Wastewater Treatment Leads Bigger Roles in Society

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Wastewater Treatment Leads Bigger Roles in Society

Wastewater coming from a factory flowing inside the pipe / Photo by Shutterstock


One of the sources of pollution that reflects the toxicity of marine ecosystem is wastewater. Subjected to immense chemicals and substances, these bring about certain hazards not just in our environment but to ourselves as well.

The risks of the contents from wastewater vary from having microplastics and other garbage to minute amounts of radioactive materials and sludge. Beyond that, wastewater may also include pathogenic microorganisms such as enteric parasites or other potentially harmful substances from residual wastes from factories and oil plants.


Radioactive Water

According to a research done at the University of Helsinki, they managed to accelerate the process of removing radioactive strontium from contaminated water using electrospun sodium titanate fibers.

The research takes electrospun ion exchange fibers, which are known to provide efficient and sustainable materials by separating radionuclides and heavy metals, and determine a methodology to reduce the amount of ion exchange thus, decreasing the amount of material required per volume to conduct the process.

“The advantages of electrospun materials are due to the kinetics, i.e. reaction speed, of ion exchange,” said Risto Koivula, a scientist in the research group Ion Exchange for Nuclear Waste Treatment and for Recycling at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Helsinki.

With the help of this new method, wastewater can be treated faster than before and the environmentally positive aspect is that the process leaves less solid radioactive waste. The research found that the properties of electrospun sodium titanate are equal to those of commercially produced ion-exchange materials.

As it is run through an ion exchanger, the radioactive strontium in the water is changed into sodium. When the ion exchange capacity is expended, the filtering material is switched out. This removes solid radioactive waste.

The method was also based from the technique done to purify wastewater from the effects of the Fukushima nuclear incident.



Essential Applications and Facilities

Water treatment technologies have the objective to safely discharge municipal and industrial wastewater to surface water, and reduce the risks associated with pollution and groundwater.

Directly related challenges are fresh water scarcity, a lack of nutrients (e.g. the phosphorus crisis), climate change, degradation and erosion of soils and the necessity for an economy that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

This explains why wastewater is much more considered as a valuable resource for reusable water, energy, chemicals, nutrients and complex organic matter.

Micropollutants and pathogens

In closed water loops, environmental and health related risks by the accumulation of recalcitrant, toxic organic micropollutants (e.g. medicines, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, consumer product chemicals, and industrial chemicals), pathogens, and particles should be avoided.

Biological technologies are studied, possibly combined with physical-chemical technologies, to remove micro-pollutants, pathogens and antibiotic resistance genes from wastewater, surface water and groundwater to make water fit for applications such as irrigation water,
industrial process water, (secondary) household water, and as a source for drinking water production.

Historically polluted sites

Historical groundwater, soil and sediment pollution is in Western Europe still present at larger and complex urban and industrial pollution situations. For these municipalities and industrial site owners provide nature based solutions where natural attenuation processes are combined with other applications such as green infrastructure groundwater cleaning, Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage, and sediment recovery, cleaning and reuse.

Salt, Polymers, and Colloids

Saline water provides an immense source for fresh process water and drinking water. Innovative electrochemical techniques including capacitive deionization, electrodialysis, and combinations of these are studied to reduce costs and energy demand for freshwater production and for selective removal and recovery of salts and ionic species from wastewater and natural waters. Polymers and mineral colloidal particles hamper desalination or electrochemical technologies, especially in industrial (salt)water applications, such as oil/gas and thermal energy produced water, including water processed in food and beverage industry, or drinking water productions from groundwater. Polymer removal is therefore studied in the program. The recovery of wastewater organics such as methane or bio-flocculants, through (an)aerobic sludge or biofilm-based reactor technology, was also influenced by this method.


Wastewater Testing

Methods used to purify water became a need in the society as more environmental aspects are concerned. The need to have a potable source of water and resolving other issues regarding drainage of sewage water systems remain as substantial as ever.

Water treatment including the analysis of sewage waste are being pushed through to figure out substance abuse primarily illegal drugs.

In New Zealand, Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne called for a proposal to have a nationwide wastewater testing for certain illicit drugs.

“Wastewater testing could be the most accurate means available to see what drugs were being used and in what quantities”, Kempthorne said.

That information could be invaluable to police or public health authorities making decisions about treatment. Police also noted that wastewater testing provided an accurate measure of illegal drug consumption that was cost effective, timely and non-intrusive. Further, it would enunciate addiction habits of citizens involving drugs from different places.

Since then, information regarding the analysis of water is influential to the society especially with wastewater which oftentimes is not particularly given much concern. It affects overall matters in the environment and our usage with regards to a very important substance that we need everyday.


Aerial view of a wastewater plant / Photo by Shutterstock




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