How Much Does a Wastewater Treatment System Cost?


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When industrial companies look into purchasing a wastewater treatment system for their plant, first and foremost they want to know, “How much does a wastewater treatment system cost?

Because wastewater treatment is a highly complex, custom solution, several factors go into choosing the right treatment options. It is crucial to treat your waste properly, as discharging wastewater into the environment or a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) without meeting local regulations can cost you thousands of dollars in fines down the road. So, what might you need for your plant?

Two main questions will help you narrow this down:

  1. What are the wastewater characterizations of the production facility?
  2. What are the regulatory requirements for discharge from the plant?

Let’s look at what a typical industrial wastewater treatment system might include and break down the main factors, considering how they fluctuate cost:

What’s included in a basic wastewater treatment system?

For plating and chemical plants the technologies that make up a common wastewater treatment system typically include:

  • An oil/water separator or dissolved air flotation device to remove small amounts of oils.
  • A series of reactors and chemical additions to adjust the pH and precipitate out metals from the solution.
  • A clarifier to settle suspended solids that are present as a result of treatment.
  • Some sort of filtration to remove all the leftover trace amounts of suspended solids (again, the level of filtration needed will depend on the degree of suspended solids removal required to pass local discharge regulations).
  • And, contingent upon the level of automated operation needed, a control panel of sorts.

These standard components to an industrial wastewater system are usually adequate. However, if your system requires more specific removal features, there might be some technologies you will need to add on.

For facilities that generate biological waste, such as facilities in the food and beverage industry, a biological treatment system will be required to reduce the BOD (biological oxygen demand).

The main factors of wastewater treatment system cost

All in all, there are two main factors that drive the cost of a wastewater treatment system:

  • What is the quality (levels of contaminants) of the plant’s effluent and what are the local maximum and average monthly discharge limits to the environment or POTW?
  • What amount of water do you need to process per day and how fast? (This is your required peak gallons per minute, or GPM.)

If you can answer these questions, it will help you narrow down what your needs might be and provide a better sense of the budget you might be looking at.

The quality of your effluent and the equipment needed to treat it

One of the largest factors that will determine the cost of your wastewater treatment system is the equipment that will go into the actual makeup of the system.

Here are some important questions to address:

  • Does your plant process foods that leave you with wastewater heavy in BOD, oils, and grease?
  • Does your process include the manufacturing of metals that contaminates the wastewater with suspended solids and metals such as zinc, iron, lead, and nickel?
  • Do you see 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 you need.

For example, if your plant runs a plating operation, some of the issues we often see are the need for pH stabilization, suspended solids, and metals removal.

A wastewater treatment system here will usually have physical chemical clarification and metals removal. At 100–500 GPM, equipment for a wastewater treatment system can be anywhere from $200,000–$700,000, depending on the level of contaminants in relation to the local discharge regulations.

Another example is 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 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). At 100 GPM, the system can run you anywhere from $500,000 to over $1 million, depending on the levels of BOD and the discharge limits.


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wastewater flow

Flow rates in relation to the capital cost of your system

In general, if your plant runs consistently at a lower flow rate, you’re usually looking at a lower capital cost for your wastewater treatment system.

If your plant generally runs a greater flow in a shorter amount of time, your capital cost is usually higher for equipment.

Flow rates are always factored into the wastewater treatment system cost, so be sure you measure this as efficiently as possible prior to requesting a quote in order to get an accurate cost estimate for your system. Typically inlet buffering tanks are installed to minimize the peaks in flow and concentration of contaminants

Other important factors to consider when pricing a wastewater treatment system

  • Up-front planning. Developing the concepts, designs, and regulatory requirements for your project is the first step to planning your wastewater treatment system. The cost of engineering for this type of project can typically run 10–15% of the cost of the entire project and is usually phased in over the course of the project, with most of your investment being allocated to the facility’s general arrangement, mechanical, electrical, and civil design.
  • Space requirements. When planning for a wastewater treatment system, the size of your system will affect your cost, and the footprint is usually large, so keep in mind that sometimes your plant location can affect the cost of your system. For example, if your plant is located in a place that is very expensive when it comes to space, you might want to aim for a smaller footprint, if possible.
  • Installation rates. Another thing to keep in mind is the installation rates in your area. These sometimes also fluctuate by location, so be sure you’re aware of the cost to install the system and factor this into your budget. In areas where installation costs are high you may want to consider prepackaged modules versus build-in-place facilities.
  • Level of system automation needed. When it comes to the level of automation you need for your wastewater treatment system, there are two options. The first is a higher level of automation where you won’t need an operator present for much of the time. With type of automation, you can eliminate much of the human error associated with running the plant, and although this option is more costly up front (an initial investment in more sophisticated PLC controls and instrumentation), the ongoing labor costs are less.The second option is a lower level of automation with less capital cost, but with added labor, this can end up costing you more in the long run. When deciding whether or not to invest in more costly controls, you need to consider what works for your company and staffing availabilities.
  • Turnkey and prepackaged systemsIf you are able to order your wastewater treatment system prepackaged, this will typically save you about three months in construction time at about the same cost or less. A benefit to having your system prepackaged is that the production facilities and fabrication shops that assemble your system are, more often than not, highly knowledgeable about the type of system they are manufacturing. This results in a quick and efficient fabrication versus build-in-place facilities. Sometimes when you hire a field crew, there is a bit of a learning curve that can add extra time and/or cost to a project. SAMCO specializes in these types of turnkey, prepackaged systems, and for more information about what we offer, you can visit our website here. Installation costs will vary, but typically range between 15–40% of the project cost, depending on the specifics of prepackaging and amount of site civil work needed.
  • Shipping the system to your plantWhen having your wastewater treatment system shipped to the plant, you usually want to factor in about 5–10% of the cost of the equipment for freight. This can vary widely depending upon the time of year you are purchasing your system in addition to where your plant is located in relation to the manufacturing facility. When you are looking to purchase your system, check with your manufacturer to see if there is a facility where the system can be constructed closer to you, if not on-site.
  • Operation costsAlso keep in mind that particular technology packages cost a certain amount to purchase up front, but you need to also factor in system operating costs over time. For decisions like these, you need to weigh the pros and cons of initial versus long-term cost investment in addition to what works for your company and staff. You will likely want to look into having someone develop an operating cost analysis so your company can plan ahead for the operating cost over your wastewater treatment plant’s life cycle. This might help you consider whether or not you want to spend more on your system initially or over time.
  • Other possible costs and fees. When purchasing a wastewater treatment system, you might also want to keep in mind what other hidden costs and fees might be. For example: Will there be any taxes on the system or additional purchasing fees? What are your possible utility costs to the installation area? Will there be any environmental regulatory fees and/or permits? Any ongoing analytical compliance testing you need to pay for?

It is important to understand and look into any extra costs or hidden fees you might incur. For example, does your area have connection fees for discharging treated wastewater? For more information about the possible connection fees in your area, check with local regulators. Many times the fee is based on the volume of water your plant requires and varies based on whether you are discharging to the local municipal facility or into the environment. Regulations are typically stringent and are becoming more so every day. There is also typically consistent monitoring over time required. You will need to acquire some sort of permit to discharge and you’re your plant approved before releasing any waste, and failing to comply to your local restrictions can result in heavy fines, so it’s worth making sure you’re on top of the current requirements in your area.

Also consider that there will be costs to treating the secondary waste produced by the system. With stringent environmental regulations, you will need to either treat the waste for hauling away or solidify with a filter press/evaporator and transport to third party disposal firm. You can learn more about SAMCO’s wastewater treatment systems on our website here.

Also be sure to ask your system manufacturer about options that might be cheaper to install. They might be able to shed some light on the more installation-friendly systems with suggestions on how to keep your costs to a minimum.

The bottom line

When it comes to treating your wastewater, even though the treatment option and costs can be complex, all in all, you are looking at a $500,000 to $1.5 million system at 150,000 GPD when you factor in all the needed equipment, engineering, design, installation, and startup.

SAMCO has over 40 years’ experience custom-designing and manufacturing these types of systems, so please feel free to reach out to us with your questions. For more information or to get in touch, contact us here to set up a consultation 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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