“I want the window seat”
Common request for all of us that love to gaze out an airplane at the world below. Traveling at nearly the speed of sound and at over 30 thousand feet, the world can look quite different. Sometimes we have to work to identify features, while others are instantly recognizable.
While flying last week I happened to get a great view of one of our projects from my window. It was the Cleveland Port Authority’s CDF 12 Site Improvements project, just east of downtown Cleveland on Lake Erie. It struck me how large an area it is and just what sort of impact we all can have as engineers. We work to support the needs of the project while protecting the environmental integrity of the natural systems. Stormwater design calculations, work plans, site layouts, field inspections and earthwork construction all play a role in a much bigger picture.
Interesting perspective…from up here!
Treatment approaches for wastewater are as unique as the industries that generate wastewater.
Variables in the waste generation process and the intended discharge point are only two of the factors that can affect the selection of a treatment plan. Food processing industries generally require biological treatment systems whereas automotive industries typically require precipitation of heavy metals and separation of oils and greases.
Today’s environmental permit limitations are very restrictive, often assigning effluent concentrations of regulated parameters in the parts per billion range as opposed to parts per million.
Pretreatment is an option in an on-site treatment system that allows discharge into a municipal sewer system. In comparison a higher degree of treatment can be the goal and this allows direct discharge into a receiving stream. The dilemma is selecting the option that is the very best given your specific industry.
What is the most cost effective? What is the fastest? What is proven to be foolproof? The answers are based on site specific study, the industry type and tried and true industry knowledge.
Treatment options vary and are completely contingent on the type of wastewater generated. Do you pretreat on site and discharge into the municipal sewer system or can you treat your wastewater so it is clean enough to discharge directly into a receiving stream?
Specialty treatment processes are available and can be purchased based on need…but which ones are the best and are they worth the expense? Technologies exist for purchasing specialty treatment processes that are the best fit for your specific pollutants. The true challenges lie in how to incorporate such equipment into a system that is tailored to your specific operational industry needs and address the management of residuals as they will likely require permit approval.
Often pilot testing is a valuable step in the treatment design, allowing you to determine how effective the treatment is with varying the conditions to match those expected at the specific industry, and providing important data that affects costs of operation, such as chemical usage and residuals production, so the plant manager can anticipate the long-term costs of compliance.
To complicate matters you have to consider all impacts to surface water and ground water. Surface contamination of stormwater runoff from your parking lots and rooftops provide yet another series of treatment challenges. Groundwater can be affected through uncontrolled releases from inadvertent leaks or spills. The determination of the quantity and quality of the contamination will dictate the treatment. To find the best fit regulatory agencies must be negotiated with to determine an appropriate yet cost effective treatment.
With new industries like shale oil and gas and emerging regulations new treatment technologies and approaches must be developed and applied. It is pivotal that engineers and hydrogeologists use innovative technologies paired with regulatory knowledge to guide their clients to compliance through cost-effective approaches.