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Treating wastewater wastes energy, but it doesn't have to
Wastewater treatment plants are energy hogs. A 2013 study by the Electric Power Research Institute and Water Research Foundation reported that they consumed about 30 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, or about 0.8 percent of the total electricity used in the United States. Wastewater treatment’s high energy footprint is ironic because the organic matter in wastewater contains up to five times as much energy as the treatment plants use, according to the American Biogas Council (PDF). Reducing treatment plants’ energy footprints through energy efficiency and using the currently wasted energy could save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite all that energy seemingly there for the taking, reducing the fossil fuel demand of treatment plants is challenging and requires myriad approaches. Around the world, the industry is experimenting with new technologies, evaluating them for not just energy benefits but also cost and unintended consequences, such as additional waste streams to be managed.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) has set a target to be energy-neutral by 2023, following the lead of plants in the United Kingdom, Denmark and the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, California, which has moved beyond net-zero energy to actually selling energy back to the grid. These innovators are using a variety of technologies to reduce the electricity they use through energy efficiency and to generate electricity onsite to offset what they do use. 4-3-2017

Stone Brewing creates beer with recycled water
San Diego, California’s Stone Brewing is breaking new ground by becoming the first to try making beer using water that "comes from the toilet." Stone Brewing Senior Manager of Brewing and Innovation Steve Gonzalez created the beer that uses recycled water, and it ended up being one of his favorites. He was skeptical, at first, to brew it with recycled water from the Pure Water San Diego program. Now, Gonzalez said, "Among the pale ales that I've made, it's probably in the top three." Gonzalez said those who drink the beer will "get some caramel notes, some tropical fruit notes. It's a very clean tasting beer." For those who may be on the fence about giving the Full Circle Pale Ale a sip, Gonzalez said: "Try it first, I suppose. You won't be disappointed." The Full Circle Pale Ale is not for sale yet, but Stone Brewing is hoping to make it available soon. The Pure Water San Diego program will eventually clean enough wastewater to provide one-third of San Diego's water supply.  3/16/17


Patented New Wastewater Treatment Technology is Turned On in Unity Saskatchewan

The Town of Unity, located in Saskatchewan, has fired up a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada wastewater treatment system, and they have high hopes for the technology. In fact, the community's administration believes that the results of the treatment system will surpass the "release of water to a fish-bearing environment" standards. The new wastewater treatment system is manufactured and distributed in Canada by Tecvalco Ltd.  "The Unity project is an integral first for use of the MemFree system on wastewater treatment in Canada," noted Tecvalco president Mike Menger. Marketwired- 1/30/17

Low-cost iron hydroxide coatings can clean heavily contaminated water
As one of the primary components of rust, iron hydroxides normally pose corrosive risks to health. An A*STAR team has found a way to turn these compounds into an environmentally friendly coating that repeatedly absorbs large amounts of pollutants, such as dyes, from drinking water at room temperature. Conventional activated charcoal treatments have trouble removing heavy metals and bulky organic compounds from water. Instead, iron hydroxides are being increasingly used because they can form stable chemical bonds to these unwanted pollutants. Researchers have recently found that turning iron particles into miniscule nanomaterials boosts their active surface areas and enhances chemical absorption processes.  1/25/


Floating towards water treatment

Floating wetlands may seem odd but are perfectly natural. They occur when mats of vegetation break free from the shore of a body of water. That got ecological engineers curious about how they affect the water they bob up and down in. A group from Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania and the University of Oklahoma, including researcher William Strosnider, has found that the floating wetlands show promise for water treatment. They engineered four different floating treatment wetlands designs using different materials and wetland plants. "The main result is that engineered floating treatment wetlands could affect water quality in many of the same ways that naturally-occurring floating wetlands do," Strosnider says. 1/25/

Extracting more from wastewater

Fresh water scarcity and energy security are two critical global challenges facing us today. Researchers at KAUST have now created an advanced material that can address both problems simultaneously by producing clean water and hydrogen from wastewater.Electrochemical membrane bioreactors recover clean water for reuse and energy from wastewater by integrating micro- or ultrafiltration membrane cathodes with a microbial electrochemical system. This works by using a material full of pores small enough to block the passage of bacteria while allowing treated, clean water to pass through. The same material also acts as an electrode in an electrochemical circuit that recovers energy through the hydrogen-evolution reaction. Previously, porous, flat electrodes have been used as both the cathode for the oxygen-reduction reaction and as the membrane to filter treated water; however, hollow fibers offer a greater surface-area-to-volume ratio, which improves the system's performance. The drawback of this geometry is that these more complicated structures can be difficult to create and to optimize. For example, materials made from polymers are cheap to produce and flexible, but in general, because they act as electric insulators, they are not used as electrodes. 1/24/

Beer and Wine Makers Turn to Charged Microbes for Clean Water, Power

About 50 miles north of San Francisco, a brewery is quietly using a new type of technology, originally created to be used on a space station, to clean 50,000 gallons of dirty wastewater a day and generate energy in the process. At the back of the brewery of Lagunitas Brewing Company, in Petaluma, Calif., three large shipping containers house an unusual design of electrically charged microbes that consume pollutants in beer wastewater and generate usable biogas. The technology was created by an MIT spinout called Cambrian Innovation, which is beginning to grow its customer list considerably in Northern California. On Tuesday, the Boston-based startup announced that it will build one of its water-cleaning, and energy-generating, systems for its first winery: Napa Valley’s Rombauer Vineyards. The winery, famous for its chardonnays, will use the tech to treat all of its wine-making wastewater while also generating 30 kilowatts of electricity and heat. Wineries and breweries have long been some of the earliest adopters of new energy and water technologies, as their vast water and energy use can cost them a lot of money. Many wine and beer makers in Northern California are also focused on building brands with environmental leanings. Some of the earliest customers of Tesla’s stationary batteries have been wineries and breweries. 1/24/

Wastewater solutions eyed for Ghana agriculture

Ghana's water supply is devastatingly vulnerable to the point where, one Western researcher believes, the country's 25 million people could soon be at risk – "an alarming thing we should all be concerned about."
Environmental Engineering graduate student Ahmed Abuhussein recently spent five months in the west African country where he addressed institutional, social and technical gaps in applying treated wastewater in agriculture – a possible solution to the area's water woes. With 66 per cent of Ghana's withdrawn water earmarked for agriculture (which makes up almost half of the country's GDP) the use of treated wastewater could have a significant impact.
Currently, 81 per cent of the country's wastewater is not being treated and of the 9 per cent being collected, less than 6 per cent is 'appropriately' treated. Abuhussein conducted field work at a local waste stabilization pond and interviewed local authorities, industries and non-for-profit organizations in the country. www.Phys.org_1/13/17


Wastewater News Archives


Sewers of Mexico City National Geographic/You Tube 04:04

A wade through the sewers of San Francisco YouTube 04:44

Sewer robot YouTube 02:24


Raw sewage in Africa's Lake Victoria: BBC News_ 6/26/07

Bozeman, Montana to get $500,000 federal funds for wastewater plant

The city of Bozeman will get $650,000 in federal money to help pay for expansion of its sewer-treatment plant and restoration of buildings damaged by the March 5 natural-gas explosion, Montana’s U.S. senators announced Friday. The Interior Department appropriations bill cleared its final vote in Congress and is on its way to President Obama for his signature, according to a statement from U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats. The budget bill includes $500,000 for Bozeman’s $54 million sewage-treatment plant expansion. The city is one of four in Montana that will get federal assistance improving drinking or wastewater systems, the statement said. Bozeman Daily Chronicle_ 10/30/09

Illegal water connection is source of sickness

A Layton, Utah neighborhood's drinking water is safe again after officials removed a home's illegal connection, which had caused untreated water to flow into pipes for treated water. The contamination made several people sick.  The city and the Davis County Health Department traced the source back to a valve the previous homeowner had installed, which connected the culinary water system with the secondary water system meant for irrigation use.  Salt Lake Tribune_10/15/09

Chatham, Massachusetts group proposes less expensive wastewater treatment plan

By using a decentralized approach to sewage treatment and focusing only on the parts of town that require nitrogen removal, Chatham can build a better wastewater mousetrap – for far less money. That's the opinion of a panel of experts who spoke before a crowded meeting room at the community center Saturday morning. The event was sponsored by Chatham Concerned Taxpayers, with the express intent of finding a wastewater solution that is less expensive than the $300 million sewer system and treatment plant upgrade currently being planned. Cape Cod Chronicle_ 9/16/09

Toxic chemical spills at West Palm Beach, Florida, wastewater plant

Fifty to 100 gallons of methanol, a flammable chemical that can sicken or kill people who inhale it, spilled from a tank at the city's wastewater treatment plant this morning, officials said. But city spokesman Chase Scott said the hazard was for flame or explosion, not toxic exposure. The spill occurred when a contractor overfilled a tank containing the methanol, Scott said. Palm Beach Post_ 9/1/09

Raw sewage entering New York City's Gowanus Canal looms as campaign issue

The swath of brownstone Brooklyn that makes up City Council District 39 includes some of the city's most gentrified neighborhoods. But much of the debate among eight candidates in the race to succeed City Councilmember Bill de Blasio revolves around what to do about a remnant of the area's far grittier past -- the notoriously noxious and toxic Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus is a finger of pollution that pokes 1.8 miles through Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. More than a century of industrial dumping and combined sewer overflow has left the area filthy. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have opposing plans on how to go about a cleanup process that will take at least a decade to complete. Gotham Gazette_ 8/17/09

Tampa, Florida, voters to decide on recycled drinking water

The council voted Thursday to ask residents whether they want to put highly treated sewer water back into the city's drinking water supply. The question will appear on the 2010 ballot. The city of Tampa gets most of its drinking water from the Hillsborough River. Right now, the city dumps 55 million gallons of reclaimed water a day into Tampa Bay. The council's vote came at a workshop on a $340 million plan to find better uses for the water to protect the bay and reduce reliance on drinking water for things like irrigation and industry. St. Petersburg Times_ 6/23/09

Tampa, Florida, water officials studying toilet-to-tap proposal

Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda has resurrected the decades-old debate over turning sewer water into drinkable water. City officials are taking Miranda's proposal seriously to the point that they've been talking with local hydrological experts and state regulators to gauge their preliminary support. His proposal, still in its infancy, would be to build a new $150 million wastewater treatment plant to purify wastewater to drinkable quality, then inject it into the ground for natural filtration before it flows into the Hillsborough River, the city's primary source of drinking water. Miranda said utilities in Virginia, Texas and California return treated wastewater to their drinking water supplies that well exceed state and federal water quality standards. In the mid-1980s, Tampa spent more than $6 million on research for a similar proposal but backed away from it over cost concerns and a lack of support from the public. Tampa Tribune_ 6/19/09

Artificial sweeteners may contaminate water downstream of sewage treatment plants

Sewage treatment plants fail to remove artificial sweeteners completely from waste water. What’s more, these pollutants contaminate waters downstream and may still be present in our drinking water. Thanks to their new robust analytical method, which simultaneously extracts and analyses seven commonly used artificial sweeteners, Marco Scheurer, Heinz-Jürgen Brauch and Frank Thomas Lange from the Water Technology Center in Karlsruhe, Germany, were able to demonstrate the presence of several artificial sweeteners in waste water. Their findings are published online this week in Springer’s journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. A range of artificial sweeteners are commonly used in food and drinks, as well as drugs and sanitary products. The potential health risks of artificial sweeteners have been debated for some time. Science Daily_ 6/17/09

Record rainfall seeps into Fort Worth sewer pipes and causes a big, nasty spill

About 1.1 million gallons of sewage spilled onto undeveloped land near a wastewater treatment plant in far east Fort Worth this week after heavy rains caused two 96-inch wastewater pipes to overflow, city officials said Friday. The water has been captured and treated at the Village Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Because the sewage was diluted, the discharge is not a risk to drinking water supplies, city officials said. Star-Telegram_ 6/12/09

California's Sausalito-Marin City Sanitary District faces $332,000 in fines for three sewage spills

The Sausalito-Marin City Sanitary District faces $332,000 in fines for three spills of more than 775,000 gallons of sewage, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board announced Thursday. The sanitary district has 30 days to respond to the proposed fine. The district spilled 766,700 gallons of partially treated wastewater gushed into San Francisco Bay between Feb. 15 and 21 after an underwater pipe at the district's Fort Baker Wastewater Treatment Plant burst. Marin Indepedent-Journal_ 6/11/09

Recycling 'gray water' cheaply, safely

Gray water looks like its name — a bit gray, a bit cloudy. After all, it's the wastewater from bathtubs, sinks and washers. The gray water lapping at dirty clothes can be lapped up by fruit trees — and no, the fruit won't taste like Tide. Use a special detergent that doesn't contain salt or boron, compounds which dehydrate plants. California's code states that a legal gray water system needs to be nine inches under the ground. Those get-ups can be prohibitively expensive, costing up to $5,000 dollars. Arizona is the nation's leading example of permit free systems. There, a resident can use gray water as long as they follow a set of guidelines to ensure safety and no cross contamination. California State Sen. Allen Lowenthal says California's Department of Housing and Community development is trying to come up with new rules. NPR_ 6/8/09

Bay City, Michigan, wastewater plant is losing customers

The Bay City plant recently lost its second customer this year, as Hampton Township decided to join Essexville in pumping waste to the West Bay County Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in Bangor Township. Bay City Wastewater Superintendent Bill Kaiser said the city stands to lose about $1.5 million, or 10 percent of its annual revenue, when Hampton Township makes the switch late next year after miles of new pipe are laid. Meanwhile, industrial and commercial customers that still use the Bay City plant have significantly reduced the amount of sewage they're sending this year, apparently due to the crummy economy. That means the city plant isn't able to bill for as much usage, and has to raise rates for existing customers, Kaiser said. Bay City Times_ 6/7/09

May, 2009

Reclaimed water is one step closer for some Florida neighborhoods

A $340 million plan to put the Tampa Florida's treated wastewater to good use took a tiny step forward on Thursday.  The City Council voted to start expanding the system that now makes reclaimed water available to about 8,700 users in South Tampa to another potential 9,000 customers. The expansion, which could be completed in five years, also would take the water to big users such as the Tampa Sports Authority and International Plaza.

Other parts of the plan will be considered later, including:

• Requiring people who have access to reclaimed water to use it instead of potable water for lawn watering as of Dec. 1.

• Allowing Tampa Bay Water to take up to 20 million gallons of reclaimed water a day to Pasco County to recharge the aquifer.

• Requiring people with access to reclaimed water lines to pay a fee even if they don't use the water.  Tampabay.com_5/29/09


Arizona private utility first in state to power wastewater treatment plant with solar power

Johnson Utilities is installing more than 5,400 solar panels over 6 acres of property surrounding its wastewater plant in Pinal County. Completion of the $10 million project is expected in midsummer. The company serves 25,000 customers in Pinal County. Johnson Utilities also uses solar on an adjacent site to power a well and water plant that provides water to roughly 10,000 homes. The company is planning to bring solar to a second wastewater treatment plant in the fall. Arizona Republic_ 5/11/09

Virginia issues $186 million in  bonds for wastewater treatment and sewer-system upgrades to fight pollution in Chesapeake Bay

According to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's office, the Virginia Resources Authority's total investment in bay cleanup in the past two years exceeds $810 million. The governor's office said bonds will finance improvements to 13 wastewater-treatment plants and sewage systems to reduce nutrient pollution being discharged into the tributaries that feed the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia is a co-signer of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, which calls for each state in the bay watershed to reduce by 40% the level of nutrients going into the Chesapeake Bay by 2010. Richmond  Times-Dispatch_ 5/9/09

March, 2009

Lakeland, Florida's wastewater headed to power plant

The City of Lakeland dumps a large amount of reclaimed water into Tampa Bay every day. Under an $88 million deal announced today with Tampa Electric and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, beginning in 2012, much of that treated wastewater will be rerouted to TECO's Polk Power Station near Mulberry. Tampa Tribune_ 3/31/09

Ohio has huge need for sewer, water system repair funds

Ohio has $275.6 million to spend on sewer watr projects, but needs $4 billion, according to the growing list of requests for economic stimulus money. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, was disappointed at the low level of funding for water and sewer projects in the stimulus bill. He is considering pushing a moratorium on water and sewer projects to give the EPA time to consider whether towns can afford to do what the agency asks. He said in some cases, the EPA based its requirements on businesses located in cities. The businesses have gone away, but the requirements haven't. Dayton Daily News_ 3/9/09

Sacramento sewage agency looks at selling wastewater

Last week, amid a third year of a statewide drought, the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District adopted a strategy to sell treated sewage as drinking water. The buyer would hypothetically partner with the district to recycle wastewater from the capital-area's 1.4 million people into a new municipal water source. Orange County last year opened the world's largest wastewater recycling plant and is now serving treated effluent as high-quality drinking water to 2.3 million residents. The technology is simpler and cheaper than desalinating seawater. State regulators are working to adjust policies to encourage more such projects. What's different about Sacramento's plan is that local leaders want somebody else to buy treated sewage and pay to make it drinkable. It could also be treated to some lesser standard, such as to irrigate crops or landscaping. Sacramento Bee_ 3/3/09

February, 2009

Taking the plunge with a composting toilet

After grappling with the gross factor, the system itself turns out to be fairly unobtrusive. And with water rationing possibly ahead, now's the time for a backup plan. Los Angeles Times_ 2/28/09

Possible pharmaceutical pollution concern of land owners downstream from new Utah sewer treatment plant

Water officials are deciding whether to commission an independent environmental assessment of the facility, scheduled to be up and running this fall. But Dan Matthews, director of the Jordanelle Special Service District, said residents' concerns may be "misplaced fears. This is a fully accredited plant that produces clean water." But landowners, who irrigate fields and crops through a system of canals downstream, say they have not been assured that the discharged water will be free of toxins from pharmaceutical chemicals that the state-of-the-art plant is unable to filter. Salt Lake Tribune_ 2/9/09

January, 2009

California city considers three-step wastewater to tap water solution

Escondido is considering reclaiming wastewater for use as drinking water to augment its water supply.  In addition, the inland city stands to save hundreds of millions of dollars by avoiding upgrades to its sewage treatment plant and an ocean outfall pipe if the plan succeeds.  Escondido's utilities director, Lori Vereker, said the reclamation project would be similar to neighboring Orange County's, which uses a three-step purifying process to produce what she calls “ultra-pure” water.  In Orange County, the water is first cleaned to a standard fit for irrigation, and then put through reverse osmosis to remove salt. Finally, it is treated with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide to kill any remaining bacteria, said Shivaji Deshmukh, program manager for the Groundwater Replenishment system of the Orange County Water District.  The water is pumped into the water basin, where it sits for six months and percolates through the soil for further cleansing before it is pumped up by the water agencies, he said.  Tests have shown that the product is cleaner than drinking water from the Colorado River, which has treated wastewater dumped into it by cities along its path, Deshmukh said.  Union Tribune_January 23, 2009 DP



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