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United States Office of Water EPA 832-R-04-001

Environmental Protection Office of Wastewater Management September 2004

Agency Washington DC 20460

Primer for Municipal

Wastewater Treatment
Primer for Municipal Wastewater Treatment Systems
Clean Water Act Requirements for Wastewater Treatment 4

The Need for Wastewater Treatment 5

Effects of Wastewater on Water Quality 5

Some of the Key Challenges Faced by Wastewater Treatment Professionals Today 6

Collecting and Treating Wastewater 6

Centralized Collection 6
Combined Sewer Systems 7
Sanitary Sewer System 9
Pollutants: 8
Oxygen-Demanding Substances 8
Pathogens 8
Nutrients 8
Synthetic Organic and Inorganic Chemicals 8
Thermal 8

Wastewater Treatment 9
Primary Treatment 9
Preliminary Treatment 9
Primary Sedimentation 11
Basic Wastewater Treatment Processes 10
Physical 10
Biological 10
Chemical 10
Secondary Treatment 11
Attached Growth Processes 11
Suspended Growth Processes 12
Lagoons 13
Land Treatment 14
Slow Rate Infiltration 14
Rapid Infiltration 15
Overland Flow 15
Constructed Wetlands 15
Disinfection 16
Chlorine 16
Ozone 16
Ultraviolet Radiation 16

Pretreatment 16

Advanced Methods of Wastewater Treatment 17

Nitrogen Control 17
Biological Phosphorus Control 18
Coagulation-Sedimentation 18
Carbon Adsorption 19

The Use or Disposal of Wastewater Residuals and Biosolids 19

Land Application 20
Incineration 20
Benecial Use Products from Biosolids 21

Decentralized (Onsite or Cluster) Systems 21

Treatment 22
Conventional Septic Tanks 22
Aerobic Treatment Units 22
Media Filters 22
Dispersal Approaches 23
Absorption Field 23
Mound System 23
Drip Dispersal System 24
Evapotranspiration Beds 24
Management of Onsite/Decentralized Wastewater Systems 24

Asset Management 24
Operation 25
Maintenance 25

Common Wastewater Treatment Terminology 25

Clean Water Act Requirements for
Wastewater Treatment

The 1972 Amendments to the Federal

Water Pollution Control Act ( Public Law 92-
500 , known as the Clean Water Act (CWA),
established the foundation for wastewater
discharge control in this countr y. The CWAs
primar y objective is to restore and maintain the
chemical, physical and biological integrit y of the
nations waters.

The CWA established a control program for

ensuring that communities have clean water
by regulating the release of contaminants
into our countr ys water ways. Permits that
limit the amount of pollutants discharged
are required of all municipal and industrial
wastewater dischargers under the National
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
permit program. In addition, a construction
grants program was set up to assist publicly-
owned wastewater treatment works build the
improvements required to meet these new limits.
The 1987 Amendments to the CWA established
State Revolving Funds ( SRF) to replace grants as
the current principal federal funding source for
the construction of wastewater treatment and
collection systems.

Over 75 percent of the nations population is

ser ved by centralized wastewater collection
and treatment systems. The remaining
population uses septic or other onsite systems.
Approximately 16,000 municipal wastewater
treatment facilities are in operation nationwide.
The CWA requires that municipal wastewater
treatment plant discharges meet a minimum of
secondar y treatment. Over 30 percent of the
wastewater treatment facilities today produce
cleaner discharges by providing even greater
levels of treatment than secondar y.

Primer for Municipal
Wastewater Treatment
The Need for Wastewa- produced can greatly alter people to use the water for
ter Treatment the amount and complexit y beneficial purposes. Past
Wastewater treatment is of industrial wastes and approaches used to control
needed so that we can challenge traditional water pollution control must
use our rivers and streams treatment technology. The be modified to accommodate
for fishing, swimming and application of commercial current and emerging issues
drinking water. For the first fer tilizers and pesticides,
half of the 20th centur y, Effects of Wastewater on
combined with sediment
pollution in the Nations
Water Quality
from growing development
urban water ways resulted in The basic function of the
activities, continues to be a
frequent occurrences of low wastewater treatment plant
source of significant pollution
dissolved ox ygen, fish kills, is to speed up the natural
as runof f washes of f the
algal blooms and bacterial processes by which water
contamination. Early ef for ts Water pollution issues now purifies itself. In earlier
in water pollution control dominate public concerns years, the natural treatment
prevented human waste about national water qualit y process in streams and
from reaching water supplies and maintaining healthy lakes was adequate to per
or reduced floating debris form basic wastewater
ecosystems. Although a
that obstructed shipping. treatment. As our population
large investment in water
Pollution problems and their and industr y grew to their
pollution control has helped
control were primarily local, present size, increased
reduce the problem, many
not national, concerns. levels of treatment prior
miles of streams are still
Since then, population to discharging domestic
impacted by a variet y of dif
and industrial grow th have
ferent pollutants. This, wastewater became
increased demands on our
in turn, af fects the abilit y of necessar y.
natural resources, altering
the situation dramatically.
Progress in abating pollution
has barely kept ahead of
population grow th, changes
in industrial processes,
technological developments,
changes in land use,
business innovations,
and many other factors.
Increases in both the
quantit y and variet y of goods

(Data form U.S. Public Health Service multi wastewater inventories:
2000 USEPA Clean Watershed Needs Survey)
Collecting and Treating
Population Receiving Different Levels of
The most common form
Wastewater Treatment
of pollution control in the
United States consists of
200 a system of sewers and
180 wastewater treatment plants.
Population Served (millions)

160 2 The sewers collect municipal

No Discharge
140 Greater than wastewater from homes,
120 businesses, and industries
100 Less than and deliver it to facilities
80 1 for treatment before it is
Raw Discharge
60 discharged to water bodies
40 or land, or reused.
0 Centralized Collection
During the early days of our
Before the CWA
nations histor y, people living
After the CWA
in both the cities and the
Raw discharges were eliminated by 1996 countr yside used cesspools
Data for the "no-discharge" category were unavailable for 1968 and privies to dispose of
domestic wastewater. Cities
began to install wastewater
Some of the key challenges faced by wastewater collection systems in the late
treatment professionals today: nineteenth centur y because
Many of the wastewater treatment and collection facilities of an increasing awareness
are now old and worn, and require fur ther improvement, of waterborne disease and
repair or replacement to maintain their useful life; the popularit y of indoor
plumbing and flush toilets.
The character and quantit y of contaminants presenting
problems today are far more complex than those that pre- The use of sewage collection
sented challenges in the past; systems brought dramatic
improvements to public
Population grow th is taxing many existing wastewater
treatment systems and creating a need for new plants; health, fur ther encouraging
the grow th of metropolitan
Farm runof f and increasing urbanization provide ad-
areas. In the year 2000
ditional sources of pollution not controlled by wastewater
treatment; and approximately 208 million
people in the U.S. were ser
One third of new development is ser ved by decentralized
ved by centralized collection
systems (e.g., septic systems) as population migrates fur ther
from metropolitan areas.

Combined Sewer Systems
Many of the earliest sewer systems were combined sewers, designed to collect both sanitar y
wastewater and storm water runof f in a single system. These combined sewer systems were
designed to provide storm drainage from streets and roofs to prevent flooding in cities.
Later, lines were added to carr y domestic wastewater away from homes and businesses.
Early sanitarians thought that these combined systems provided adequate health protection.
We now know that the over flows designed to release excess flow during rains also release
pathogens and other pollutants.
S i mp lifi ed U rban Wat e r C ycl e

Po ll u t ants
Oxygen - Demand ing Substances
Diss o lved o x ygen is a key element in water qualit y that is necessar y to suppor t aquatic life.
A demand is p la ced on the natural supply of dissolved ox ygen by many pollutants in waste-
wat er. This is c a ll ed biochemical ox ygen demand, or BOD, and is used to measure how well
a s ewage tr eat ment plant is working. If the ef fluent, the treated wastewater produced by a
trea tmen t p lan t, ha s a high content of organic pollutants or ammonia, it will demand more
o x ygen from the wa ter and leave the water with less ox ygen to suppor t fish and other aquatic
lif e.
O rgan ic ma t te r and ammonia are ox ygen-demanding substances. Ox ygen-demand-
i ng s ub stan ce s a re contributed by domestic sewage and agricultural and industrial wastes
o f bo t h p l an t and animal origin, such as those from food processing, paper mills, tanning,
and o t he r manu f acturing processes. These substances are usually destroyed or conver ted
to o the r c ompound s by bacteria if there is suf ficient ox ygen present in the water, but the dis-
s o lv ed o x ygen need ed to sustain fish life is used up in this break down process.

Pa thogen s
D isi n fe cti on o f wa stewater and chlorination of drinking water supplies has reduced the oc-
cu rren ce o f wa te rbo rne diseases such as t yphoid fever, cholera, and dysenter y, which remain
p rob l em s i n unde r developed countries while they have been vir tually eliminated in the U.S.
In fe cti ou s m icro -o rg anisms, or pathogens, may be carried into sur face and groundwater by
s from citie s and institutions, by cer tain kinds of industrial wastes, such as tanning and
mea t pa cki ng p lan ts, and by the contamination of storm runof f with animal wastes from pets,
liv e sto ck and wil d animals, such as geese or deer. Humans may come in contact with these
pa thogen s e ithe r b y drinking contaminated water or through swimming, fishing, or other
con at cta ctivitie s. M odern disinfection techniques have greatly reduced the danger of water-
bo r ne d is ea s e.

Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus are essential to living organisms and are the chief nutri-
ents present in natural water. Large amounts of these nutrients are also present in sewage,
cer tain industrial wastes, and drainage from fer tilized land. Conventional secondar y bio-
logical treatment processes do not remove the phosphorus and nitrogen to any substantial ex
tent -- in fact, they may conver t the organic forms of these substances into mineral form,
making them more usable by plant life. When an excess of these nutrients overstimulates the
grow th of water plants, the result causes unsightly conditions, inter feres with drinking water
treatment processes, and causes unpleasant and disagreeable tastes and odors in drinking
water. The release of large amounts of nutrients, primarily phosphorus but occasionally ni-
trogen, causes nutrient enrichment which results in excessive grow th of algae. Uncontrolled
algae grow th blocks out sunlight and chokes aquatic plants and animals by depleting dis-
solved ox ygen in the water at night. The release of nutrients in quantities that exceed the af
fected waterbodys abilit y to assimilate them results in a condition called eutrophication or
cultural enrichment.

Inorganic and Synthetic Organic Chemicals

A vast array of chemicals are included in this categor y. Examples include detergents, house-
hold cleaning aids, heav y metals, pharmaceuticals, synthetic organic pesticides and her-
bicides, industrial chemicals, and the wastes from their manufacture. Many of these sub-
stances are toxic to fish and aquatic life and many are harmful to humans. Some are known
to be highly poisonous at ver y low concentrations. Others can cause taste and odor prob-
lems, and many are not ef fectively removed by conventional wastewater treatment.

Heat reduces the capacit y of water to retain ox ygen. In some areas, water used for cooling
is discharged to streams at elevated temperatures from power plants and industries. Even
discharges from wastewater treatment plants and storm water retention ponds af fected by
summer heat can be released at temperatures above that of the receiving water, and elevate
the stream temperature. Unchecked discharges of waste heat can seriously alter the ecology
of a lake, a stream, or estuar y.

Wastewater Treatment Preliminary Treatment As
In 1892, only 27 American wastewater enters a treatment
cities provided wastewater facilit y, it t ypically flows
treatment. Today, more through a step called
than 16,000 publicly-owned preliminar y treatment. A
wastewater treatment plants screen removes large floating
operate in the United States objects, such as rags, cans,
and its territories. The
bot tles and sticks that may
construction of wastewater
clog pumps, small pipes, and
treatment facilities
Workers install sewer line down stream processes. The
blossomed in the 1920s and
Sanitary Sewer Systems screens var y from coarse to
again af ter the passage of
Sanitar y sewer collection fine and are constructed with
the CWA in 1972 with the
systems ser ve over half the parallel steel or iron bars
availabilit y of grant funding
and new requirements with openings of about half
people in the United States
calling for minimum levels an inch, while others may
today. EPA estimates that
of treatment. Adequate be made from mesh screens
there are approximately
treatment of wastewater, with much smaller openings.
500,000 miles of publicly-
along with the abilit y to
owned sanitar y sewers
provide a suf ficient supply Screens are generally placed
with a similar expanse of
of clean water, has become in a chamber or channel and
privately-owned sewer
a major concern for many inclined towards the flow of
systems. Sanitar y sewers
communities. the wastewater. The inclined
were designed and built
screen allows debris to be
to carr y wastewater from Primary Treatment The caught on the upstream sur
domestic, industrial and initial stage in the
face of the screen, and
commercial sources, but treatment of domestic
allows access for manual
not to carr y storm water. wastewater is known as
or mechanical cleaning.
Nonetheless, some storm primar y treatment. Coarse
Some plants use devices
water enters sanitar y sewers solids are removed from the ability to
known as comminutors or
through cracks, par ticularly the wastewater in the
barminutors which combine provide a sufficient
primar y stage of treatment.
in older lines, and through the functions of a screen and
In some treatment plants,
roof and basement drains. a grinder. These devices supply of clean
primar y and secondar y
Due to the much smaller catch and then cut or shred
stages may be combined
volumes of wastewater the heav y solid and floating
water continues to
into one basic operation.
that pass through sanitar y At many wastewater material. In the process, the
be a major national
sewer lines compared to treatment facilities, influent pulverized mat ter remains
combined sewers, sanitar y passes through preliminar y in the wastewater flow to be concern
sewer systems use smaller treatment units before removed later in a primar y
pipes and lower the cost of primar y and secondar y set tling tank.
collecting wastewater. treatment begins.

Basic Wastewater Treatment Processes
Physical Biological Chemical
Physical processes were In nature, bacteria and Chemicals can be used to
some of the earliest methods other small organisms in create changes in pollutants
to remove solids from water consume organic that increase the removal
wastewater, usually by mat ter in sewage, turning of these new forms by
passing wastewater through it into new bacterial cells, physical processes. Simple
screens to remove debris carbon dioxide, and other chemicals such as alum,
and solids. In addition, by-products. The bacteria lime or iron salts can be
solids that are heavier than normally present in water added to wastewater to
water will set tle out from must have ox ygen to do cause cer tain pollutants,
wastewater by gravit y. Par their par t in breaking down such as phosphorus, to floc
ticles with entrapped the sewage. In the 1920s, or bunch together into large,
air float to the top of water scientists obser ved that these heavier masses which can
and can also be removed. natural processes could be be removed faster through
These physical processes are contained and accelerated physical processes. Over the
employed in many modern in systems to remove organic past 30 years, the chemical
wastewater treatment material from wastewater. industr y has developed
facilities today. With the addition of ox ygen synthetic iner t chemicals
to wastewater, masses of know as polymers to
microorganisms grew and fur ther improve the physical
rapidly metabolized organic separation step in wastewater
pollutants. Any excess treatment. Polymers are
microbiological grow th of ten used at the later stages
could be removed from of treatment to improve the
the wastewater by physical set tling of excess
processes. microbiological grow th or

Af ter the wastewater has of grit and sand entering a any additional material that
been screened, it may flow treatment plant can cause might damage equipment or
into a grit chamber where serious operating problems, inter fere with later processes.
sand, grit, cinders, and small such as excessive wear of The grit and screenings
stones set tle to the bot tom. pumps and other equipment, removed by these processes
Removing the grit and gravel clogging of aeration devices, must be periodically
that washes of f streets or or taking up capacit y in tanks collected and trucked to a
land during storms is ver y that is needed for treatment. landfill for disposal or are
impor tant, especially in In some plants, another incinerated.
cities with combined sewer finer screen is placed af ter .
systems. Large amounts the grit chamber to remove

secondar y treatment are at
tached grow th processes
and suspended grow th
Primary Sedimentation Secondary Treatment Af
Attached Growth
With the screening ter the wastewater has Processes
completed and the grit been through Primar y In at tached grow th (or fixed
removed, wastewater still Treatment processes, it film) processes, the microbial
contains dissolved organic flows into the nex t stage of grow th occurs on the sur face
and inorganic constituents treatment called secondar y. of stone or plastic media.
along with suspended Secondar y treatment st t r ss s v r
solids. The suspended solids processes can remove u t Wa
t ewai e lpa e ito e ir t Solids removed from
p o automated bar screens
90 percent of the organic he med a a ong w h a o
consist of minute par ticles of
mat ter that can be removed mat ter in wastewater by
from the wastewater using biological treatm t
processes. The t wo most
with fur ther treatment such
common conventional
as sedimentation or gravit y
methods used to achiev
set tling, chemical e
coagulation, or filtration.
Pollutants that are dissolved
or are ver y fine and remain
suspended in the wastewater
are not removed ef fectively
by gravit y set tling.

When the wastewater enters

a sedimentation tank, it slows
down and the suspended
solids gradually sink to the
bot tom. This mass of solids
is called primar y sludge.
Various methods have been
devised to remove primar y
sludge from the tanks.
Newer plants have some t ype
of mechanical equipment
to remove the set tled solids
from sedimentation tanks.
Some plants remove solids
continuously while others do
so at inter vals. Aerated Grit Chamber

media bed material. New Suspended Growth
facilities may use beds made Processes
of plastic balls, interlocking Similar to the microbial
sheets of corrugated plastic, processes in at tached grow th
or other t ypes of synthetic systems, suspended grow th
media. This t ype of bed processes are designed
material of ten provides to remove biodegradable
more sur face area and organic material and
a bet ter environment for organic nitrogen-containing
promoting and controlling material by conver ting
Sequencing Batch biological treatment than ammonia nitrogen to
provide ox ygen. At tached
rock. Bacteria, algae, fungi nitrate unless additional
grow th process units include
and other microorganisms treatment is provided. In
trickling filters, biotowers,
grow and multiply, forming suspended grow th processes,
and rotating biological
a microbial grow th or slime the microbial grow th is
contactors. At tached grow th suspended in an aerated
layer (biomass) on the
processes are ef fective at water mix ture where the air
media. In the treatment
removing biodegradable is pumped in, or the water is
process, the bacteria use ox
organic material from the agitated suf ficiently to allow
ygen from the air and
wastewater. ox ygen transfer. Suspended
consume most of the organic
mat ter in the wastewater as grow th process units include
A trickling filter is simply a food. As the wastewater variations of activated
bed of media (t ypically rocks passes down through the sludge, oxidation ditches and
or plastic) through which the media, ox ygen-demanding sequencing batch reactors.
wastewater passes. The substances are consumed by
media ranges from the biomass and the water The suspended grow th
three to six feet deep and leaving the media is much process speeds up the work
allows large numbers of cleaner. However, por tions of aerobic bacteria and
microorganisms to at tach of the biomass also slough other microorganisms that
r . l r tr t t ff t i st s t tl r k wn the organic

and g ow b eat t rdo

f ciliti s t y Oic de
lly sea men o t ihe med
s c a andr ymu
tr t e et i the sewage by
a e p a u ed ou n a e onda ea men ma
r vie i n a rich aerobic
st s, r cks, r sl st t k.
one o o ag a he an p o d ng
vir ent where the
en onm
icr r anisms suspended
m oo g
ni t he wastewater can work
mo re e f ficiently. In the
ae r a ti on tank, wastewater is
vigo rou sly mixed with air and
m icroo r ganisms acclimated
to t he wastewater in a
su spen sion for several hours.
Th is a llo ws the bacteria
Trickling Filters
Brush Aerators in an Oxidation Ditch

Center feed well of a clarifier for

removing excess biomass

o f m echanical aeration and

fo rced aeration can also be
su d.
e Also, relatively pure
o x ygen, produced by several
d if ferent manufacturing
p or ocesses, can be added
tp aerovide ox ygen to the
ar tion tanks.
and other microorganisms to run the aeration system. From the aeration tank,
to break down the organic The ef fectiveness of the the treated wastewater
mat ter in the wastewater. activated sludge process flows to a sedimentation
The microorganisms grow can be impacted by elevated tank (secondar y clarifier),
in number and the excess levels of toxic compounds in where the excess biomass
biomass is removed by set wastewater unless complex is removed. Some of the
tling before the ef fluent is industrial chemicals are ef biomass is recycled to the
discharged or treated fur fectively controlled through head end of the aeration
ther. Now activated with an industrial pretreatment tank, while the remainder is
millions of additional program. wasted from the system.
aerobic bacteria, some of The waste biomass and set
the biomass can be used An adequate supply of ox tled solids are treated
again by returning it to an ygen is necessar y for the before disposal or reuse as
aeration tank for mixing with activated sludge process to biosolids.
incoming wastewater. be ef fective. The ox ygen
is generally supplied by
A wastewater lagoon or
The activated sludge process, mixing air with the sewage
treatment pond is a
like most other techniques, and biologically active
scientifically constructed
has advantages and solids in the aeration
pond, three to five feet
limitations. The units tanks by one or more of
deep, that allows sunlight,
necessar y for this treatment several dif ferent methods.
are relatively small, requiring Mechanical aeration can be
less space than at tached accomplished by drawing
grow th processes. In the sewage up from the bot
addition, when properly tom of the tank and
operated and maintained, spraying it over the sur face,
the process is generally thus allowing the sewage
free of flies and odors. to absorb large amounts of
However, most activated ox ygen from the atmosphere.
sludge processes are more Pressurized air can be forced
costly to operate than at out through small openings
tached grow th processes in pipes suspended in the
due to higher energy use wastewater. Combination

Wastewater Lagoon

reatment Slow Rate Infiltration

L trT tment is the In the case of slow rate
c tr eall application of infiltration, the wastewater
on sto edter to the soil where is applied to the land and
ewal, chemical, and moves through the soil
ph a processes treat where the natural filtering
algae, bacteria, and ox ygen
the wastewater as it passes action of the soil along
to interact. Biological and
across or through the soil. with microbial activit y and
physical treatment processes
The principal t ypes of land plant uptake removes most
occur in the lagoon to
treatment are slow rate, contaminants. Par t of the
improve water qualit y. The
overland flow, and rapid water evaporates or is used
qualit y of water leaving the
infiltration. In the arid by plants. The remainder is
lagoon, when constructed
western states, pretreated either collected via drains or
and operated properly, is
municipal wastewater has wells for sur face discharge or
considered equivalent to the
been used for many years allowed to percolate into the
ef fluent from a conventional
to irrigate crops. In more groundwater.
secondar y treatment system.
recent years, land treatment
However, winters in cold
has spread to all sections of Slow rate infiltration is the
climates have a significant
the countr y. Land treatment most commonly used land
impact on the ef fectiveness
of many t ypes of industrial treatment technique. The
of lagoons, and winter
wastewater is also common. wastewater, which is
storage is usually required.
sometimes disinfected before
Whatever method is application, depending on
Lagoons have several used, land treatment can the end use of the crop and
advantages when used be a feasible economic the irrigation method, can
correctly. They can be used alternative, where the land be applied to the land by
for secondar y treatment area needed is readily
spraying, flooding, or ridge
or as a supplement to available, par ticularly
and furrow irrigation. The
other processes. While when compared to costly
method selected depends on
treatment ponds require advanced treatment plants.
cost considerations, terrain,
substantial land area and Ex tensive research has been
are predominantly used and the t ype of crops. Much
conducted at land treatment
by smaller communities, of the water and most of the
sites to determine treatment
they account for more per formance and study nutrients are used by the
than one-four th of the the numerous treatment plants, while other pollutants
municipal wastewater processes involved, as are transferred to the soil
treatment facilities in this well as potential impacts by adsorption, where many
countr y. Lagoons remove on the environment, e.g. are mineralized or broken
biodegradable organic groundwater, sur face water, down over time by microbial
material and some of the and any crop that may be action.
nitrogen from wastewater. grown.

Biologically Degradable Wastewater Treated in the U.S. has
increased since 1940, however, treatment efficiency has
improved so that pollution has decreased.
Influent BOD5

Effluent BOD5
Removal Efficiency

BOD5 Removal Efficiency (%)

BOD5 Loading (metric tons/day)


Constructed Wetlands
Wetlands are areas where
the water saturates the
30,000 ground long enough to
suppor t and maintain
wetland vegetation such
as reeds, bulrush, and
cat tails. A constructed
wetlands treatment system is
1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 1996 2016 designed to treat wastewater
Year by passing it through the

165 gal/capita-day is based on data in the Clean Water Needs Surveys for 1978 wetland. Natural physical,
through 1986 and accounts for residential, commercial, industrial, stormwater, and
infiltration and inflow components. chemical, and biological
wetland processes have been
Rapid Infiltration The Overland Flow recreated and enhanced in
rapid infiltration process is constructed wetlands
This method has been used
most frequently used to designed specifically to treat
successfully by the food
polish and recover wastewater from industries,
processing industries for
wastewater ef fluents for small communities, storm
many years to remove solids,
reuse af ter pretreatment by runof f from urban and
bacteria and nutrients from agricultural areas, and acid
secondar y and advanced
wastewater. The wastewater mine drainage. Significant
treatment processes. It is
is allowed to flow down a water qualit y improvements,
also ef fective in cold or
gently-sloped sur face that is including nutrient reduction,
wet weather and has been
planted with vegetation to can be achieved
successfully used in Florida,
nor theastern and arid control runof f and erosion. Constructed Wetlands

southwestern states. Large Heav y clay soils are well

amounts of wastewater suited to the overland flow
are applied to permeable process. As the water flows
soils in a limited land area down the slope, the soil and
and allowed to infiltrate its microorganisms form a
and percolate downward gelatinous slime layer similar
through the soil into the in many ways to a trickling
water table below. If the
filter that ef fectively removes
water is to be reused, it can
solids, pathogens, and nutri-
be recovered by wells. The
ents. Water that is not
cost-ef fectiveness of this
absorbed or evaporated is
process depends on the soils
abilit y to percolate a large recovered at the bot tom of
volume of water quickly and the slope for discharge or
ef ficiently, so suitable soil reuse.
drainage is impor tant.

Land Treatment - Rapid Infiltration

The National Pretreatment
Program, a cooperative ef
for t of Federal, state, POT
Ws and their industrial
dischargers, requires industr y
Disinfection Untreated chlorine gas is used less to control the amount of
domestic wastewater frequently now than in the pollutants discharged into
contains micro- organisms or past. municipal sewer systems.
pathogens that produce Pretreatment protects the
human diseases.
Ozone wastewater treatment
Ozone is produced from ox
Processes used to kill or facilities and its workers from
deactivate these harmful ygen exposed to a high
pollutants that may create
organisms are called voltage current. Ozone is ver
hazards or inter fere with the
disinfection. Chlorine is the y ef fective at destroying
operation and per formance
most widely used disinfectant viruses and bacteria and
of the POT W, including
but ozone and ultraviolet decomposes back to ox ygen
contamination of sewage
radiation are also frequently rapidly without leaving
sludge, and reduces the
used for wastewater ef fluent harmful by products. Ozone
likelihood that untreated
disinfection. is not ver y economical due to
pollutants are introduced into
high energy costs.
the receiving waters.
Chlorine kills micro- Ultraviolet Radiation
Ultra violet ( UV ) disinfection Under the Federal
organisms by destroying
occurs when electromagnetic Pretreatment Program,
cellular material. This
energy in the form of light in municipal wastewater
chemical can be applied to
the UV spectrum produced plants receiving significant
wastewater as a gas, a liquid
by mercur y arc lamps industrial discharges must
or in a solid form similar to
swimming pool disinfection penetrates the cell wall of develop local pretreatment

chemicals. However, any exposed microorganisms. programs to control

free (uncombined) chlorine The UV radiation retards the industrial discharges into
remaining in the water, abilit y of the microorganisms their sewer system. These
even at low concentrations, to sur vive by damaging programs must be approved
is highly toxic to beneficial their genetic material. UV by either EPA or a state
aquatic life. Therefore, disinfection is a physical acting as the Pretreatment
removal of even trace treatment process that Approval Authorit y. More
amounts of free chlorine leaves no chemical traces. than 1,500 municipal
by dechlorination is of ten Organisms can sometimes treatment plants have
needed to protect fish repair and reverse the developed and received
and aquatic life. Due to destructive ef fects of UV approval for a Pretreatment
emergency response and when applied at low doses. Program.
potential safet y concerns,

Advanced Methods of secondar y are called industrial cooling and
Wastewater Treatment advanced treatment. processing, recreational uses
As our countr y and the and water recharge, and
demand for clean water Advanced treatment even indirect augmentation
have grown, it has become technologies can be ex of drinking water supplies.
more impor tant to produce tensions of conventional
cleaner wastewater ef fluents, secondar y biological Nitrogen Control
yet some contaminants are treatment to fur ther Nitrogen in one form
more dif ficult to remove stabilize ox ygen-demanding or another is present in
than others. The demand substances in the wastewater, municipal wastewater and
for cleaner discharges has or to remove nitrogen and is usually not removed by
been met through bet ter phosphorus. Advanced secondar y treatment. If
and more complete methods treatment may also discharged into lakes and
of removing pollutants at streams or estuar y waters,
involve physical-chemical
wastewater treatment plants, nitrogen in the form of
separation techniques
in addition to pretreatment ammonia can exer t a
such as adsorption,
and pollution prevention direct demand on ox ygen
which helps limit t ypes of or stimulate the excessive
membranes for advanced
wastes discharged to the grow th of algae. Ammonia
filtration, ion exchange,
sanitar y sewer system. in wastewater ef fluent can be
and reverse osmosis. In
Currently, nearly all W W TPs toxic to aquatic life in cer tain
various combinations, these
provide a minimum of processes can achieve any
secondar y treatment. In degree of pollution control
By providing additional
some receiving waters, the desired. As wastewater is
biological treatment beyond
discharge of secondar y purified to higher and higher
the secondar y stage, nitrif
treatment ef fluent would degrees by such advanced
ying bacteria present
still degrade water qualit y treatment processes, the
in wastewater treatment can
and inhibit aquatic life. Fur treated ef fluents can be
biologically conver t ammonia
ther treatment is needed. reused for urban, landscape,
to the non-toxic nitrate
Treatment levels beyond and agricultural irrigation,
through a process known as
nitrification. The nitrification
process is normally suf ficient
to remove the toxicit y
associated with ammonia in
the ef fluent. Since nitrate
is also a nutrient, excess
amounts can contribute to
the uncontrolled grow th of
algae. In situations where
nitrogen must be completely
removed from ef fluent, an
Monitoring a discharger as par t of a Pretreatment Program

Nitrification Process Tank

additional biological process

can be added to the system
to conver t the nitrate to
nitrogen gas. The conversion
of nitrate to nitrogen gas is
accomplished by bacteria
in a process known as
denitrification. Ef fluent
with nitrogen in the form of
nitrate is placed into a tank
Biological Phosphorus Coagulation-
devoid of ox ygen, where
Control sedimentation
carbon-containing chemicals,
Like nitrogen, phosphorus A process known as chemical
such as methanol, are added
is also a necessar y nutrient coagulation-sedimentation
or a small stream of raw
for the grow th of algae. is used to increase the
wastewater is mixed in with
Phosphorus reduction is of removal of solids from
the nitrified ef fluent. In this
ten needed to prevent ef fluent af ter primar y
ox ygen free environment,
excessive algal grow th and secondar y treatment.
bacteria use the ox ygen at
before discharging ef fluent Solids heavier than water set
tached to the nitrogen in
into lakes, reser voirs and tle out of wastewater by
the nitrate form releasing
estuaries. Phosphorus gravit y. With the addition of
nitrogen gas. Because
removal can be achieved specific chemicals, solids can
through chemical addition become heavier than water
and a coagulation- and will set tle.
sedimentation process
discussed in the following Alum, lime, or iron salts
CHEMICAL section. Some biological are chemicals added to
treatment processes the wastewater to remove
called biological nutrient phosphorus. With these
removal ( BNR ) can also chemicals, the smaller
achieve nutrient reduction,
par ticles floc or clump
removing both nitrogen
together into large masses.
and phosphorus. Most of
The larger masses of par
the BNR processes involve
ticles will set tle faster
modifications of suspended
grow th treatment systems when the ef fluent reaches the
nitrogen comprises almost so that the bacteria in these nex t step--the sedimentation
80 percent of the air in the systems also conver t nitrate tank. This process can
ear ths atmosphere, the nitrogen to iner t nitrogen gas reduce the concentration of
release of nitrogen into the and trap phosphorus in the phosphate by more than 95
atmosphere does not cause solids that are removed from percent.
any environmental harm. the ef fluent.

Although used for years in Carbon adsorption consists enforce the need to employ
the treatment of industrial of passing the wastewater ef environmentally sound
wastes and in water fluent through a bed or residuals management
treatment, coagulation- canister of activated carbon techniques and to
sedimentation is considered granules or powder which beneficially use biosolids
an advanced process remove more than 98 whenever possible. Biosolids
because it is not routinely percent of the trace organic are processed wastewater
applied to the treatment of substances. The substances solids (sewage sludge)
municipal wastewater. In adhere to the carbon sur face that meet rigorous standards
some cases, the process and are removed from the allowing safe reuse for
is used as a necessar y water. To help reduce the beneficial purposes.
pretreatment step for other cost of the procedure, the Currently, more than half
advanced techniques. This carbon granules can be of the biosolids produced
process produces a chemical cleaned by heating and used by municipal wastewater
sludge, and the cost of again. treatment systems is
disposing this material can applied to land as a soil
The Use or Disposal of
be significant. Wastewater Residuals conditioner or fer tilizer and
and Biosolids the remaining solids are
ADSORPTION incinerated or landfilled.
When pollutants are removed Ocean dumping of these
from water, there is always solids is no longer allowed.
something lef t over. It may
be rags and sticks caught on Prior to utilization or
the screens at the beginning disposal, biosolids are
of primar y treatment. It may stabilized to control odors
be the solids that set tle to and reduce the number of
the bot tom of sedimentation disease-causing organisms.
tanks. Whatever it is, there Sewage solids, or sludge,
are always residuals that when separated from the Biosolids Digestor

must be reused, burned,

Carbon adsorption
buried, or disposed of in
Carbon adsorption
some manner that does not
technology can remove
harm the environment.
organic materials from
wastewater that resist
removal by biological The utilization and disposal
treatment. These resistant, of the residual process solids
trace organic substances can is addressed by the CWA,
contribute to taste and odor Resource Conser vation
problems in water, taint fish and Recover y Act ( RCR A),
flesh, and cause foaming and other federal laws.
and fish kills. These Federal laws re-

wastewater, still contain Stabilization of solids may are transpor ted to the soil
around 98 percent water. also be accomplished by treatment areas. The slurr y
They are usually thickened composting, heat treatments, or dewatered biosolids,
and may be dewatered dr ying or the addition containing nutrients and
to reduce the volume to be of lime or other alkaline stabilized organic mat ter, is
transpor ted for final materials. Af ter stabilization, spread over the land to give
processing, disposal, or the biosolids can be safely nature a hand in returning
beneficial use. Dewatering spread on land. grass, trees, and flowers to
processes include dr ying barren land. Restoration of
Land Application the countr yside also helps
beds, belt filter presses,
plate and frame presses, In many areas, biosolids control the flow of acid
are marketed to farmers as drainage from mines that
and centrifuges. To improve
fer tilizer. Federal regulation endangers fish and other
dewatering ef fectiveness,
(40 CFR Per t 503) defines aquatic life and contaminates
the solids can be pretreated
minimum requirements the water with acid, salts,
with chemicals such as lime,
for such land application and excessive quantities of
ferric chloride, or polymers
practices, including metals.
to produce larger par ticles
contaminant limits, field
which are easier to remove.
management practices, Incineration
Digestion is a form of
treatment requirements, Incineration consists of
stabilization where the
monitoring, recordkeeping, burning the dried solids
volatile material in the
and repor ting requirements. to reduce the organic
wastewater solids can
Properly treated and residuals to an ash that
decompose naturally and the
applied biosolids are a can be disposed or reused.
potential for odor production
good source of organic Incinerators of ten include
is reduced. Digestion without
mat ter for improving soil heat recover y features.
air in an enclosed tank structure and help supply Undigested sludge solids
(anaerobic solids digestion) nitrogen, phosphorus, and have significant fuel value as
has the added benefit of micronutrients that are a result of their high organic
producing methane gas required by plants. content. However, the water
ic c r c v r Biosolids have also been content must be greatly
Land Application of Biosoilds
s h s s rce o fe ed rand
an be y. used successfully for many reduced by dewatering or dr
u ed a a ou e o ene g
years as a soil conditioner ying to take advantage
and fer tilizer, and for of the fuel potential of the
restoring and revegetating biosolids. For this
areas with poor soils due to reason, pressure filtration
construction activities, strip dewatering equipment is
mining or other practices. used to obtain biosolids
Under this biosolids which are suf ficiently dr y
management approach, to burn without continual
treated solids in semi- reliance on auxiliar y fuels.
liquid or dewatered form In some cities, biosolids are

Composted Biosolids

systems and cluster systems.

An onsite system is a
wastewater system relying on
natural processes, although
sometimes containing
mechanical components,
to collect, treat, disperse
or reclaim wastewater
mixed with refuse or refuse- (i.e. cadmium, mercur y, and from a single dwelling or
derived fuel prior to burning. lead) and persistent organic building. A septic tank and
Generally, waste heat is compounds from soil adsorption field is an
recovered to provide the contaminating the residuals example of an onsite system.
greatest amount of energy ef of wastewater treatment and A wastewater collection and
ficiency. limiting the potential for treatment system under some
beneficial use. form of common ownership
Beneficial Use Products that collects wastewater from
from Biosolids
Ef fective stabilization t wo or more dwellings or
Heat dried biosolids pellets
of wastewater residuals buildings and conveys it to
have been produced and
and their conversion to a treatment and dispersal
used ex tensively as a fer
biosolid products can be system located on a suitable
tilizer product for lawn
costly. Some cities have site near the dwellings or
care, tur f production, citrus
produced fer tilizers from buildings is a cluster system.
groves, and vegetable
biosolids which are sold to Decentralized systems
production for many years.
help pay par t of the cost include those using
Composting of biosolids
of treating wastewater. alternative treatment
is also a well established
Some municipalities use technologies like media
approach to solids
composted, heat dried, filters, constructed wetland
management that has been
or lime stabilized biosolid systems, aerobic treatment
adopted by a number of
products on parks and other units, and a variet y of soil
communities. The composted
public areas. dispersal systems. Soil
peat-like product has shown
dispersal systems include Egg-shaped Digestors
par ticular promise for use Decentralized (Onsite
in the production of soil and Cluster) Systems
additives for revegetation of
topsoil depleted areas, and A decentralized wastewater
as a pot ting soil amendment. system treats sewage from
homes and businesses
Ef fective pretreatment of that are not connected to
industrial wastes prevents a centralized wastewater
excessive levels of treatment plant.
unwanted constituents, Decentralized treatment
such as heav y metals
systems include onsite

pressure systems such as water prior to dispersal in the bot tom of the tank,
low pressure pipe and drip into the environment; a referred to as septage, must
dispersal systems. These soil dispersal component be removed and disposed of
systems treat and disperse which assures that treated properly.
relatively small volumes water is released into the
of wastewater, and are environment at a rate which Aerobic Treatment Units
generally are found in can be assimilated; and a Aerobic treatment units are
rural and suburban areas. management system which also used to provide onsite
While septic tanks and soil assures proper long term wastewater treatment. They
absorption systems have operation of the complete are similar to septic tanks,
significant limitations, system. Disinfection except that air is introduced
decentralized systems can ef of the treated ef fluent and mixed with the
fectively protect water qualit y may be provided prior wastewater inside the tank.
and public health from to dispersal. A t ypical Aerobic (requiring ox ygen)
groundwater and sur face onsite system consists of a bacteria consume the
water contamination if septic tank followed by an ef organic mat ter in the
managed properly (i.e. fluent distribution system. sewage. As with the t ypical
properly sited, sized, Alternative treatment systems septic system, the ef fluent
designed, installed, include aerobic treatment discharge from an aerobic
operated, and maintained). and sand filtration systems. system is t ypically released
Nitrate concentrations in through a sub-sur face
groundwater that exceed the Conventional Septic distribution system or may be
drinking water standards can Tanks disinfected and discharged
cause health problems. A septic tank is a tank buried directly to sur face water.
in the ground used to treat Aerobic treatment units also
Treatment sewage without the presence require the removal and
Onsite wastewater systems of ox ygen (anaerobic). The proper disposal of solids that
contain three components: sewage flows from the accumulate in the tank.
Septic tank and distribution box
tr t t it ic tr ts plumbing in a home or small
a ea men un wh h ea Media Filters
business establishment into
the first of t wo chambers, Media filters are used to
where solids set tle out. The provide fur ther treatment
liquid then flows into the of septic tank ef fluent,
second chamber. Anaerobic and provide high levels of
bacteria in the sewage break nitrification. They can be
down the organic mat ter, designed to pass the ef fluent
allowing cleaner water once or multiple times
to flow out of the second through the media bed.
chamber. The liquid t ypically Media, such as sand, acts as
discharges through a sub- sur a filter. The media is placed t
face distribution system. wo to three feet deep above
Periodically, the solid mat ter a liner of impermeable

Onsite aerobic treatment unit

Mound System When the

soil is not conducive to
percolation or when the
groundwater level is high, a
mound system is commonly
used. A mound system is a
distribution system
constructed above the
original ground level
by using granular material
such as sand and gravel
to receive the septic tank
ef fluent before it flows to
the native soil below. The
material such as plastic or fur ther treat or distribute the ef fluent flows to a dosing
concrete. Septic tank ef fluent treated ef fluent. The most tank that is equipped with a
is applied to the filter sur face common alternative dispersal pump. Here the ef fluent is
in intermit tent doses and is systems include low pressure stored until there is suf ficient
fur ther treated as it slowly pipe, mounds, drip disposal, liquid. Once the liquid is
trickles through the media. In and evapotranspiration beds. pumped out, it moves evenly
most media filters, throughout the mound before
wastewater is collected in Absorbtion Field reaching less permeable
an underdrain then either When soil conditions permit, soil or ground water. The
pumped back to the filter the most common method granular material acts as
bed or to other t ypes of to disperse septic tank or a treatment medium and
treatment. aerobic system ef fluent is an improves the removal of Mound system under construction
(photo cour tesy of Ayres A ssociates)
absorption field consisting
Dispersal Approaches of a series of per forated
Traditional onsite systems parallel pipes laid in trenches
include treatment units on gravel or crushed stone
followed by a drainfield or or as a direct discharge to
absorption field. Wastewater the soil through trenches.
from the treatment unit is Typically, ef fluent flows into
dispersed through a suitable the absorption field from
soil layer where it receives a distribution box which
additional treatment by the maintains an even flow of ef
soil microorganisms and fluent to the absorption field.
filtering proper ties of the From there, the ef fluent
soil. If the soil is unsuitable drains through the stone and
for the installation of a soil into the soil which provides
absorption field, alternative fur ther treatment.
methods can be used to

Licensed wastewater treatment plant operator

the existing systems do not

per form adequately due
to a lack of management.
Therefore, EPA promotes
the sustained management
of decentralized wastewater
systems to enhance their per
formance and reliabilit y. EPA
strongly encourages
communities to establish
management programs for
the maintenance of onsite
systems in addition to
where pretreated wastewater
improving local requirements
evaporates from the soil sur
for onsite system siting and
face or is transpired by
system design. Communities
plants into the atmosphere.
benefit from ef fective
Usually, ET beds are used in
onsite system management
Sewer line maintenance arid climates and there is no
programs by enjoying
pollutants in ways that discharge either to sur face
improved protection of public
may not be provided by or ground water. Vegetation
health and local sur face
substandard native soils. is planted on the sur face of
water and groundwater
the sand bed to improve the
resources, preser ving rural
Drip Dispersal System transpiration process and
areas, protecting proper t y
Where soils are ver y thin or landscaping enhances the
owners investments through
have reduced permeabilit y, aesthetics of the bed.
increased system ser vice
drip dispersal systems can
life, and avoiding the need
be utilized. The t ypical drip Management of Decen-
tralized Systems to finance costly central
system operates like drip
Ensuring per formance of wastewater collection and
irrigation at a moderately
treatment systems.
high pressure. The decentralized wastewater
treatment systems is an Asset Management
components of a drip system
issue of national concern Americas public water-
include filters to remove
solids, a net work of drip because these systems are based infrastructure its
tubes to disperse liquid into a permanent component water supply, wastewater,
soil, tanks to hold liquid, and of our nations wastewater and storm water facilities,
controllers to regulate the infrastructure. Twent y- and collection/distribution
flow to the drip system. five percent of households systems is integral to our
nationwide and one-third economic, environmental
Evapotranspiration Beds of the new homes being and cultural vitalit y.
Evapotranspiration ( ET) bed constructed are ser ved by Much of this countr ys
is an onsite dispersal system onsite systems. Many of public wastewater system

infrastructure has crossed water qualit y and human Common Wastewater
the quar ter-centur y mark, health. Most systems are in Treatment Terminology
dating back to the CWA operation ever y day of the Activated Sludge is a suspended
construction grant funding year, rain or shine. Licensed growth process for removing
organic matter from sewage
of the 1970s. Many of our and trained operators are by saturating it with air and
microorganisms that can
collection systems date from responsible for the day- break down the organic
the end of World War II and to-day per formance of the matter.
the population boom of the wastewater system. Their Advanced Treatment involves
treatment levels beyond
post war era. The oldest por responsibilities include
secondary treatment.
tions of the collection system budget and business
Aeration Tank is a chamber for
pipe net work exceed administration, public injecting air and oxygen into
100 years of ser vice. relations, analy tical testing, water.
Significant par ts of this and mechanical engineering Aerobic refers to a life or a
infrastructure are severely as well as overseeing the process that occurs in the
presence of oxygen.
stressed from overuse and collection system and
Aerobic Treatment Units
the persistent under-funding wastewater treatment provide wastewater
of repair, rehabilitation, processes. treatment by injecting
air into a tank, allowing
and replacement. In an aerobic bacteria to treat the
increasing number of Maintenance wastewater.
communities, existing Wastewater collection and Algae are aquatic plants which
systems are deteriorating, treatment systems must grow in sunlit waters and
release oxygen into the
yet the demand for provide reliable ser vice water. Most are a food
for fish and small aquatic
new infrastructure to and avoid equipment animals, but some cause
accommodate grow th breakdowns. Most water quality problems.
presses unabated. A equipment breakdowns Alternative System A
can be avoided if system wastewater treatment or
revitalized approach to collection system utilized
managing capital wastewater operators inspect the in lieu of a conventional
equipment, including system.
assets for cost ef fective per
formance is emerging sewer lines and manholes, Anaerobic refers to a life or a
regularly. Preventive process that occurs in the
in this countr y. This asset absence of free oxygen.
management approach maintenance uses data
Bacteria are small living
focuses on the cost ef fective obtained through the organisms which help
sustained per formance of the inspections in a systematic consume the organic
constituents of sewage.
wastewater collection and way to direct maintenance
activities before equipment Barminutor is a device mounted
treatment system assets over on bar screens in a
their useful life. failures occur. A good wastewater treatment plant
to shred material, such
program will reduce as rags and debris, that
Operation breakdowns, ex tend accumulates on the bars.
Wastewater collection and equipment life, be cost- ef Bar Screen is composed of
fective, and help the parallel bars that remove
treatment systems must
larger objects from
be operated as designed system operators bet ter wastewater.
to adequately protect per form their jobs.

Black Water is the term given and biological integrity of Digestion of solids takes place in
to domestic wastewater that the Nations waters. tanks where volatile organic
carries animal, human, or materials are decomposed
food wastes. Coagulation is the clumping by bacteria, resulting in
together of solids to make partial gasification,
Biological Nutrient Removal them settle out of the liquefaction, and
(BNR) is the use of bacteria sewage faster. Coagulation mineralization of pollutants.
to remove nutrients from of solids is improved by the
wastewater. use of chemicals such as Disinfection is the killing of
lime, alum, iron salts, or pathogenic microbes
Biomass is microbial growth. polymers including pathogenic
bacteria, viruses, helminths,
Biosolids are treated sewage Combined Sewers carry both and protozoans.
sludge solids that have sewage and stormwater
been stabilized to destroy runoff. Dispersal/Percolation involves
pathogens and meet a volume of wastewater
rigorous standards allowing Comminutor is a device to catch applied to the land,
for safe reuse of this material and shred heavy solid matter penetrating the surface,
as a soil amendment. at the headworks of the and passing through the
wastewater treatment plant. underlying soil.
Biotower is a unit in which the
waste is allowed to fall Composting is the natural Dissolved Oxygen (DO) is
through a tower packed with biological decomposition the amount of free oxygen
synthetic media on which of organic material in the in solution in water, or
there is biological growth presence of air to form wastewater effluent.
similar to the trickling filter. a stabilized, humus-like Adequate concentrations
material. of dissolved oxygen are
BOD (Biochemical Oxygen
Conventional Systems are necessary for fish and other
Demand) is a measure
wastewater treatment aquatic organisms to live
of oxygen consumed in
systems that have been and to prevent offensive
biological processes that
traditionally used to collect odors.
break down organic matter
in water. municipal wastewater in Eligible Costs are those
sewers and convey it to a wastewater reduction
Carbon Adsorption is a method central facility for treatment activities that can be funded
to treat wastewater in which prior to discharge to surface with State Revolving Fund
activated carbon removes waters. Either primary or (SRF) loans.
trace organic matter that secondary treatment may be
resists degradation. provided in a conventional Effluent is the treated liquid that
system. comes out of a treatment
Chlorination is the process plant after completion of the
of adding chlorine gas or Denitrification is the reduction treatment process.
chlorine compounds to of nitrite to nitrogen gas.
wastewater for disinfection. Denitrification is carried Eutrophication is the normally
out in wastewater treatment slow aging process by
Chlorinator is a device that adds tanks by bacteria under which a lake evolves
chlorine, in gas or liquid anoxic conditions. The into a bog or marsh and
form, to wastewater to kill bacteria use the nitrate for ultimately disappears.
infectious bacteria. energy, and in the process, During eutrophication, the
release nitrogen gas. The lake becomes enriched
Clarifier also known as a settling
nitrogen gas, a major with nutrients, especially
tank, removes solids from
constituent of air, is released nitrogen and phosphorus,
wastewater by gravity settling
to the atmosphere. which support the excess
or by coagulation.
production of algae and
Diffused Air is a technique by other aquatic plant life.
Clean Water Act (Federal
which air under pressure Eutrophication may be
Water Pollution Control Act)
is forced into sewage in accelerated by many human
originally enacted in 1948
an aeration tank. The air activities.
and amended in 1972, 1981
is pumped into the tank
and 1987, the Clean Water
through a perforated pipe Evapotranspiration is the
Act has as its objective the
and moves as bubbles uptake of water from the
restoration and maintenance
through the sewage. soil by evaporation and by
of the chemical, physical,

transpiration from the plants Inorganic refers to compounds Mound System is an effluent
growing thereon. that do not contain carbon. disposal system involving a
mound of soil built up on the
Floc is a clump of solids formed Interceptors are large sewer lines original ground surface to
in sewage by biological or that collect the flows from which effluent is distributed.
chemical action. smaller main and trunk
sewers and carry them to the National Pollutant Discharge
Flocculation is the process treatment plant. Elimination System
by which clumps of solids in (NPDES) is a program
sewage are made to Intermittent sand filter involves established by the Clean
increase in size by chemical a bed of sand or other Water Act (CWA) that
action. fine-grained material to requires all wastewater
which wastewater is applied discharges into waters of
Gray Water refers to domestic intermittently in flooding the United States to obtain
wastewater composed of doses. a permit issued by the US
wash water from sinks,
Environmental Protection
shower, washing machines Lagoon is a shallow pond in
Agency (EPA) or a state
(does not include toilet which algae, aerobic and
agency authorized by the
wastewater). anaerobic bacterial purify
Grinder Pump is a mechanical Nitrification is the biochemical
device which shreds Land Application is the oxidation of ammonium to
wastewater solids and raises controlled application of nitrate.
the fluid pressure level high wastewater or biosolids onto
enough to pass wastewater the ground for treatment Nitrogenous Wastes are wastes
through small diameter and/or reuse. that contain a significant
pressure sewers. concentration of nitrogen.
Lateral Sewers are small pipes
Grit Chamber is a small that are placed in the Nutrients are elements or
detention basin designed to ground to receive sewage compounds essential as
permit the settling of coarse, from homes and businesses raw materials for plant
heavy inorganic solids, such and convey it to main, trunk and animal growth and
as sand, while allowing the and interceptor sewer lines development.
lighter organic solids to pass leading to the wastewater
through the chamber. treatment plant. Organic Matter is the
carbonaceous material
Groundwater is the zone Mechanical Aeration uses contained in plants or
beneath the ground surface mechanical energy to inject animals and wastes.
saturated with water that has air from the atmosphere into
seeped down through soil water to provide oxygen to Overland Flow is land treatment
and rock. create aerobic conditions. which involves the controlled
application of wastewater
Imper vious means resistant to Media Filters involves a bed of onto grass-covered gentle
penetration by fluids or by sand or other fine-grained slopes, with impermeable
roots. material to which wastewater surface soils. As water flows
is applied, generally to over the grass-covered soil
Incineration involves combustion physically remove suspended surface, contaminants are
of the organic matter in solids from sewage. removed and the water is
sewage sludge, producing a Bacteria on the media collected at the bottom of
residual inert ash. decompose additional the slope for reuse.
wastes. Treated water drains
Infiltration is the penetration of Oxidation involves aerobic
from the bed. Solids that
water through the ground bacteria breaking down
accumulate at the surface
into sub-surface soil or the organic matter and oxygen
must be removed from the
passing of water from the combining with chemicals in
bed periodically.
soil into a pipe, such as a sewage.
sewer. Microbes is shorthand for
Oxidation Pond is an aerated
Influent refers to water, man-made pond used for
wastewater, or other liquid Million Gallons Per Day (MGD) wastewater treatment.
flowing into a reservoir, is a measurement of the
basin or treatment plant, or Ozonation is a disinfection
volume of water.
any unit thereof. process where ozone is

generated and added to Pump is a mechanical device Septage refers to the residual
wastewater effluent to kill for raising or lifting water or solids in septic tanks or
pathogenic organisms. other fluid, or for applying other on-site wastewater
pressure to fluids in pipes. treatment systems that must
Pathogens are disease-causing be removed periodically for
microorganisms, including Receiving Waters are disposal.
pathogenic bacteria, viruses, waterbodies (i.e. rivers,
helminths, and protozoans. lakes, oceans, or other Septic Tanks are a type of onsite
water courses) that receive wastewater treatment system
Percolation is the movement of discharges of treated or in which the organic waste
water through sub- surface untreated wastewater. is decomposed and solids
soil layers, usually settle out. The effluent
continuing downward to the Rotating Biological Contactor flows out of the tank to a
groundwater. (RBC) is a wastewater soil adsorption field or other
treatment process involving dispersal system.
Permeability is a measure of the large, closely-spaced
ease with which water plastic discs rotated about a Sequencing Batch Reactors
penetrates or passes through horizontal shaft. The discs (SBR) are a variation
soil. alternately move through of the activated sludge
Phosphorus is a nutrient that is the wastewater and the air, process where all treatment
essential to life, but in developing a biological processes occur in one tank
excess, contributes to the growth on the surface of the that is filled with wastewater
eutrophication of lakes and discs that removes organic and drawn down to
other water bodies. material in the wastewater. discharge after treatment is
Pollution results when Sanitary Sewer is the collection
contaminants in human, system for transporting Settleable Solids are solids that
animal, vegetable, mineral, domestic and industrial are heavier than water and
chemical or thermal waste wastewater to municipal settle out of water by gravity.
or discharges reach water, wastewater treatment
facilities. Stormwater is not Sewers are a system of pipes
making it less desirable
directed into this system but that collect and deliver
for domestic, recreation,
is handled by a separate wastewater and/or
industry, or wildlife uses.
system. stormwater to treatment
Polymer is a long chain organic plants or receiving waters.
compound produced by Secondary Treatment is the
second stage in most Soil Absorption Field is a
the joining of primary units
wastewater treatment subsurface area containing
called monomers. Polymers
systems in which bacteria a trench or bed with a
are used to improve settling
consume the organic matter minimum depth of 12
of suspended solids, remove
in wastewater. Federal inches of clean stones and
solids from wastewater,
regulations define secondary a system of piping through
and improve dewatering of
treatment as meeting which treated wastewater
minimum removal standards effluent is distributed into the
Pressure Sewers are a system of for BOD, TSS, and pH in surrounding soil for further
pipes in which the water, the discharged effluents treatment and disposal.
wastewater or other liquid is from municipal wastewater
treatment facilities. Slow Rate Land Treatment
transported under pressure
involves the controlled
supplied by pumps.
Sedimentation Tanks are application of wastewater
Pretreatment involves treatment wastewater treatment tanks to vegetated land at a few
of wastes or wastewater by in which floating wastes are inches of liquid per week.
industries performed prior skimmed off and settled
to the discharge to the sewer solids are removed for Storm Sewers are a separate
system. disposal. system of pipes that carry
rain and snow melt from
Primary Treatment is the Seepage is the slow movement buildings, streets and yards
initial stage of wastewater of water through small to surface waters.
treatment that removes cracks or pores of the soil,
floating material and or out of a pond, tank or Suspended Solids are the small
material that easily settles pipe. particles suspended in water
out. or wastewater.

Transpiration is the process by Virus is the smallest form of a
which water vapor is pathogen which can
released to the atmosphere reproduce within host cells.
by living plants.
Wastewater Treatment Plant is
Trickling Filter is a fixed film a facility involving a series
process that involves a tank, of tanks, screens, filters, and
usually filled with a bed of other treatment processes
rocks, stones or synthetic by which pollutants are
media, to support bacterial removed from water.
growth used to treat
wastewater. Water Table is the elevation of
groundwater or saturated
Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) is a soil level in the ground.
disinfection process where
wastewater is exposed to UV
light for disinfection.

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