Wastewater Management – Perfect Solution to Water Scarcity
Enormous volumes of wastewater are pumped into ponds, rivers, and oceans all over the world. This results in extremely adverse effects on our environment, human health, marine life, and animals. Above all, rapidly decreasing availability of water is posing a serious concern for the world. So not to mention wastewater management and water conservation are necessities for the planet earth.
What is wastewater?
Wastewater is the water that contains any contaminant released by a commercial or domestic process. It is usually a byproduct of large-scale industries, especially manufacturing and mining. Although wastewater is one of the biggest concerns around the world, Asia and South America are two most affected developing nations witnessing the issue of wastewater.
Why is Wastewater Management Important?
Water is one of the scarcest resources for human life. But the problem is the water is being squandered. Moreover, wastewater is hazardous not only to the Mother Nature but also to living beings, mainly human and aquatic species.
In this scenario, wastewater management is not an option, but a necessity. Wastewater management plants treat water that factories and residents discharge into the environment. There are many ways to manage and treat wastewater. Better process means the higher percentage that it can be repurposed before dumping into the ocean.
Wastewater management process involves converting polluted water from its unstable state into a better state that can be either return to the water cycle with minimal environmental concerns or repurposed.
To understand the significance of wastewater management, it’s important to look at the damage it causes to our environment and health. Let’s look at the most common and dangerous contaminants found in wastewater.
Kinds of Pollutants Found in Wastewater
Wastewater is mainly the byproduct of manufacturing plants, so the most pollutants in the wastewater vary depending on what it is exposed to. Some of the most common contaminants are:
Biochemical Oxygen Demand
Biochemical Oxygen demand (or BOD) defines the amount of dissolved oxygen that aerobic biological organisms use to break organic matter into smaller molecules. High levels of BOD refer to an increased concentration of biodegradable material in the wastewater. It can be due to the pollutants such as fertilizer runoff or fecal waste.
Organic water from domestic or industrial waste can also result in the elevated level of biodegradable material in the wastewater. These high levels can deplete the oxygen necessary for marine life to survive. Thus, it causes algal blooms, fish kills and deadly changes in the aquatic ecosystem where wastewater is discharged.
Pathogens are bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms existing in wastewater. These can lead to health issues such as severe digestive issues, acute sickness or even death.
When wastewater containing pathogens is not treated, it can spread serious illnesses like salmonellosis, botulism, dysentery, cholera, and hepatitis, to name a few. Humans easily ingest pathogens by consuming contaminated beverages and food.
Nitrates and Phosphates
A large amount of nitrates and phosphates in wastewater increases the BOD level when discharged into local environments. It can further lead to eutrophication, or deoxygenation in water, killing organisms and causing hypoxia or environmental dead zones. They enter the wastewater stream various ways, such as detergents, pesticides, and human and food waste.
Metals in wastewater are extremely damaging to the environment as well as human health. They are dangerous because they don’t break down and quickly accumulate to cause toxic environs.
Most common metals found in wastewater are:
Cadmium: Often used to manufacture batteries, pigments, and plating, this causes kidney diseases, gastrointestinal disturbance, lung cancer and death in human.
Chromium: Used to make metal alloys, chromium is a carcinogen. It can cause skin irritation, anemia, and breathing problem and can impact the male reproductive system.
Copper: Used in electrical wiring, sheet metals, etc., copper, in high doses, irritates eyes, nose, and mouth. It can also lead to diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, and nausea.
Lead: Used in storage batteries, and pipes, lead metal causes serious health issues in both children and adults.
Manganese: Often used in the production of cosmetic, steel and batteries paints, manganese in large quantities can damage the nervous system and lead to negative behavioral changes.
Mercury: Mercury enters the atmosphere from burning municipal waste, cement production, emission of coal-fired power plants, mining deposits, and uncontrolled factory releases.
Total Dissolved Solids
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are metals, minerals, salts, and anions in wastewater. They can cause damage to aquatic life, farming, irrigation and seep into groundwater and make it polluted. TDS can be generated in wastewater by just about any industry.
Total Suspended Solids
Also known as TSS, Total Suspended Solids, both organic and inorganic, are harmful to aquatic life. They can be harmful if the wastewater is reused. Based on whether or not you have to discharge wastewater for treatment work or the environment, or reuse it in the process, will decide how harmful the TSS is. These solids decrease oxygen levels in the aquatic environment and can foul piping and machinery.
Pesticides and other chemicals, including dioxin, DDT, PCBs, release to the environment through wastewater to cause endocrine disruption. They can block hormones in our body, affecting their functionality.
Future of Wastewater Management
More and more countries are recognizing the usefulness of this process and taking all actions to improve their wastewater management processes. At the same time, great technologies are being introduced to treat and recycle wastewater in various ways.
For example, Sweden ran out of its own waste and now imports more than 700,000 tonnes of waste from foreign nations. Similarly, Uruguay, one of the most developed South American nations, announced to spend $100m over the year 2016 on new treatment plants.
These are perfect examples of how the world is seriously thinking about wastewater management.
Reuse of wastewater after treatment is a viable solution to the growing problem of water scarcity. The world is developing, and earth’s population is increasing, but we’re on a downward slope in terms of conserving water. Having said this, with open-mindedness and proper wastewater management, we can handle the problem of water scarcity around the world.