Wastewater – General Information

Wastewater is a major factor in global waste, there are very large amounts of it created everyday globally and in it are all sorts of contaminants and hazardous materials that if disposed of unwisely can and will cause serious ecological and health problems. Luckily, mankind has various method of treating this water and using it again or disposing of it in an ecological fashion that keeps it in the natural water cycle tat is so vital for life.

Naturally, and like most fields of life and economics, wastewater is dealt with differently in various countries, some put a lot of resources into sewage purification and ecological solutions for wastewater and others are still lagging behind, contaminating water sources and agriculture, polluting water sources etc.

What is wastewater and sewage?

Wastewater is considered any water that was affected in terms of quality by any outside factor or influence. In general, most wastewater reaches sewage systems that are made up of underground pipes, above ground canal systems and wastewater treatment plants that clean, decontaminate and purify the water for various levels and purposes.

Wastewater includes water, liquids and solids that originate from domestic uses, commercial real estate properties, industrial uses and also agriculture. Some differentiate between general municipal wastewater systems that include waste from all of the above uses to sewage that is only wastewater from domestic uses such us toilets, shower etc.

Health risks of wastewater

Wastewater is of course hazardous in many ways as it incorporates a wide variety of physical, biological and chemical contaminants. Before treated, wastewater is basically unsafe for any use and can’t be disposed of without causing any damage. Some of the most prominent health risks from wastewater and sewage are:

  • Drinking: will result in severe poisoning from a numerous array of pathogens – it might lead to food poisoning effects but can also damage critical physiological systems and even cause death.
  • Agriculture risks: wastewater that has been treated properly, mostly after tertiary treatment, are used for irrigating agricultural crops. If the water isn’t treated enough pathogens can enter the field or the produce and damage the crop or worse – transfer to humans or animals and cause various health problems.
  • Animals and eco-systems: the health of these can be badly affected by flowing untreated or poorly treated wastewater to nature areas.
  • Polluting water sources: if untreated wastewater reaches a water source it will poison it and then lead to the above health risks.

Wastewater composition – What’s in it?

Wastewater can contain an almost endless variety of substances and contaminants. This is without talking about solids that just “go with the flow” and are not part of the actual wastewater composition (plastics for example).

  • Water: naturally wastewater contains mostly water – 95% or less.
  • Organic solids and particles: human waste, animal waste, food, plant material etc.
  • Pathogens: bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms etc.
  • Bacteria that are not pathogens.
  • Soluble organic substances.
  • Inorganic solids and particles – grit, dirt, metals etc.
  • Soluble inorganic substances.
  • Gases and minerals.
  • Toxic compound: pesticides, herbicide, poisons etc.
  • Pharmaceuticals and hormones.
  • Emulsions.

Wastewater treatment is extremely important for health and environment reasons and also as an economic solution in terms of recycling and saving fresh drinking water for various uses.

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