specific method for targeting these microbiological contaminants, there is a risk they will persist through WWT processes and into effluent outflows.

The same report notes that effluent-fed streams in urban centers correlate strongly with negative water quality changes, including “elevated temperatures and nutrient levels, such as nitrate, ammonium/ammonia, and phosphate. Reaches downstream of effluent outfalls are also frequently characterized by depleted dissolved oxygen levels.

Advanced microbiology paves the way to compliance by optimizing the efficacy of WWT to reduce persistent pathogens and novel contaminants capable of harming the local ecology. Simply put, we’re fast reaching the point where we cannot afford to discharge effluent that has not been microbiologically treated specifically to remove environmental disruptors.

The environment needs advanced WWT support

An advanced microbiological approach to wastewater treatment offers environmental benefits at every level. It reduces the energy demands of traditional WWT processes, creates a higher quality of effluent, reduces ecological impact, and, most importantly, creates ongoing sustainability within the local microbiome.

To learn more about advanced microbiological wastewater treatment solutions, visit enbiorganic.com.

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