What Happens To Sewage Sludge At Wastewater Treatment Plants
Wastewater treatment plants collect a large amount of domestic waste, industrial waste, agricultural waste, and waste from commercial spaces and provide treatment. This involves primary, secondary, and tertiary treatment of wastewater which uses physical, biological, and chemical means to purify the wastewater. This is further done to make it clean as per the standards set by government authorities before releasing it into the environment.
Sludge or sewage sludge can be defined as the residue or the by-product which is left after the wastewater treatment processes are carried out in the wastewater treatment plants. The solid, semi-solid, and slurry residue is a combination of various components like organic and inorganic materials, plant nutrients, chemicals, and disease-causing pathogens. The sludge type depends upon the composition of wastewater and the treatment process undertaken at a given location. Proper sewage sludge treatment is thus necessary.
The sewage sludge is basically of two types namely; primary and secondary. The primary treatment of wastewater plants involves various processes like filtering of solid particles like wood, paper, plastic, vegetable matter, etc. Also, oil and grease are removed during this process. Gravity sedimentation, flotation processes, chemical precipitation, sedimentation leads to the generation of primary sludge which is settled at the bottom. The secondary sludge is the result of secondary treatment of wastewater. The microorganisms in this stage break down the organic waste through aerobic, anaerobic, and anoxic processes. The result is a microbial cell mass or waste biomass.
Many times, the sludge types are combined to be treated further or disposed of. The main goal of sewage sludge treatment is to minimize the volume of sludge and to stabilize the organic materials in the sludge. Almost all of the wastewater treatment plants are so designed to treat and dispose of sewage sludge. Sewage sludge treatment is important because sludge emanates toxic gases and it can act as a health hazard.
There are several methods used for sewage sludge treatment. The thickening method is used where sludge solids volume is reduced to less than half of its current volume. This is accomplished by using gravity thickener or dissolved air flotation. The de-watering method is applied using air drying on sand beds, centrifugation, and filtration. Drying takes place due to evaporation and gravity drainage. It requires a large area of land. Therefore, this sewage sludge treatment method is used mainly in rural areas and not used in urban areas. Composting is one of the other ways to manage sewage sludge in treatment plants. In this method, dewatering is done which is followed by mixing the mostly solid sludge with high carbon organic material. The mix is laid for composting under aerobic conditions for a duration of time.
One of the most widely used sewage sludge treatment methods is the anaerobic and aerobic digestion processes. In the former sewage sludge treatment process, sludge is kept at a certain temperature for 15 – 60 days. The anaerobic microbes act aggressively on the sludge resulting in the production of methane and carbon dioxide. In the aerobic sewage sludge treatment process, the sludge is supplied with oxygen which produces carbon dioxide. The biological processes ably reduce sludge volume, eliminates pathogens, and even makes it easy to dry the sludge. It converts organic sludge into liquids and gases.
Due to the excessive load of waste received by malfunctioning treatment plants, sewage sludge treatment is often not accomplished as desired. There are now strong biological solutions that help in sewage sludge treatment. Organica Biotech’s Cleanmaxx STP is one such product with a special microbial formulation. It helps in the rapid degradation of organic material and helps in minimum sludge production. Furthermore, it acts against noxious gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulphide and eliminates pathogens by preventing its growth.