PEME 2020 – Safety, Health and Environment

Water Treatment Coursework

Nick Marshall

ID: 200635726

Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................. 4 The Need to Recycle Water .................................................................................................................... 5 Water Recycling Around the World ................................................................................................... 5 The Future for Water Recycling ......................................................................................................... 6 Current Water Recycling Systems .......................................................................................................... 6 Key Unit Operations (Laguna Wastewater Treatment) ...................................................................... 7 Screening......................................................................................................................................... 7 Primary Clarification ...................................................................................................................... 7 Secondary Clarification................................................................................................................... 7 Filtration .......................................................................................................................................... 8 UV Disinfection .............................................................................................................................. 8 Summary of Current Technology ....................................................................................................... 8 Problems with Water Recycling ............................................................................................................. 9 Build-up of Pollutants ......................................................................................................................... 9 Taboo about Drinking ‘Sewage’ ......................................................................................................... 9 Regulations Governing Use of Recycled Water ................................................................................... 10 Alternatives to Water Recycling ........................................................................................................... 11 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................ 12 References ............................................................................................................................................. 12

Introduction
The diverse landscape of planet earth is characterised by the abundance of water covering its surface. Mighty oceans dominate the image of earth received from space and so it is no surprise that water accounts for over 70% of the surface coverage1. From this then, one might assume that the planets water needs are well and truly satisfied. However, it often comes with some disbelief when announced that approximately 783 million people have no access to clean, safe drinking water2. This figure becomes less absurd and very much understandable once it is realised that of all the earths water, only about 2.5 % is acceptable to drink2. Access to safe drinking water is an age old problem and has plagued humanity since its very existence. In the 1800’s, cholera was a disease of which there was little understanding of its origin and method of transmission3. The disease was prevalent in historic London due to the putrid and festering waters of the Thames, poor hygiene and the close proximity of houses. The poster below shows just how primitive water treatment techniques were over 200 hundred years ago:

Figure 1 – Poster From 1800’s Suggesting possible Cholera Preventive Methods 4.

Thankfully, the techniques employed in today’s water treatment facilities are far more advanced and sophisticated. This article aims to discuss some of the operations currently in use within our modern societies and also attempts to delve deeper into some of the more state-of-the-art procedures in place. The social and ethical issues with recycled sewage water along with alternatives to water recycling are also debated.

The Need to Recycle Water
From the statistics given in the introduction earlier, the requirement to develop and advance recycling technology has become more apparent than ever. The world’s population is constantly growing and this is one of the key factors placing strain on water reserves. In the period between the 1800’s and today, the earth’s total population has grown by around 8 billion, a truly staggering figure5. As a result of this rapid, uncontrolled growth global freshwater abstraction has increased at an alarming rate, i.e. 1360 km3 in 1990 to 5190 km3 in 20006. These figures represent an increase of almost 400% in just 10 years and this is of immediate concern. Global water consumption is generally divided into three distinct categories, agriculture (69 %), industry (23 %) and domestic applications6 (8 %). Agriculture clearly has a huge influence over the world’s water supplies and the large volume of water required is usually made worse by poor irrigation practice.

Water Recycling Around the World
Israel is a country which has suffered greatly over the years due to the scarcity of water on its lands. However, this recurring and persistent problem has led to the development of one of the most advanced water recycling systems in the world7. Such innovations have allowed Israel to obtain the highest crop to water ratio which is of obvious importance considering the amount of water used in agriculture. In total Israel recycles 75 % of its water, again making it the world leader in this field7. The next closest rival is Spain with a less impressive recycling rate of just 12 %7. This huge difference between Israel’s and Spain’s recycling rates emphasises the early and primitive nature of the world’s water recycling infrastructure. Australia is another country that has decided to implement recycling technology into its water grid and this is no doubt due to the everlasting droughts that it faces8. Another problem in Australia is the lack of consistency between territories, for example southern Australia recycles over 20 % of its waste water however the capital and northern regions recycle approximately 10 % or less9.

The Future for Water Recycling
With growing populations, a climate constantly changing and poor, inefficient use of water around the globe it is apparent that the issue of water shortage is one that we can no longer avoid. The recycling of water has experienced a slow but steady growth over the last few years and it can only be assumed that the rate of uptake is set to increase rapidly across the planet. Water recycling provides both a sustainable and cost-effective approach to the water shortage solution whilst ensuring the populations health is not compromised10. It is also vital that governments increase their efforts to raise awareness of the technology in order to eliminate misconceptions within societies which may lead to negativity amongst the populace10.

Current Water Recycling Systems
The city of Santa-Rosa is located in the United States within the state of California. It is home to the nation’s leading water treatment technology which is contained within the confines of the Laguna wastewater treatment plant11. This plant recycles sewage from homes, businesses and industries in the local area11. The general processes that occur are shown below in figure 2:

Figure 2 – Basic Process Flow Diagram Showing Key Operations in Water reuse System11.

From the above diagram we can see that there are a significant number of operations involved in the treatment of sewage in order to return it to an acceptable standard. A brief description of each operation is given below:

Key Unit Operations (Laguna Wastewater Treatment)
Screening Fine screens usually occur at the very first stage of the water treatment process 12. These screens typically remove algae, waterweed and other larger debris. One disadvantage of these screens is they have a tendency to clog under heavy use and so it is often necessary to incorporate a mechanical cleaning system to allow efficient filtration12. In the Laguna plant, bar screens are present initially which aim to remove the larger debris such as plastic bottles in order prevent damage to more sensitive equipment present further into the treatment process11.

Primary Clarification

Primary clarification is the final stage of the primary treatment phase and occurs after the removal of grit has occurred (See figure 2). The basic principle of clarification relies on the separation of silt in a stationary fluid12. The higher density silt sinks to the bottom whilst that of lower density rises to the tank surface. Once adequate separation has been achieved, the silt that has accumulated at the bottom of the tank is removed mechanically by long boards named ‘flights’13. This very dense sludge is then pumped into anaerobic digestion tanks where the solids are broken down producing methane gas. This methane gas can then be used to provide 1/6th of the energy required for the treatment process11. After approximately 30 days of digestion and a total reduction in solid volume of around 50 %, the sludge is sent to be dewatered11. The final product of this operation is removed from the plant by heavy goods vehicles and delivered to farmers for use as fertilizers.

Secondary Clarification

After most of the solids have been removed from the initial mixture that entered the treatment plant, the remaining liquid and suspension is pumped into large aeration tanks11. The purpose of these tanks is to remove the great amount of nitrogen that is present within wastewater.

This is accomplished by stimulating the growth of denitrifying bacteria13. Bubbling air into the tanks ensures that a rich supply of oxygen is present allowing any aerobic bacteria present to flourish and bloom13. Once the nitrogen levels within the water have fallen to the desired level, the process continues by transporting the denitrified mixture to a secondary clarifier11. In this secondary clarifier the bacteria found within the water sinks to the bottom and is recycled back into the aeration tanks allowing for a fully sustainable bacterial colony to be attained11.

Filtration

The Laguna Wastewater Treatment plant uses granulated activated carbon (GAC) in order to remove bacteria and any harmful pathogens from the water11. Activated carbon is selected for use due to its high porosity and large surface to which contaminants can adsorb14. In the case of the Laguna plant, the carbon is found in the form of coal11.

UV Disinfection

Ultra-Violet light has become an effective method of destroying bacteria and any other pathogens found with water supplies13. The UV light terminates the bacteria’s reproductive processes by critically damaging its DNA11. Low pressure, high intensity lamps are used to deliver the UV rays into the water13. The major benefit of using UV light is that there is no chemical intervention required and so no additional pollutants are introduced to the environment. At this stage the treatment process is complete and the water can be delivered for use within an acceptable reuse application (As outlined by regulations).

Summary of Current Technology
The example shown above is just one of many designs present today. However the basic principles outlined in the Laguna process apply to all water recycling plants around the world and it are set to remain similar at least for the near future.

Problems with Water Recycling
As with many things in life, there are often both advantages and disadvantages, water treatment is no different. This section contains a few of the key issues surrounding water reuses technology from both a social and environmental point of view.

Build-up of Pollutants

Given the amount of hormonal and pharmaceutical products that enter the world’s waste system, it comes as no surprise that concerns have been raised over the effectiveness of waste treatment plants in removing them15. Studies have shown that the more basic wastewater treatment plants do not successfully remove all contaminants which are often present at low levels in the ‘treated’ water15. This is of course, somewhat alarming as this would mean that the environment and human population would be chronically exposed to levels of these substances, the effects of which are not fully understood even today15. However, in the same research it was also shown that treatment plants which incorporate reverse osmosis technology are much better suited to the removal of these impurities15. Additional inquiry into the effects of these low level toxins is still an absolute necessity if water treatment is to take off on a massive scope.

Taboo about Drinking ‘Sewage’
Many people have strong objections over the use of recycled water. For example in Toowoomba (Australia), a 68 million dollar scheme was proposed in 2011 to use wastewater in order to top up the local dam16. Shortly after, however, a petition was signed by over 10,000 citizens of Toowoomba all of whom were concerned about the immediate risks to their health16. The scheme was then immediately scrapped and no alternative was offered. Another huge issue is the psychological barrier that we must all overcome in order to accept that we are drinking what was once sewage. Scientists and engineers believe that is paramount to educate the general public and have often found that by referring to the treated water as ‘purified recycled water’, the idea has gained greater approval16. Other interesting

points have been raised such as the way in which many people have no issue with drinking spring water that has almost certainly been treated for animal waste16. Some scientists are also troubled over the use of fossil fuels (Coal) for the filtration system and argue that it will just result in an additional reliance on our already dwindling reserves16. As mentioned earlier there is some unease over the treatment facilities ability to remove pharmaceuticals and other undesirables from our drinking water supplies. This subject area understandably causes much debate and controversy, however what is certain is that our reliance on wastewater recycling will only grow from this point on.

Regulations Governing Use of Recycled Water
The regulations controlling the reuse of water are justifiably strict and also differ somewhat according to the final use of the treated water. Grey water is water that has been fouled by a number of means such as showering, bathing and washing up dishes17. It is advised that untreated grey water should not be used in agriculture to water crops and fruit trees17. The following table outlines the criteria used in Britain to determine the allowed use of grey water:

Figure 3 – Criterion used to Decide Acceptable Use of Grey Water in the Uk18.

The table above shows just how low the tolerance rates are for grey water destined for use as drinking water.

Alternatives to Water Recycling
One of the most promising new alternatives to water recycling which will also produce a sustainable solution to the water shortage problems around the world is that of desalination. Israel is home to the world’s largest desalination plant located at Hadera19. The scale of the plant can be seen below:

Figure 4 – Hadera Desalination Plant20

Desalination works in the following way: At its basics, desalination is the removal of salt from seawater. In most cases this involves forcing the seawater through a semi-permeable membrane at high pressure21. The membrane prevents solids such as sodium chloride from passing through. This process is called reverse osmosis. The main drawback to this type of water reclamation system is that a large amount of energy is required to carry out the process21. Another key issue is the disposal of the highly concentrated salt product. Nevertheless this type of process provides a useful solution to the world’s water problems and could possibly be the next important advancement in water

technology. However, whilst energy costs continue to soar this type of process will likely remain a more specialised method of treating water.

Conclusion
From the information given in this report it is clear that the world needs to act now in order to prevent terrible water shortages in the future. Water recycling provides a viable, sustainable method of obtaining the fresh water the planet so desperately needs. Other techniques such as desalination also offer possible alternatives to the current system in place.

References
1. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN. Human Appropriation of the Worlds Fresh Water Supply [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.globalchange.umich.edu

2. WATER AID. A Global Crisis [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.wateraid.org 3. BBC HEALTH. Cholera [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.bbc.co.uk 4. TAAPWORLD. Cholera (Poster Image) [Online]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://taapworld.wikispaces.com/Cholera 5. WORLD BANK. World Population Growth [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.worldbank.org 6. HUNTER, T. Water Treatment. PEME 2020, Safety, Health and Environment. University Of Leeds. 2012. 7. EMBASSY OF ISRAEL. Water Technologies [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.embassyofisrael.co.uk

8. THE GUARDIAN. Adelaide Latest Victim of Global Water Shortages [Online]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/ 9. RECYCLED WATER IN AUSTRALIA. How Much Water Is Recycled In Australia? [Online]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: www.recycledwater.com.au 10. EPA. Water Recycling and Reuse: The Environmental Benefits [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.epa.gov 11. CITY OF SANTA-ROSA. Treatments [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us 12. BINNIE, C. Basic Water Treatment. London: ICE Publishing. 2009. 13. JOHNS CREEK. Primary Clarification [Online]. [No Date]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: www.fultoncountyga.gov 14. EPA. Granular Activated Carbon [Online]. [2013]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://iaspub.epa.gov 15. UNIVERSIT OF WISCONSIN. Do Treatment Plants Effectively Remove Drugs? [Online]. [2004]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: www.sciencedaily.com 16. READERS DIGEST. Drinking Recycled Water: The Debate [Online]. [2012]. [Date Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.readersdigest.com.au/drinking-recycled-water 17. ENVIRONMENT AGENCY. Grey Water: An information Guide [Online] [No Date]. [Accessed on 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.highland.gov.uk 18. DEFRA. Grey Water and Rain Water Systems [Online]. [1997]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://dwi.defra.gov.uk

19. REUTERS. Israel Opens Largest Desalination Plant of its Kind [Online]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available From: http://www.reuters.com 20. GREEN PROPHET. Hadera Image [Online]. Available From: http://www.greenprophet.com 21. COMMUNITY SCIENCE. Desalination [Online]. [Accessed 18 January 2013]. Available from: http://www.fi.edu