Upgrading Your Wastewater Treatment Plant: What You Need to Know

With the growth of the global population, many wastewater treatment plants either need to be built or need to be upgraded/expanded. Traditional wastewater treatment plants were designed to handle wastewater as it was produced many years ago. However, wastewater today is much more complex – both in terms of greater flows but also containing a greater range of pollutants. It’s becoming increasingly important for wastewater treatment plants that already exist to be upgraded so that they can effectively and efficiently handle wastewater in an efficient, and ideally, environmentally friendly way. However, upgrading a wastewater treatment plant is no easy feat. It requires careful consideration and planning, with many stakeholders from the utility, engineering firm, and equipment suppliers involved. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what you need to know about wastewater treatment plant upgrades—from factors to consider when selecting an upgrade package to the design process itself.

Learn more: A Comprehensive Review of a Wastewater Treatment Plant Equipment List

Why Upgrade Your Wastewater Treatment Plant?

The demands of your wastewater treatment plant need to meet or exceed the requirements of government regulations and society’s needs.

Limitations of Traditional Wastewater Treatment Plants

If your wastewater treatment plant is outdated, it may not be able to handle the increased load and may even be contributing to environmental pollution. As such, wastewater treatment plant upgrades can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of wastewater management and help protect our environment. 

Benefits of Upgrading a Wastewater Treatment Plant

Upgraded wastewater treatment plants can provide better wastewater management for the population and for the planet. Here are four benefits of wastewater treatment plant upgrades:

Increased Wastewater Disposal Capacity

With the growing number of urban cities in the US, wastewater treatment plants need to be able to accommodate the increased flow. Upgrading WWTPs can help increase wastewater disposal capacity and make wastewater management more efficient.

Reduced Environmental Impact

Upgraded wastewater treatment plants can reduce environmental impact by improving treatment processes to make them more sustainble, reducing leakage from pipes, and creating reclamation (water reuse) projects.

Advanced Technology

By implementing advanced treatment technologies and automated processes, WWTPs can quickly benefit from electric consumption optimization benefits, reduction of manual labor, and overall efficiency.

Comparison of Traditional and Upgraded Wastewater Treatment Plants

Traditional WWTPs may have been sufficient for wastewater management in the past… but with changing influent streams, increased flows, and more stringent effluent requirements, traditional plants may not be able to handle the treatment requirements of modern society.

Upgraded plants, however, are designed to handle these processes efficiently and effectively, while being more cost-effective in the long run.

Factors to Consider When Upgrading Your Plant

When upgrading wastewater treatment plants there are a few important factors to consider. These include:

Types of Upgrades Available

Various upgrade packages are available, such as space-saving options, improved grit removal systems, enhanced gray water reuse ecosystems, and wastewater treatment process automation. It is important to select the right type of upgrade package for your plant to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Technical Requirements

It is also important to consider the technical requirements of the upgrades, such as flow rate, pretreatment needs, disposal requirements, and equipment availability. Additionally, technical upgrades often require significant capital investment to be successful so affordability is an important consideration.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

WWTP contractors and designers should also perform a cost-benefit analysis of the upgrades to determine if the benefits outweigh the costs. The goal is to meet the plant’s KPIs at the lowest cost possible.

The Upgrade Process

Once you have considered the previously-mentioned factors, the wastewater treatment plant upgrade process can begin.

1. Planning and Preparation

The planning and preparation stage should never be overlooked. At this stage, contractors and engineers should evaluate the plant’s current layout, analyze flow rates and pretreatment needs, develop an upgrade plan, and coordinate with various stakeholders. With proper planning, upgrades can be completed in a timely and organized manner, while meeting objectives within a defined budget.

2. Obtaining Permits and Regulatory Approvals

The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requires regulatory approval and permits for wastewater discharge to ensure environmental safety. Ensure that the wastewater treatment plant upgrade plan meets regulatory and safety guidelines before proceeding.

3. Wastewater Treatment Technologies

What technologies should you use in the upgrades? From leveraging automated systems to wastewater reuse and advanced treatment systems like MBBR-IFAS, engineers should select technologies that will further optimize the entire process and deliver the best outcome for the utility and community.

4. Hiring The Right Team

The success of your plant upgrade relies heavily on the talent and expertise of engineers, contractors, and other professionals. They possess the skills, talents, and tools necessary to take your plan from conception to execution.

5. Installation and Commissioning

From properly testing newly installed equipment to collecting data to ensure the whole plant is operating correctly from day 1, WWTPs require proper installation and commissioning. Having a talented team on-site during the wastewater plant installation and commissioning stages is critical to ensuring the entire process runs smoothly and meets regulatory standards.

The Benefits of a Successful Upgrade

A wastewater treatment plant upgrade is an investment of both time and money. Fortunately, there are many benefits that come with a successful upgrade.

1. Reduced Capital Costs

WWTPs upgrades can reduce operational and capital costs by streamlining treatment processes and installing new, more efficient equipment. For instance, by implementing generative design in the design and planning process, WWTPs engineers and project developers can quickly generate preliminary engineering designs to optimize their material takeoffs, earthworks costs, and civil structure designs.

For example, Aqua Consultants successfully utilized the Transcend Design Generator to optimize their WWTP project’s footprint, equipment, and material, saving 80% of the wastewater treatment plant’s costs and construction time.

2. Improved Environmental Impact

The environmental impact that wastewater has on the environment cannot be overstated. By upgrading wastewater treatment plants, engineers and contractors can reduce pollution, improve wastewater quality, and reduce raw sewage discharge.

One strategy that can be implemented during a wastewater treatment plant upgrade is to create a gray water reuse ecosystem model. Here wastewater is filtered and processed and then reused for non-potable applications such as irrigation, flushing toilets, washing cars, and so on.

3. Long-term Maintenance Benefits

Upgraded wastewater treatment plants require less maintenance and repairs in the long run. The upgrade also increases treatment capacity and efficiency, while reducing operating costs.

TDG Creates Unique, Optimized Designs Of Water & Wastewater Treatment Facilities

Upgrading wastewater treatment plants can be a daunting and intimidating endeavor. But, with the right team in place, you have the potential to reduce costs, improve quality, and create a long-term wastewater management plan.

By leveraging automated design tools such as the Transcend Design Generator, wastewater personnel can quickly generate wastewater designs that are both cost-effective and optimized for wastewater processes.

If you’re looking to upgrade your WWTP project, start by using TDG. With our intuitive tool, you can easily design wastewater treatment solutions that meet their needs.


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