How Wastewater Treatment Works

wastewater treatment system

The use of wastewater for agricultural and industrial applications is widely accepted and understood. When natural resources are consumed, the wastewater is used to recover natural resources. However, wastewater treatment systems cost vary greatly and depend on the method of wastewater treatment used. This article provides an overview of the major types of wastewater treatment systems, how they work, what they process and their cost.


Water treatment is a delicate process that requires specialized equipment. In many cities across the country, wastewater is treated in large sewage treatment plants, where millions of gallons of wastewater are filtered, treated and discharged into water supplies. Typically, wastewater from industrial operations and landfills is disposed of in an underground treatment facility or landfill. If the wastewater is not properly disposed of, it can pose a health risk.

Disposal of wastewater, including that, contains toxic metals such as lead, arsenic, thallium and mercury, is regulated through various laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Wastewater is an important commodity and must be handled responsibly. The average volume of water produced in a single business can exceed five million gallons. Depending upon the type of wastewater treatment system used, the cost of wastewater treatment can vary significantly.

System Types

The most common wastewater treatment system uses a combination of mechanical, biological, chemical and electric means to remove contaminants. The most commonly used methods include granular carbon, activated sludge, carbon block, membrane bed, ion exchange and carbon-nanotube film technologies. The most recent technology is carbon dioxide absorption, which relies on the reaction between carbon dioxide and sodium in activated sludge. However, some wastewater treatment systems may use other non-chemical treatments as well.

The wastewater treatment system types typically employed are discussed here. When combined with a septic tank, the best wastewater treatment system should meet the needs of each property. Some homeowners prefer to have a dual treatment system using both traditional and modern technologies. Before deciding on a system, homeowners should consult with a licensed plumber.

wastewater treatment system

The first wastewater treatment system types were installed in the 1950s. The earliest of these systems involved the use of sewage as a source of drinking water. The only treatment option available at that time was chlorination. Today, all major cities in the U.S. use either a municipal treatment plant or a septic tank. This is because it is the only readily available source of drinking water.

The most effective system involves a combination of mechanical, biological, chemical and electrical means to remove pollutants from the wastewater. The latest systems use a multi-step process to remove contaminants such as heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals. Most importantly, it reduces the amount of treated wastewater that is released into water sources.

Some wastewater treatment systems are composed of two primary components; one is a pre-treatment step that is used to eliminate suspended solids and other dissolved materials that can enter the treatment facility. The second component is the secondary processing step. It includes steps such as carbonation, washing, disinfection and final precipitation. The best systems are designed with a multi-step process.

Possible Problems

Microorganisms are the primary cause of most water pollution problems. They can be found naturally in the groundwater, but they grow quickly when conditions are favourable. A typical treatment facility includes a biological treatment step for eliminating these organisms. Also, there is often a mechanical treatment step for removing suspended solids.

Bacteria are the other type of microorganism that is often found in most groundwater systems. There is a high concentration of aerobic (oxygen requiring) bacteria in most groundwater, while anaerobic (no oxygen-requiring) bacteria are common in sewage. Because aerobes are more prevalent in most groundwater systems, most treatment plants rely on chemical methods to kill them. The best systems utilize activated carbon or activated sludge to reduce the growth of microorganisms. Filtration systems are also effective in removing microorganisms.

Among the more important types of systems, carbon block wastewater treatment systems have the most beneficial impact. These are the most expensive, but the most effective method of disposing of wastewater. They are usually the most expensive to operate and maintain.

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