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Disposal of sewage

After conveying the sewage through sewers, the next step is its disposal. The sewage can be
disposed off without treatment or after suitable treatment. Finally, the sewage is disposed off either
in natural watercourses or on land.

Methods of disposal
The methods of sewage disposal can be classified as under:
A. The natural methods:
a. By dilution
b. Land treatment
B. The artificial methods:
a. Primary treatment
b. Secondary treatment.

Disposal by dilution
Disposal by dilution is the process whereby the treated sewage or effluent from sewage treatment
plant is discharged into river stream, or a large water body, such as lakes or sea. The discharged
sewage in the course of time, is purified by Self-purification process of natural waters. The degree
and amount of treatment given to raw sewage depends not only on quality of raw sewage but also
upon self-purification capacity of river stream and the intended use of its water.

Standards of dilution for discharge of sewage into rivers based on the Royal Commission report
are given below.
Dilution factor Standards of purification required

Above 500 No treatment is required. Raw sewage can be directly discharged.

Primary treatment such as plain sedimentation is required. Suspended solids

500 300
must not be more than150 ppm.
Treatments such as sedimentation, screening and chemical precipitation are
150 300
required. Suspended solids must not be more than 60 ppm.

Complete treatment is required. Suspended solids must not be more than 30

Below 150
ppm and 5 day BOD at 18.30C must not be more than 20 ppm.

The Bureau of Indian Standards has laid down guidelines for standards of sewage effluents in IS:
4764-1973 and for industrial effluents in IS: 2490-1974.

Dilution in rivers andself-purification of natural streams

The self-purification of natural water systems is a complex process that often involvesphysical,
chemical, and biological processes working simultaneously. The amount ofDissolved Oxygen
(DO) in water is one of the most commonly used indicators of a riverhealth. As DO drops below
4 or 5 mg/L the forms of life that can survive begin to be reduced.A minimum of about 2.0 mg/L
of dissolved oxygen is required to maintain higher life forms.A number of factors affect the amount
of DO available in a river. Oxygen demanding wastesremove DO; plants add DO during day but
remove it at night; respiration of organismsremoves oxygen. In summer, rising temperature
reduces solubility of oxygen, while lowerflows reduce the rate at which oxygen enters the water
from atmosphere.

The natural forces of purification which helps in effecting self-purification process are,
1. Physical forces like: Dilution and dispersion, sedimentation, sunlight (acting through bio-
chemical forces).
2. Chemical forces aided by biological forces: Oxidation, reduction.

a. Dilution and dispersion: When sufficient dilution water is available in the receiving water
body, where the wastewater is discharged, the DO level in the receiving stream may not
reach to zero or critical DO due to availability of sufficient DO initially in the river water
before receiving discharge of wastewater.
When sewage of concentration CS flows at a rate QS in to a river stream with concentration
CR flowing at a rate QR, the concentration C of the resulting mixture is given by,
This equation is applicable separately to concentration of different impurities such as, DO,
BOD, suspended sediments and other characteristic contents of sewage.
b. Sedimentation: The settleable solids, if present in sewage effluent, will settle down into
the bed of the river, near the outfall of sewage, thus, helping the self-purification process.
c. Sunlight: The sunlight has bleaching and stabilizing effect on bacteria. It also helps plants
to derive energy from it and convert them into food, thus absorbing carbon dioxide and
liberating oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. The evolution of oxygen will
help in self-purification by oxidation.
d. Oxidation: The oxidation of organic matter present in sewage as soon as the sewage falls
into the river containing dissolved oxygen. The deficiency of oxygen created is filled up
by atmospheric oxygen. This is the most important action responsible for affecting self-
purification of rivers.
e. Reduction: Reduction occurs due to hydrolysis of organic matter settled at the bottom
either chemically or biologically.

Factors affecting self-purification

a. Temperature:The quantity of DO available in stream water is more in cold temperature
than in hot temperature. Also, as the activity of microorganisms is more at the higher
temperature, hence, the self-purification will take less time at hot temperature than in
b. Turbulence: The turbulence in the water body helps in re-aeration from the atmosphere.
However, too much turbulence is not desirable, since, it scours the bottom sediment,
increases the turbidity, and retards algae growth.
c. Hydrography:Hydrography affects velocity and surface expanse of the river stream.
Highvelocities cause turbulence and rapid reaeration, while large expanse will also have
the same effects.
d. Available DO:The larger the amount of DO, the better earlier self-purification will occur.
e. Amount of organic matter and type: The amount and type of organic matter and biological
growth also affect the rate of self-purification.
f. Rate of reaeration:The rate of reaeration will considerably govern the self-purification
process. The greater this rate, the quicker will be the self-purification, there will be no
chances of anaerobic decomposition.

Zones of pollution in a river stream

A polluted stream undergoing self-purification can be divided intothe following four zones:
i) Zone of degradation,
ii) Zone of active decomposition;
iii) Zone of recovery; and
iv) Zone of cleaner water.

i) Zone of degradation or Zone of pollution: This zone is found for a certain length just below the
point where sewage is discharged into the river stream. This zone is characterized by water
becoming dark and turbid with formation of sludge deposits at the bottom. D.O. is reduced to about
40% of the saturation value. Thereis an increase in carbondioxide content; re-oxygenation (i.e. re-
aeration) occurs but is slower than de-oxygenation. These conditions are unfavourable to the
development of aquatic life; and as such, algae die out, butfish life may be presentfeedingon
freshorganic matter.
ii) Zone of active decomposition: This zone is marked by heavy pollution. It is characterized by
water becoming greyish and darker than in the previous one. D.O. concentration falls down to
zero, and anaerobic conditions may set in with the evolution of gases like methane, carbondioxide,
hydrogen sulphide, etc., bubbling to the surface, with masses of sludge forming an ugly scum layer
at thesurface. As the organic decomposition slackens due to stabilization of organic matter, the
reaeration sets in and D.O. again rises to the original level (i.e., about 40%). In this zone, bacteria
flourish. Fungi growth will happen. Fish life will be absent.
iii) Zone of recovery: In this zone, the river stream tries to recover from its degraded condition to
its former appearance. The water becomes clearer, and so the algae reappear and fungi disappear.
BOD falls down and DO content rises above 40% of the saturation value. Some fishes start to
iv) Zone of cleaner water: In this zone, the river attains its original conditions with DO rising upto
the saturation value. Water becomes attractive in appearance and usual aquatic life prevails. Some
pathogenic organisms may be still present and it has to be treated before usage.

Oxygen Sag (or Oxygen deficit) Analysis

The oxygen sag or oxygen deficit in the stream at any point of time during self purificationprocess
is the difference between the saturation DO content and actual DO content at that time.
Oxygen deficit, D = Saturation DO Actual DO
The saturation DO value for fresh water depends upon the temperature and total dissolvedsalts
present in it; and its value varies from 14.62 mg/L at 0oC to 7.63 mg/L at 30oC, andlower DO at
higher temperatures.
The DO in the stream may not be at saturation level and there may be initial oxygen deficitDo.
At this stage, when the effluent with initial BOD load Lo, is discharged in to stream, theDO content
of the stream starts depleting and the oxygen deficit (D) increases. The variationof oxygen deficit
(D) with the distance along the stream, and hence with the time of flowfrom the point of pollution
is depicted by the Oxygen Sag Curve (Figure). The majorpoint in sag analysis is point of
minimum DO, i.e., maximum deficit. The maximum orcritical deficit (Dc) occurs at the inflexion
points of the oxygen sag curve.

Fig.: Deoxygenation, reoxygenation and oxygen sag curve

Deoxygenation and Reoxygenation Curves
When wastewater is discharged into the stream, the DO level in the stream goes on depleting.This
depletion of DO content is known as deoxygenation. The rate of deoxygenation depends upon the
amount of organic matter remaining (Lt) to be oxidized at any time t, as well as temperature (T) at
which reaction occurs. The variation of depletion of DO content of the stream with time is depicted
by the deoxygenation curve in the absence of aeration. Theordinates below the deoxygenation
curve (Figure) indicate the oxygen remaining in thenatural stream after satisfying the bio-chemical
oxygen demand of oxidizable matter.When the DO content of the stream is gradually consumed
due to BOD load, atmospheresupplies oxygen continuously to the water, through the process of
re-aeration orreoxygenation, i.e., along with deoxygenation, re-aeration is continuous process.

The rate of reoxygenation depends upon:

i) Depth of water in the stream: more for shallow depth.
ii) Velocity of flow in the stream: less for stagnant water.
iii) Oxygen deficit below saturation DO: since solubility rate depends on difference between
saturation concentration and existing concentration of DO.
iv) Temperature of water: solubility of oxygen is lower at higher temperature and also saturation
concentration is less at higher temperature.

Mathematical analysis of Oxygen Sag Curve: Streeter Phelps equation

The analysis of oxygen sag curve can be easily done by superimposing the rates ofdeoxygenation
and reoxygenation as suggested by the Streeter Phelps analysis.

= [10 10 ] + [ 10 ]

Where, Dt = the DO deficit in mg/l in t days
Lo = ultimate first stage BOD of the mix at point of waste discharge in mg/l
Do = initial oxygen deficit of the mix at the mixing point in mg/l
KD = deoxygenation coefficient for the wastewater which is same rate constant of BOD,K
() = (20) 1.047(20)
Typical values of KD vary between 0.1 to 0.2, generally taken 0.1.
KR = reoxygenation coefficient for the stream
(200 ) =
v = average stream velocity in m/s
y = average depth of stream in m
() = (20) 1.016(20)

This is Streeter-Phelps oxygen sag equation. The graphical representation of this equation is shown
in Figure.

Fig.: Oxygen sag curve of Streeter-Phelps equation

Note: Deoxygenation and reoxygenation occurs simultaneously. After critical point, the rateof re-
aeration is greater than the deoxygenation and after some distance the DO will reach tooriginal
level and stream will not have any effect due to addition of wastewater. At time t=0at x = 0.
Sl. No. Type of water body Value of KR(20) per day

1 Small ponds and back waters 0.05-0.10

2 Sluggish streams, large lakes 0.10-0.15

3 Large streams with low velocity 0.15-0.20

4 Large streams with normal velocity 0.20-0.30

5 Swift streams 0.30-0.50

6 Rapids and waterfalls >0.50

Determination of Critical time (tc) and Critical DO deficit (Dc)

Let f denote the ratio of KR/KD.

i.e., =

= [{1 ( 1) } ]
( 1)

= 10

Taking log on both side, it can be further simplified into,
( ) = [1 ( 1) ]

This is an important first stage equation in which Lo is the BOD of the mixture of sewage and
stream. And f (KR and KD) also corresponds to the temperature of mixture of sewage and stream
at outfall. The above equations are of practical value in predicting the oxygen content at any point
along a stream, and thus help us in estimating the degree of waste treatment required, or of the
amount of dilution necessary, in order to maintain certain DO in the stream.

Land treatment
When the sewage is evenly spread on the surface of land, the method is called land treatment. The
water of sewage percolates in the ground and the organic suspended solids remain at the surface
of the ground. The organic suspended solids, are partly acted upon by the bacteria, and are partly
oxidized by exposure to atmospheric actions of heat, light and air.

Table gives the recommended maximum dose of sewage which can be applied in sewage farming.
Maximum dose of sewage in cu. m./ hectare/ day
Sl. No. Nature of soil
Raw sewage Settled sewage

1 Loam soil 60-80 110-170

2 Clayey loam soil 40-50 55-110

3 Sandy loam soil 90-100 170-225

4 Sandy soil 120-150 220-280

5 Clayey soil 30-35 33-55

Advantages and disadvantages of land treatment

a. The disposal of sewage is done by natural treatment.
b. The natural water courses are prevented from pollution.
c. The method is cheap and does not require the sewage treatment plants, requiring high initial
and maintenance cost.
d. The land is irrigated and receives the high value fertilizing substances without extra cost.
e. The disposal of sewage is done without natural courses.
a. Large area of land is required for this type of disposal.
b. During rainy season and winter wet climate, this method is not effective and suitable.
c. If the land is used for growing crops, special attention against the spread of disease shall
have to be taken.
d. During the application of sewage to the land it is to be properly supervised, otherwise the
land may become sick.
e. The disposal of sewage cannot be done by this method if the land consists of clayey soil.

Broad irrigation
In this type of sewage disposal, the land on which sewage is applied acts roughly like a filter. Due
to more percentage of voids in soil, the sewage is stabilized by aerobic action. In this method
under-drainage system is laid below the ground level to collect the effluent of sewage after
filtration through ground soil. The under-drainage system usually consists of 15cm diameter
porous pipes which are laid open jointed at a spacing of 10 to 30m. The effluent which is unfoul
in character and usually small in quantity can be directly disposed off into natural water courses.

Sewage farming
When sewage is used for growing crops, it is called sewage farming. The fertilizing elements of
sewage are consumed by the roots of crops. The mineral salts of sewage such as nitrates, sulfates
and phosphates are the main fertilizing constituents of sewage. By the sewage farming a good
income can be done, which is always profitable. Under no circumstances raw sewage should be
applied to the farms directly.
Application of sewage
The following methods are adopted for application of sewage.
i. Surface irrigation: In this method the parallel drains are constructed in the fields. All these drains
are connected to a distributary drain by means of regulating device so that sewage can flow in the
required drain. This method is most suitable in sloppy areas. The sewage is allowed to overflow
through fields from one drain towards another. When the sewage flows over the fields, its large
quantity is absorbed by the fields and only the excess quantity reaches another drain. From the
second drain the sewage is allowed to overflow through another area.
ii. Sub-soil irrigation: In this method a network of porous open joint pipes is laid about 30cm
below the ground level. The sewage is allowed to flow through these pipes which is absorbed by
the sub-soil. The remaining quantity of sewage, if any, can be used for irrigation in another place
or discharged into natural courses.
iii. Flooding: The irrigation area is divided into various parts surrounded by dykes. The sewage is
filled like small ponds in between the dykes. The depth of flooding over the fields varies from few
centimeter to 50 cm depending on the requirements of the irrigation.
iv. Ridge and furrow: In this method the land is first ploughed deep up to 30cm, leveled and divided
into plots and subplots. Then each sub-plot is enclosed by small dykes. Now ridges and forrows
are formed in each sub-plot. The sewage is allowed to flow in furrows, whereas crops are grown
on ridges.
v. Spray irrigation: This method is not used in India. In this method, first the sewage is filled in
tanks so that settleable soils may settle. Then the sewage is sprayed over the fields by pumping it
through pipes fitted with nozzles at the other end.
vi. Lagooning: In this method sewage sludge is allowed to go in a water-tight pond, where a
detention period of one or two months is given. Within this period, the sewage sludge is stabilized
and dried. During stabilization, anaerobic action takes place due to which foul gases are produced,
therefore lagoons should be constructed much away from the towns and cities where the smelly
wind should not pollute the general atmosphere. Lagooning are less common now a days.

Sewage Sickness
When raw or partly treated sewage is applied on to the land, a part of it evaporates, and the
remaining portion percolates through the ground soil. While percolating through the soil, the
suspended particles present in the sewage are caught in the soil voids. If proper aeration of these
voids is maintained, the organic sewage solids caught in these voids get oxidized by aerobic
process. Such aeration and aerobic conditions will prevail if soil is sufficiently porous and
permeable (such as sands and porous loams). If the land is made of heavy, sticky and fine grained
materials (such as clay, rock etc.), the void spaces will soon get choked up, and thus resulting in
non-aeration of these voids. This will lead to the developing of non-aerobic decomposition of
organic matter, and the evolution of foul gases. Excessive clogging may also result in ugly ponding
of sewage over the farm land, where mosquitoes may breed in large number, causing further
nuisance. This clogging of soil is known as sewage sickness of land.

In order to prevent sewage sickness on a land, the following preventive measures may be adopted:
1. Primary treatment of sewage to remove suspended solids and to avoid clogging.
2. Under-drainage of soil to collect excessive quantity of sewage.
3. Giving rest to land land will be ploughed thoroughly during the rest period.
4. Rotation of crops aerate the soil and utilize the fertilizing elements of sewage.
5. Thoroughly ploughing and breaking the soil.

Dilution method Vs. land disposal method for disposal of sewage

1. For disposal by dilution, large volumes of natural clean waters (with nil or very low BOD)
are required; whereas, for land disposal, large areas of land, preferably with sandy soils,
are required.
2. The cost of land, in land disposal method, is generally very high, specially cities and urban
areas, which are generally situated near rivers or oceans, and thus suggesting the choice of
dilution method. Whereas, in the rural areas, where the amount of sewage produced is less,
land being available at lesser cost, no easy water source being available, the land disposal
is a better choice.
3. When the cost of land is high in land disposal method, some return may be available due
to sewage farming; but then good management is also required. Dilution method, on the
other hand, is a simple method, does not require too much of management.
4. Land disposal method required either no pre-treatment of sewage or only preliminary
treatment; whereas, dilution method of disposal requires full or at least partial treatment.
5. Dilution method of sewage disposal requires nil or small head pumping, while land
disposal requires high head pumping, thus making land disposal method costlier.
6. Land disposal method is generally found to be better choice in hot climatic areas. This is
because in hot areas, DO content of natural waters is less, thus making rivers susceptible
to much pollution.

Choice of method of disposal

The disposal of sewage by land irrigation shall be suitable in following conditions:
1. When climate is dry and the rate of water evaporation is high.
2. When the sandy soil land having good permeability is easily available in the required
3. When the ground water level is at a distance from the ground level and will not be affected
by land treatment.
4. When there are no good natural water courses in the nearby area, nor they have sufficient
quantity of water even in the driest period.
5. The products of sewage forms have good market value.
The disposal of sewage by dilution method shall be suitable under following circumstances:
1. When large quantity of water with high DO contents are available in the nearby water
2. When the sewage reaching at the point of disposal is non-septic and fresh.
3. When natural stream currents have high velocity to carry and mix the sewage with the
natural water.
4. When the depth of water at the point of disposal has sufficient depth for the accumulation
of settled solids.

For Indian towns and cities, land disposal is the better choice because of hot climate, lesser coastal
towns with strong tides and currents, lesser perennial rivers and generation of highly concentrated
sewage thus making it difficult to dispose it into the river directly.