Infrastructure Week, Day 4: Wastewater

Wastewater is the dirty little secret no one likes to talk about. Nevertheless, managing our nations wastewater is of the utmost importance.

No infrastructure plan is complete without wastewater management. It can impact the health of residents, strengthen or weaken the appeal of a locality, and have an effect on the environment.

As the nation’s population continues to grow, wastewater management has become increasingly crucial. Over the next 20 years, the U.S. is expected to gain more than 56 million wastewater treatment system users. This indicates the need for wastewater infrastructure improvements.

About 14,748 wastewater treatment plants currently serve nearly 240 million Americans, or 76% of the U.S. population. In its current state, our wastewater infrastructure suffers from 23,000 to 75,000 sanitary sewer overflow events every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These facts demonstrate the need for increased wastewater infrastructure funding.

At KC Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C. (KC), our wastewater treatment group has designed, constructed, and helped to operate over 70 facilities. We work with government, industrial, and private clients to meet a full range of wastewater related needs. We approach each project with innovative and creative expertise to deliver comprehensive engineering services that solve the most intricate wastewater challenges from concept through design, construction, and operation.

With projects like the Tri-Municipal Sewer Commission Compost Permit Renewal, Wallkill Raw Sewage Pump Replacement, and Wappingers Falls Wappingers Falls Sanitary Sewer Pipe TV Inspections, KC has helped to increase capacity and improve the performance of existing treatment facilities. KC strives to meet strict water discharge policies, conserve energy, and reduce environmental impact.


The Sewer System’s Dirty Secrets

As a child, did you ever wonder where your goldfish went after you flushed him? Did you imagine him soaring off to sea through a single pipe that connected your toilet to the ocean? Probably.

Is that what really happened to him? Probably not. But don’t get too upset, the actual engineering behind wastewater and sewer systems is pretty interesting. In fact, your goldfish probably went on a wild ride! Whenever water or items go down the drain, they are sent through a pipe in the ground to the local sewer system. From there, gravity sends the wastewater down the sewage line towards the treatment plant.

However, most locations aren’t lucky enough to have a plant located at the bottom of a mountain. This is where the real engineering kicks in. Once the pipes get too deep, the wastewater must be pumped closer to the surface so that it can begin its descent again. These pumping stations are part of a force main sewer that pressurizes the water so that it can flow against gravity to the treatment plant at the other end.

Seems simple enough, but sometimes the lines will get clogged by miscellaneous items (like your goldfish) or rags that prevent the water from flowing. In these cases, a pig is sent from the beginning of the line to the end in order to remove the blockage. The pig is a flexible cylinder that moves through the pipes and clears any buildup or blockage it encounters. When the pig emerges from the other end, it brings all the waste with it. Check out this video titled “Sewer Wars” for an out-of-this-world description of the process.

When the water finally arrives at the treatment plant, chemicals and bacteria are used to cleanse the dirty water so that it can be sent back into the environment. After that, the cycle begins all over again.

Engineers use their skills to create complex systems that aid in the day-to-day process so seamlessly that most people don’t even know about them. But now that you do, maybe next time you’ll bring your fishy friend to the ocean yourself. That may be the one thing engineering can’t help you with.


Tri-Municipal Sewer Commission Pump Station Odor Control Project

KC was tasked with finding a means of resolving the issue of sewage odors being emitted outside the bar screen building at the Village of Wappingers Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant.

There are various methods of removing odors caused by wastewater from the air. KC recommended a drum-style air scrubber be installed, maintained, and operated by the plant operators. This type of system consists of an inlet, a drum containing the media with a fan, and an outlet. The media is located in the drum, and air is forced up through the media to be treated; air is then released back into the room. This system runs continuously, reducing the odor of the building should the ventilation fans need to turn on during an alarm condition.

KC reviewed the bids and is coordinating the installation and electrical work with the operators. KC is also overseeing the construction management.