Sewage is the wastewater released by residences, businesses and industries in a community. It is 99.94 percent water, with only 0.06 percent of the wastewater dissolved and suspended solid material.
Typically, sewage treatment is achieved by the initial physical separation of solids from the raw wastewater stream followed by the progressive conversion of dissolved biological matter into a solid biological mass using indigenous, water-borne bacteria. Once the biological mass is separated or removed, the treated water may undergo additional disinfection via chemical or physical processes. This 'final effluent' can then be discharged or re-introduced back into a natural surface water body (stream, river or bay) or other environment (wetlands, golf courses, greenways, etc.). The segregated biological solids undergo additional treatment and neutralization prior to proper disposal or re-use.The cloudiness of sewage is caused by suspended particles which in untreated sewage ranges from 100 to 350 mg/l. A measure of the strength of the wastewater is biochemical oxygen demand, or BOD5. The BOD5 measures the amount of oxygen microorganisms require in five days to break down sewage. Untreated sewage has a BOD5 ranging from 100 mg/l to 300 mg/l. Pathogens or disease-causing organisms are present in sewage. Coliform bacteria are used as an indicator of disease-causing organisms. Sewage also contains nutrients (such as ammonia and phosphorus), minerals, and metals. Ammonia can range from 12 to 50 mg/l and phosphorus can range from 6 to 20 mg/l in untreated sewage.
Sewage treatment is a multi-stage process to renovate wastewater before it reenters a body of water, is applied to the land or is reused. The goal is to reduce or remove organic matter, solids, nutrients, disease-causing organisms and other pollutants from wastewater. Each receiving body of water has limits to the amount of pollutants it can receive without degradation. Therefore, each sewage treatment plant must hold a permit listing the allowable levels of BOD5, suspended solids, coliform bacteria and other pollutants. The discharge permits are called NPDES permits which stands for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
Process / Stages
Wastewater entering the treatment plant includes items like wood, rocks, and even dead animals. Unless they are removed, they could cause problems later in the treatment process. Most of these materials are sent to a landfill.
The wastewater system relies on the force of gravity to move sewage from your home to the treatment plant. So wastewater-treatment plants are located on low ground, often near a river into which treated water can be released. If the plant is built above the ground level, the wastewater has to be pumped up to the aeration tanks (item 3). From here on, gravity takes over to move the wastewater through the treatment process.
One of the first steps that a water treatment facility can do is to just shake up the sewage and expose it to air. This causes some of the dissolved gases (such as hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs) that taste and smell bad to be released from the water. Wastewater enters a series of long, parallel concrete tanks. Each tank is divided into two sections. In the first section, air is pumped through the water.
4. Removing sludge
As organic matter decays, it uses up oxygen. Aeration replenishes the oxygen. Bubbling oxygen through the water also keeps the organic material suspended while it forces 'grit' (coffeegrounds, sand and other small, dense particles) to settle out. Grit is pumped out of the tanks and taken to landfills.
Wastewater then enters the second section or sedimentation tanks. Here, the sludge (the organic portion of the sewage) settles out of the wastewater and is pumped out of the tanks. Some of the water is removed in a step called thickening and then the sludge is processed in large tanks called digesters.
5. Removing scum:
As sludge is settling to the bottom of the sedimentation tanks, lighter materials are floating to the surface. This 'scum' includes grease, oils, plastics, and soap. Slow-moving rakes skim the scum off the surface of the wastewater. Scum is thickened and pumped to the digesters along with the sludge.
6. Killing bacteria:
Many cities also use filtration in sewage treatment. After the solids are removed, the liquid sewage is filtered through a substance, usually sand, by the action of gravity. This method gets rid of almost all bacteria, reduces turbidity and color, removes odors, reduces the amount of iron, and removes most other solid particles that remained in the water. Water is sometimes filtered through carbon particles, which removes organic particles. This method is used in some homes, too.
Finally, the wastewater flows into a 'chlorine contact' tank, where the chemical chlorine is added to kill bacteria, which could pose a health risk, just as is done in swimming pools. The chlorine is mostly eliminated as the bacteria are destroyed, but sometimes it must be neutralized by adding other chemicals. This protects fish and other marine organisms, which can be harmed by the smallest amounts of chlorine.
The treated water (called effluent) is then discharged to a local river or the ocean
7. Wastewater Residuals:
Another part of treating wastewater is dealing with the solid-waste material. These solids are kept for 20 to 30 days in large, enclosed tanks called 'digesters.' Here, bacteria break down (digest) the material, reducing its volume, odors, and getting rid of organisms that can cause disease. The finished product is mainly sent to sludge drying beds, landfills, but sometimes can be used