Clean Water and Clean Energy

Dec. 5, 2015

Simply stated, the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with many scientists and industry experts, believes we are heading toward a water crisis, due in part to changing climate patterns, but also largely in response to pollution resulting from activities such as factory farming, industrial manufacturing, and fracking. Rapidly increasing demand from overpopulation is draining rivers and aquifers, degrading habitat, and threatening the quality of the diminishing quantity of water. “Dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk, and continues to threaten both quality of life and public health in the United States,” the group proclaims.

It’s been a concern for decades. In 1948 the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was instituted in order to protect the integrity of our nation’s waterways and wetlands, creating regulations regarding discharge of pollutants into water and establishing quality standards for surface waters. Known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), it was substantially rewritten in 1972. Amendments allowed EPA to implement pollution control programs that include setting wastewater standards.

Simply stated, the Natural Resources Defense Council, along with many scientists and industry experts, believes we are heading toward a water crisis, due in part to changing climate patterns, but also largely in response to pollution resulting from activities such as factory farming, industrial manufacturing, and fracking. Rapidly increasing demand from overpopulation is draining rivers and aquifers, degrading habitat, and threatening the quality of the diminishing quantity of water. “Dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk, and continues to threaten both quality of life and public health in the United States,” the group proclaims. It’s been a concern for decades. In 1948 the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was instituted in order to protect the integrity of our nation’s waterways and wetlands, creating regulations regarding discharge of pollutants into water and establishing quality standards for surface waters. Known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), it was substantially rewritten in 1972. Amendments allowed EPA to implement pollution control programs that include setting wastewater standards. [text_ad] More changes were made in 1977, but the CWA retained the basic goal of providing clean water by using the best available technology to eliminate the discharge of pollutants. Clean Water, Clean Energy “There’s been concern with organics [organic matter, nitrogen, phosphates] since the 1972 Clean Water Act,” says Dan Dair, technical manager for World Water Works Inc. (WWW), a leading designer and manufacturer of specialized process and wastewater treatment technologies. “Others are important now.” What’s truly new, however, is that contaminant removal is done in different ways than it was in the 1970s, because, says Dair, “now energy is critical.” WWW’s Demon treatment system incorporates a biological process to remove nitrogen from wastewater and achieve deammonification in two steps: the partial nitritation of ammonia and the subsequent anaerobic oxidation of the residual ammonia by nitrite to nitrogen gas. The total nitrogen removal is accomplished using only a very small amount of oxygen. The typical oxygen requirement necessitates high energy consumption. Partial nitrification requires less oxygen compared with conventional nitrification, resulting in energy savings of up to 40%. “Now, we only nitrify what we can denitrify.” Traditional nitrogen removal uses nitrification/denitrification and requires large amounts of energy (1.8–2.7 kWh per pound of nitrogen removed) and carbon to obtain low effluent nitrogen limits. Alkalinity is sometimes required to maintain an efficient system, while extra sludge is produced due to the use of a carbon source. Operational dissolved oxygen levels range from 1–2 milligrams per liter. Nitritation/denitritation represents a shortcut of the traditional process as nitrate is shunted. Therefore, less energy is needed, the carbon demand is reduced, and less sludge is produced. [text_ad use_post='27751'] Benefits over traditional systems make it ideal for municipal and industrial clients that have wastewater streams with high ammonia concentrations. Other major benefits include reductions in ammonia load to the main treatment process, reduced sludge handling volumes, and less greenhouse gas production. The Demon process is a side stream treatment that incorporates recycled stream mixed with wastewater. Liquid is high in ammonia. Most ammonia in the side stream is 20–30% of the total nitrogen load. The Demon system features ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, which convert half the ammonia to nitrite. A second anaerobic biological process uses anammox bacteria to convert the combination of nitrite and remaining ammonia directly into nitrogen gas. This system reduces energy requirements by 60% compared with traditional nitrogen removal processes, eliminates the need for all chemicals, and produces 90% less sludge. The system also features a low carbon footprint; the anaerobic process actually consumes carbon dioxide. WWW provides the equipment that allows anaerobic bacteria to grow. “Sludge from the digester used to be burned to reduce volume,” explains Dair. “Demon intersects in the reactor system before the head, so you treat less water.” That means the system is more efficient, providing energy savings. Tested on a pilot scale, the process is modeled for larger facilities to validate designs. The new technology has seen favorable outcomes, but needs to be fully tested, says Dair. “We’re modifying aeration control strategies.” The goal is to create energy and product from wastewater. Treated water could be directly piped to drinking water. “They’ll have to change the name to ‘resource recovery facility,'” muses Dair. “It’s much cleaner than water in streams, but it’s still controversial due to perception.” Perceptions are different in Europe, where this has been done for years, he continues. “Energy is the driver.” More recently, he says California is driving towards “toilet to tap” as a reuse option, primarily because wastewater is the easiest source to collect and treat. With a focus on cost-effective performance, flexibility, and durability, the company works to create the most appropriate treatment solutions, promises Dair. Everyone, but particularly small communities with correspondingly small budgets, can take advantage of the savings. “The largest municipal consumer of energy is a water plant. They’re energy hogs—and energy costs are going up. This is low-hanging fruit.”

More changes were made in 1977, but the CWA retained the basic goal of providing clean water by using the best available technology to eliminate the discharge of pollutants.

Clean Water, Clean Energy
“There’s been concern with organics [organic matter, nitrogen, phosphates] since the 1972 Clean Water Act,” says Dan Dair, technical manager for World Water Works Inc. (WWW), a leading designer and manufacturer of specialized process and wastewater treatment technologies. “Others are important now.”

What’s truly new, however, is that contaminant removal is done in different ways than it was in the 1970s, because, says Dair, “now energy is critical.” WWW’s Demon treatment system incorporates a biological process to remove nitrogen from wastewater and achieve deammonification in two steps: the partial nitritation of ammonia and the subsequent anaerobic oxidation of the residual ammonia by nitrite to nitrogen gas. The total nitrogen removal is accomplished using only a very small amount of oxygen. The typical oxygen requirement necessitates high energy consumption. Partial nitrification requires less oxygen compared with conventional nitrification, resulting in energy savings of up to 40%. “Now, we only nitrify what we can denitrify.”

Traditional nitrogen removal uses nitrification/denitrification and requires large amounts of energy (1.8–2.7 kWh per pound of nitrogen removed) and carbon to obtain low effluent nitrogen limits. Alkalinity is sometimes required to maintain an efficient system, while extra sludge is produced due to the use of a carbon source. Operational dissolved oxygen levels range from 1–2 milligrams per liter. Nitritation/denitritation represents a shortcut of the traditional process as nitrate is shunted. Therefore, less energy is needed, the carbon demand is reduced, and less sludge is produced.

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Benefits over traditional systems make it ideal for municipal and industrial clients that have wastewater streams with high ammonia concentrations. Other major benefits include reductions in ammonia load to the main treatment process, reduced sludge handling volumes, and less greenhouse gas production.

The Demon process is a side stream treatment that incorporates recycled stream mixed with wastewater. Liquid is high in ammonia. Most ammonia in the side stream is 20–30% of the total nitrogen load.

The Demon system features ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, which convert half the ammonia to nitrite. A second anaerobic biological process uses anammox bacteria to convert the combination of nitrite and remaining ammonia directly into nitrogen gas. This system reduces energy requirements by 60% compared with traditional nitrogen removal processes, eliminates the need for all chemicals, and produces 90% less sludge. The system also features a low carbon footprint; the anaerobic process actually consumes carbon dioxide. WWW provides the equipment that allows anaerobic bacteria to grow.

“Sludge from the digester used to be burned to reduce volume,” explains Dair. “Demon intersects in the reactor system before the head, so you treat less water.” That means the system is more efficient, providing energy savings.

Tested on a pilot scale, the process is modeled for larger facilities to validate designs. The new technology has seen favorable outcomes, but needs to be fully tested, says Dair. “We’re modifying aeration control strategies.”

The goal is to create energy and product from wastewater. Treated water could be directly piped to drinking water. “They’ll have to change the name to ‘resource recovery facility,’” muses Dair. “It’s much cleaner than water in streams, but it’s still controversial due to perception.”

Perceptions are different in Europe, where this has been done for years, he continues. “Energy is the driver.” More recently, he says California is driving towards “toilet to tap” as a reuse option, primarily because wastewater is the easiest source to collect and treat.

With a focus on cost-effective performance, flexibility, and durability, the company works to create the most appropriate treatment solutions, promises Dair. Everyone, but particularly small communities with correspondingly small budgets, can take advantage of the savings. “The largest municipal consumer of energy is a water plant. They’re energy hogs—and energy costs are going up. This is low-hanging fruit.”
About the Author

Lori Lovely

Winner of several Society of Professional Journalists awards, Lori Lovely writes about topics related to waste management and technology.

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