How to Choose the Best Wastewater Treatment System for Your Plant


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For industrial companies producing wastewater as a byproduct of their process, some type of wastewater treatment system is usually necessary. Failing to properly treat your wastewater can potentially harm the environment, human health, and your process, in addition to causing your facility to incur heavy fines and possible legal action if it is being improperly discharged into a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) or to the environment under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES permit). The best wastewater treatment system will help the facility avoid these costly discharge and connection fees, among other problematic issues, and/or efficiently treat the wastewater for reuse.

But how do you choose the best wastewater treatment system for your plant?

The answer to this question can sometimes be a bit complex and depends on a variety of factors. We’ve simplified and broken down what this might mean for your plant below:

clarification tank

Main factors to consider when choosing a wastewater treatment system

There are three main factors that will help you choose the ideal wastewater treatment system:

  • What are the wastewater characterizations of the production facility?
  • What are the regulatory requirements for discharge from the plant?
  • What are the outcomes of a thorough wastewater treatability study and pilot test?

Let’s break down each factor individually and simplify how these might affect your decisions:

How do the wastewater characterizations of your facility determine your ideal wastewater treatment system?

One of the largest factors that will determine the best wastewater treatment system for a facility is the equipment that will go into the actual makeup of the system.

Here are some important questions to address:

  • Does the plant process foods that leave you with wastewater heavy in BOD, oils, and grease?
  • Does the facility’s process include the manufacturing of metals that contaminates the wastewater with suspended solids and/or metals such as zinc, iron, lead, and nickel?
  • Are there high levels of inorganic contaminants or need to remove BOD or COD (chemical oxygen demand)?

All these factors will determine what type of wastewater treatment system is needed.

For example, if a plant runs a plating operation, some of the issues often addressed are pH stabilization and suspended solids and metals removal. A wastewater treatment system in this case will usually have some type of physical/chemical clarification and metals removal.

Another example could be a food-based plant with treatment needs for wastewater from manufacturing products like milk, dairy products, beverage making, etc. Typically with a food and beverage manufacturing facility, technology in the wastewater treatment system will revolve around the removal of biological contaminants (with technology such as membrane bioreactors, or MBRs) and oil/grease (with dissolved air flotation, or DAF).


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What are the regulatory requirements for discharge from the plant?

When it comes to handling wastewater, depending on what your facility is doing with the water will determine how you’re going to treat it and what technologies will go into the makeup of the system.

Two common discharge scenarios are described below:

Releasing wastewater into the environment

If your facility plans to release your wastewater into the environment in the United States, you will need to do so under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permit. These permits, enforced under the Clean Water Act, places limitations on what can be discharged, set requirements for reports and monitoring, and are put in place to ensure pollutants are not released in harmful amounts. Your local regulations and the contaminants present in your wastewater will determine what treatment is necessary for your facility and what will go into your system. The EPA operates 10 different offices in the country that address different regions, so to make sure your facility is complying with local regulations, and be sure to check in with your local NPDES representatives. Failure to meet requirements could incur heavy fines.

Discharging wastewater into the local municipality

Your local municipality might take your effluent, but chances are they’ll want you to clean it first. Check with your local publicly owned treatment works (POTW) to be sure you’re meeting their qualifications. Your wastewater treatment will need to remove the contaminants they don’t allow or, again, it can cost you thousands of dollars in fines down the road. The facility’s wastewater treatment system will need to address and remove any contaminants present to acceptable levels that are required when discharging into the local POTW.

What is the result of a treatability study and/or pilot test?

A wastewater treatability study is study or test that will determine how the wastewater can be treated for your process. If the study is done correctly, it will clearly identify the contaminants present in your wastewater stream, helping ensure the proper treatment solutions are considered and implemented in your wastewater treatment system.

This step is critically important when choosing the best wastewater treatment system for your plant. After having a roadmap of maybe two or three technology platforms that meet your base and operating cost, running an efficient treatability test will help validate the assumptions you’ve made about possible contaminations and solutions to remove them. This streamlines to process and takes out any guesswork, ensuring your facility is getting the best possible solution for your unique situation.

Also keep in mind that even though the study might seem thorough on paper, there’s nothing better than running pilot testing in the field to validate the treatment/technology assumptions, optimize design, because during this phase, other problems can arise and be found prior to choosing the components of your system, which can help save you from any effluent violations down the line.

Now what?

Choosing the best wastewater treatment system for your plant is a very complex process and requires a substantial amount of effort and time to do it properly.

Now that you know the most important aspects to focus on, make sure you choose to work with an engineering company that can help you sort through all these requirements in order to choose the best system possible. Knowing the characterization of contaminants in your wastewater, local effluent regulations, and results of a thorough treatability study and pilot test will help steer you in the right direction.

SAMCO has over 40 years’ experience custom-designing and manufacturing wastewater treatment systems, so please feel free to reach out to us with your questions. For more information or to get in touch, contact us here. You can also visit our website to set up a call with an engineer or request a quote. We can walk you through the steps for developing the proper solution and realistic cost for your wastewater treatment system needs.

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