How Much Does a Water/Wastewater Treatability Study Cost for Your Plant?


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When our customers ask “How Much Does a Water/Wastewater Treatability Study Cost?” it’s difficult to answer this definitively, as several factors go into estimating the cost. Also, the costs will vary depending on the customer’s individual needs. Therefore, this article will explore the different factors that make up the cost of a treatability study and how they might affect what you’ll be spending if your plant requires testing prior to treatment.

The base rates of a treatability study

Usually there are two types of base rates in a treatability study:

  1. There’s typically some kind of manpower rate to conduct the studies, meaning the chemists in the laboratory doing the physical work.
  1. Then there is also the cost of the analytical work of the samples. Some of the analysis is done by the chemist in the lab, or he or she will collect those samples and then submit them to an outside analytical laboratory.

Base manpower cost for a treatability study

A typical rate for the manpower of a treatability study (having a chemist conduct the sampling) will usually run you about $1,000 per day, depending on the complexity and severity of the issue.

For example, if your plant is experiencing a remedial event such as a chemical spill or contamination issue in your wastewater and you need someone on-site immediately to figure out what these contaminants are, you might pay extra for having a chemist come out to your plant and set up a laboratory on-site. Usually the manpower rates are the same per day in a situation like this, but you might see extra costs factored into your estimate for traveling and room and board, in addition to the cost for mobilizing and setting up the on-site laboratory.

Base rates for treatability study analytical work

Base rates for the analytical work will vary depending on what you’re testing for and to what degree. For example, let’s say a plant needs to analyze chromium in its wastewater stream, then doing that one chromium test is about $15 . . . and as you list all the individual components you want to test for, there is a fixed rate for each analysis, which are chosen then added to the cost.

This is where your estimate can start to add up. Keep in mind that the company performing the treatability test should be testing for contaminants thoroughly. There are hundreds of substrates that can be identified in wastewater, for example, and there are certain varieties that should be tested for depending on what the customer thinks the problem is. An effective treatability study will have this accounted for and will test for these species in addition to what else might be problematic based on certain EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) profiles. The EPA has identified groups of chemicals and contaminants that can be toxic, and with today’s analytical procedures, a lot of it is automated, identifying roughly hundreds of compounds in a single scan.

Also there are a lot of empirical measurements; an empirical measurement would be something like water that contains organic carbon. What is the organic carbon made of, and what does that mean? This is where a treatability study can help your plant identify the family of carbons present in addition to what each individual carbon-containing component is.

Different contaminants cause a wide range of environmental issues, and typically the problem a plant is trying to avoid is that if these contaminants were released into the environment, they would be toxic and could kill fish, microorganisms, and aquatic life. And that is highly prohibited with most environmental and municipal regulations, so careful analysis will help you avoid these costly violations.


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Treatability study cost and local regulations

When you’re using a treatability study, you have to know the local regulations. Usually the company providing the testing is working with an engineer that is operating the problematic process, but the company performing the study should also interface with your environmental specialist because they’re involved with the regulatory aspects. For example, is it an air pollution violation or a wastewater violation? The treatability test should be geared toward meeting or superseding the environmental requirements in order to be cost-effective. If this is not done properly, chances are you will incur heavy fines for not meeting these regulations . . . a financial and potentially time-consuming setback that can be avoided by completing proper testing up front.

flasks and graduated cylinders

Treatability testing on-site

Sometimes the testing can be performed in a separate lab, and sometimes it is done on-site, which can cost a bit extra. This requires the company performing the test to pack up their laboratory, mobilize it, and set it up at a customer’s location. But depending on whether or not the study is short- or long-term will determine whether or not testing on- or off-site will add to the cost of the study.

When you are considering having the treatability testing company perform these tests on location, consider there will be costs for shipping materials in, ordering materials, and bringing anything else in the testing will require, including people. This might also include normal laboratory equipment and chemicals, glassware, etc.

Is there a way to save money on a treatability study?

At the end of the day, even though the testing costs might add up, it’s important to be thorough with the contaminant list to ensure that:

  1. Plant personnel aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals
  2. Harmful chemicals from the plant’s process aren’t released into the environment

It can become extremely costly to incur employee lawsuits or environmental fines from local or federal authorities. You might also be exposed to public awareness that can have a lot of financial repercussions in terms of boycotts for polluting the environment, so making sure that your plant is taking the proper steps to comply with your local regulations is key.

Choosing the right company to perform your treatability study

Once a proposal is worked through (typically in a tiered format as outlined and recommended by the EPA), it’s important to consider alternative treatment methods. Keep in mind there are usually several treatment methods that will solve a plant’s particular problem, but you’ll want to work with a company that will be able to help you home in on the methods that are the least expensive to implement.

Here at SAMCO, we see, in many cases, that certain engineering companies go out looking for company to perform treatability studies for their customer, but the companies who perform these studies only offer a single process for treating the customer’s particular contamination issue. This often results in a company trying to sell the customer a system, a salesman trying to sell a piece of equipment that he thinks will work.

For example, let’s say the treatment process will involve the use of hydrogen peroxide, which is a very powerful oxidizer that can detoxify a lot of wastes. And say the company looks at another manufacturer that makes potassium permanganate, also an incredibly powerful oxidizer, but one that can’t treat many of the same problems that hydrogen peroxide can. If the engineering company goes to a company that sells hydrogen peroxide asking for a treatability study, they will sell you hydrogen peroxide. If they go to a company that sells potassium permanganate, they will have the same result.

The type of company you want to have perform your treatability study is one that will evaluate the hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate in a treatability study and provide you the most cost-effective process recommendation, whereas the other companies will not do that because it’s not in their product line to sell a competitive product, and there could be 10 different chemicals out there that are just as effective.

Also make sure to ask about saving on the cost of a system. Sometimes the company you work with will apply part of your treatability study costs toward the purchase or rental of the system equipment. If the equipment costs you are seeing are competitive, this can save you in the long run—sometimes significantly.

The bottom line

Although it’s hard to say for certain what a treatability test will cost you, as there are many factors involved that will fluctuate this, on the very light side, such as a simple metals analysis treatability with a known technology, that kind of a treatability study at the very bottom side might be around $2,500 to $5,000, and a more complex test will run you around $9,000 to $10,000 depending on the scale of the process. But when the treatability test is something very complex that requires a great deal of expertise and analytical support, the $30,000 range and higher is also possible, depending on the environmental issues and size of the facility. The important thing to remember is that a treatability study provides preliminary development and proof of a best method for treating a water/wastewater stream to meet the treatment objectives and regulatory requirements. Done properly it can save tens of thousands of dollars for a small system and millions for a large system. Implementing the wrong solution based on a poorly executed treatability study can lead to rework, plant shutdowns, and regulatory fines.

As always, make sure you find a company to do the study that will be thorough and has your best interests in mind. That will go a long way in saving you money in the long run by ensuring all steps taken are accurate and the treatment options are chosen according to your individual needs while considering local environmental and municipal regulations.

For more information on how SAMCO can help you with a treatability study, be sure to visit our website here for more information. Our experienced engineers and chemists are here to answer your questions and will walk you through the process of outlining an estimate that is more specific for your process needs.

Some other articles about wastewater treatability studies you might be interested in include:

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