Being human, we need water. We need a LOT of water. Considering that drinkable fresh water makes up less than 1% of the world's water. We use it, we make it filthy, so we must treat this used water. We also must be environmentally responsible. Waste water
, left untreated and released into waterways can harm aquatic organisms in the water. We must make this used water drinkable and livable again. The best example of taking care of our environment is evident in today's sewage treatment industry. Their job is to intake all untreated sewage from homes, businesses and storm-water collection. The idea is to process all waste water, treat it, and pump out potable (drinkable) water. There are three stages to sewage treatment: remove suspended solids from the waste water, feed the waste to certain bacteria in a contained facility, then the water is released to the local water supply.
The process is usually the same the world over. The first step is simply to store the waste water and let all the solids precipitate out of the water. This 'sludge' is then removed and treated in a different process. This is referred to as primary treatment. Primary treatment usually removes about sixty percent (60%) of the dissolved solids. Attempts to use this sludge have largely failed, due to the level of contaminants.
Secondary treatment begins once the sludge and other dissolved solids settle out, the remaining water is mixed with oxygen and aerobic microorganisms. Effectively, the microorganisms eat and digest the remaining toxins in this water, usually rendering such germs harmless. The tanks where this stage takes place are usually referred to as 'digesters.' Secondary treatment is usually what takes the most time.
Once secondary treatment is through, the remaining solids and liquids are sent to sludge drying beds. Water evaporates cleanly. The remaining dried sludge is then disposed of. The remaining water and liquids are exposed to chlorination to kill any remaining bacteria. After testing, the treated water is then returned to the local water supply. The water still carries some contaminants, which can include nitrogen, phosphorous, pharmaceutical and personal care products, and heavy metals, all of which can harm wildlife, humans and future generations of all.
There are many variations on sewage treatment. Some communities carry the treatment to a tertiary stage to remove any remaining nitrogen and phosphorous, to prevent algae blooms. As this can be prohibitively expensive, most sewage treatment plants follow primary and secondary treatments alone, which is usually sufficient.
We are huge users of water. When we use water, the end product, sewage, must be treated so that we may continue to enjoy our waterways. Large amounts of money are spent every year on this issue. Researchers are always investigating new, better and more environmentally friendly ways to treat sewage. There are an estimated 14 billion gallons of waste water treated every day in the United States. Considering that we don't have rivers of waste or lakes filled with sludge, today's sewage treatment plants are doing a fantastic job!
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