Public facilities to distribute water to communities and, in some cases, to gather wastewater have been used throughout human history. However, serious efforts to treat wastewater weren’t developed or even seriously sought for until the latter half of the 19th century.
As industrialization began a trend of population concentration in cities, cholera outbreaks and other fatal diseases killed many thousands of people. London and other cities in England and Germany were among the hardest-hit areas.
In the late 1800s, the cause of cholera was determined to be drinking water from rivers. How to keep rivers clean and free from choleric bacteria was still guesswork for the most part. Rudimentary treatment of wastewater with irrigation beds was the main type of system employed.
In the early second decade of the 20th century, scientists at the University of Manchester, England discovered the activated sludge process. It quickly became the standard throughout the western world. Other processes were developed since the early 20th century, such as UV light, reverse osmosis, etc., resulting in several interesting wastewater treatment plants.
We’ll highlight several of those projects in this article.
The World’s First Activated Sludge Wastewater Treatment Plant
In the late 1800s, several experiments were performed using pilot plants to study the activated sludge process in the UK and US. In 1920, the city of Sheffield, UK built the first practical continuous-flow activated sludge plant.
This plant was preceded by a rudimentary batch treatment system. In this original plant the sewage passed through settling pits, from which the effluent was treated with milk of lime. Next, it entered a system of precipitation tanks, then passed over aerating weirs. After that, effluent passed through coke filters, then discharged into the River Don.
Sheffield undertook several upgrades to the plant later in the century and into the early years of the 21st century.
The World’s Largest WWTP
Montreal, Quebec, Canada is the site of the Jean R. Marcotte wastewater treatment plant. This monstrous wastewater management project was opened in 1984 and can process 2,780,000 m3 /day of feed water in dry weather, and 7,600,000 m3 /day in wet weather.
In 2018, the plant added ozone disinfection to its processing technologies. The ozone plant can produce 57 tonnes of ozone per day and treat over 3,000,000 m3/day of water.
Asia’s Largest Underground Advanced WWTP
This honor goes to the Huaifang Water Reclamation Plant. The Beijing Drainage Group in China owns and operates this plant. It processes 600,000 m3/day of feed water and produces an extremely high-quality discharge to the Xiaolong River and a manufactured wetland park.
Huaifang’s processes are arranged on three underground levels.
This wastewater treatment plant employs primary, secondary, and tertiary processes. Among the more sophisticated of these wastewater treatment systems is a membrane bioreactor (MBR).
Sludge produced by the plant is routed through a discharge line equipped with several systems to improve its suitability for other uses.
Recent Developments in Wastewater Management
Over the last two decades, increasing population, shrinking freshwater supplies, and demands for ever-cleaner discharge water challenge existing treatment methods.
Here are some emerging technologies being used in modern wastewater treatment plants.
Membrane Bioreactor Filtration (MBR)
Membrane bioreactor filtration produces the cleanest effluent of the currently widely-used processes. It allows removal of pathogens, even viruses. Following up MBR filtration with ultraviolet and reverse osmosis eliminates even more contaminants. These combinations can produce water suitable for household greywater and many industrial and agricultural applications.
Nanotechnology in Combination With Other Processes
Microorganisms in biomicroelectronic devices can enhance many older technologies to use them in unique new ways in modern wastewater treatment plants.
Nanotechnology can, for example, result in higher-performing membranes that foul less and decompose toxic materials. Many contaminants that escaped removal with less advanced techniques can now be detected and removed.
Other Advanced Methods
Space limitations prevent our describing other emerging technology in detail. Here’s a good article going into more depth on other techniques.
From these descriptions and observations, you can see that wastewater treatment is an evolving business.
With a steady flow of interesting new options for wastewater treatment plant processes, Transcend Water, a leading company in wastewater treatment plant design, continually explores these options to serve their clients better.
Unique in the industry, the Transcend Design Generator examines process options, as well as mechanical and civil aspects of the design. It’s a complete conceptual design in all engineering respects. Tables comparing process options for power usage, space requirements, operating cost, and other parameters important to the design engineers and the future owner are included.
Transcend Water is a leading company in the industry. They’ve developed the Transcend Design Generator, an SaaS app that enables water engineers to develop a preliminary process and plant design in about 8 hours. A huge improvement over the manual design process, which can take weeks!
Transcend is constantly attentive to the best new technology developments to incorporate into their software. Check out Transcend’s solutions here. You’ll find a button on each page to contact their experts to discuss your wastewater treatment needs.