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, 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.


 

Why is Environmental Engineering Important?

Environmental engineering is one of many methods used to mitigate environmental issues we are facing today.

Environmental engineering is a branch of engineering that concentrates on improving environmental quality. According to the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE), environmental engineering is defined as "the application of engineering principles to the management of the environment for the protection of human health, for the protection of nature's beneficial ecosystems, and for environment-related enhancement of the quality of human life." In other words, the main goal of environmental engineering is to protect humanity from negative environmental effects. Environmental engineering is a key tool to fight against climate change; this is done by using environmentally friendly materials and developing new materials that can adapt to climate change. For example, eco-concrete and eco-bricks are two environmentally friendly materials used by Environmental Engineers.

Some of the main focuses of environmental engineering include air pollution management, water supply and treatment, and wastewater treatment and management, the benefits of which include easily available drinking water, preventing the spread of waterborne diseases with effective sanitation systems, and monitoring air pollution. Focusing on these areas allows mankind to maintain a much healthier quality of life than would otherwise be the case.

KC understands the importance of fighting against environmental issues. KC’s engineering staff includes a wide range of experienced and talented personnel encompassing all our main areas of service, and includes dedicated civil and environmental engineers experienced in drainage, stormwater, drinking water, and wastewater solutions. To learn more about KC’s services, please visit our Services tab.


The Difference Between Septic and Sewer Systems

Did you know that plumbing processes have been in use for between five to seven thousand years?

Ancient engineers developed irrigation caverns to supply water to agricultural societies. As towns and cities grew, they began to use those caverns to redirect liquid waste away from settlements. The Romans are largely credited with having pioneered this technology ahead of The Dark Ages, when all progress towards the development of wastewater management systems ceased almost entirely.

Today, septic and sewer systems are our two primary wastewater management methods. Although both collect, process, and dispose of the harmful pathogens in human waste, there is one major difference between them: sewer systems are provided and maintained by municipalities, while septic systems treat wastewater on-site and are the responsibility of a private homeowner.

In a septic system, wastewater is directed from a home or facility into a septic tank, where solid and liquid waste is broken down and released into a drainfield, a network of perforated pipes laid in gravel-filled trenches. Drainfields typically measure between 18 and 36 inches wide and are located up to 100 feet underground, and without them, septic tanks would overflow and create unsanitary runoff. Wastewater flows into the soil through holes in a distribution pipe inside of the drainfield, destroying residual bacteria and sewage solids in the process. Septic systems are more common in rural areas, which typically lack centralized sewer systems.

Conversely, public sewage systems are connected to many homes and businesses. In a sewage layout, a network of pipes carry waste from lots to a municipal treatment facility, where it is purified before being released back into the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “the majority of Americans – or four in five households – rely on sewer over septic.”

Civil engineers are closely involved in the wastewater management process from beginning to end, providing designs for domestic or industrial treatment plants, pumping stations, and sewage systems and overseeing their construction; restructuring outdated layouts; and conducting feasibility studies for various wastewater-related projects. Civil engineers also prepare environmental documentation, help wastewater companies obtain the licenses and permits they need to operate, and collaborate with state agencies to ensure that treatment plants adhere to federal regulations.

For more information about the difference between septic and sewer systems, visit https://www.epa.gov/npdes/municipal-wastewater.

Picture: Cloaca Maxima, one of Rome’s ancient sewer systems. Courtesy of Science Magazine.