Sewage

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Sewage canal of a medieval house as depicted in 1447 St. Barbara Altarpiece in the National Museum in Warsaw.

Sewage is a water-carried waste, in solution or suspension, that is intended to be removed from a community. Also known as wastewater, it is more than 99% water and is characterized by volume or rate of flow, physical condition, chemical constituents and the bacteriological organisms that it contains. In loose American English usage, the terms "sewage" and "sewerage" are sometimes interchanged.[1] Both words are descended from Old French assewer, derived from the Latin exaquare, "to drain out (water)". "Sewerage" refers to the infrastructure that conveys sewage.[citation needed]

Categories[edit]

Classes of sewage include sanitary, commercial, industrial, agricultural and surface runoff. The wastewater from residences and institutions, carrying body wastes (primarily feces and urine), washing water, food preparation wastes, laundry wastes, and other waste products of normal living, are classed as domestic or sanitary sewage. Liquid-carried wastes from stores and service establishments serving the immediate community, termed commercial wastes, are included in the sanitary or domestic sewage category if their characteristics are similar to household flows. Wastes that result from an industrial processes such as the production or manufacture of goods are classed as industrial wastewater. Their flows and strengths are usually more varied, intense, and concentrated than those of sanitary sewage. Surface runoff, also known as storm flow or overland flow, is that portion of precipitation that runs rapidly over the ground surface to a defined channel. Precipitation absorbs gases and particulates from the atmosphere, dissolves and leaches materials from vegetation and soil, suspends matter from the land, washes spills and debris from urban streets and highways, and carries all these pollutants as wastes in its flow to a collection point.

Sewage services[edit]

Disease potential[edit]

All categories of sewage are likely to carry pathogenic organisms that can transmit disease to humans and other animals; contain organic matter that can cause odor and nuisance problems; hold nutrients that may cause eutrophication of receiving water bodies; and can lead to ecotoxicity. Proper collection and safe, nuisance-free disposal of the liquid wastes of a community are legally recognized as a necessity in an urbanized, industrialized society.[2] The reality is, however, that around 90% of wastewater produced globally remains untreated causing widespread water pollution, especially in low-income countries.

Increasingly, agriculture is using untreated wastewater for irrigation. Cities provide lucrative markets for fresh produce, so are attractive to farmers. However, because agriculture has to compete for increasingly scarce water resources with industry and municipal users, there is often no alternative for farmers but to use water polluted with urban waste, including sewage, directly to water their crops. There can be significant health hazards related to using water loaded with pathogens in this way, especially if people eat raw vegetables that have been irrigated with the polluted water.

The International Water Management Institute has worked in India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mexico and other countries on various projects aimed at assessing and reducing risks of wastewater irrigation. They advocate a ‘multiple-barrier’ approach to wastewater use, where farmers are encouraged to adopt various risk-reducing behaviours. These include ceasing irrigation a few days before harvesting to allow pathogens to die off in the sunlight, applying water carefully so it does not contaminate leaves likely to be eaten raw, cleaning vegetables with disinfectant or allowing fecal sludge used in farming to dry before being used as a human manure.[3] The World Health Organization has developed guidelines for safe water use.

Collection and disposal[edit]

A medieval waste pipe in Stockholm Old Town formerly deposited sewage on the street to be flushed away by rain.
Further information: Sewerage

A system of sewer pipes (sewers) collects sewage and takes it for treatment or disposal. The system of sewers is called sewerage or sewerage system (see London sewerage system) in British English and sewage system in American English. Where a main sewerage system has not been provided, sewage may be collected from homes by pipes into septic tanks or cesspits, where it may be treated or collected in vehicles and taken for treatment or disposal. Properly functioning septic tanks require emptying every 2–5 years depending on the load of the system.

Sewage and wastewater is also disposed of to rivers, streams, and the sea in many parts of the world. Doing so can lead to serious pollution of the receiving water. This is common in third world countries and may still occur in some developed countries, where septic tank systems are too expensive.

Treatment[edit]

Main article: Sewage treatment

Sewage treatment is the process of removing the contaminants from sewage to produce liquid and solid (sludge) suitable for discharge to the environment or for reuse. It is a form of waste management. A septic tank or other on-site wastewater treatment system such as biofilters can be used to treat sewage close to where it is created.

Sewage water is a complex mixture of chemicals, with many distinctive chemical characteristics. These include high concentrations of ammonium, nitrate, phosphorus, high conductivity (due to high dissolved solids), high alkalinity, with pH typically ranging between 7 and 8. Trihalomethanes are also likely to be present as a result of past disinfection.

In developed countries sewage collection and treatment is typically subject to local, state and federal regulations and standards.

Conversion to fertiliser[edit]

Sewage sludge can be collected through a sludge processing plant that automatically heats the matter and converts it into fertiliser pellets (thereby removing possible contamination by chemical detergents, ...)[4] This approach eliminates seawater pollution caused when the water is discharged directly to the sea without treatment (a practice which is still common in developing countries, despite environmental regulation). Sludge plants are useful in areas that have already set-up a sewage-system, but not in areas without such a system, as composting toilets are more efficient and do not require sewage pipes (which break over time).

Milorganite’s history 'began with Milwaukee’s goal to clean up its rivers and Lake Michigan." Rather than land filling sludge or microorganisms, they were used in a pioneering effort to make and distribute fertilizer.[5] "Its production is among the largest recycling programs in the world."[6]

The name Milorganite is a concatenation of the phrase Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen, and was the result of a 1925 naming contest held in National Fertilizer Magazine. Raising taxes for public health was relatively controversial in the early 1900s. In 1911, reform minded socialists were elected on a platform calling for construction of a wastewater treatment plant to protect against water borne pathogens.[7][8] Experiments showed that heat dried activated sludge pellets "compared favorably with standard organic materials such as dried blood, tankage, fish scap, and cottonseed meal."[9] Sales to golf courses, turf farms and flower growers began in 1926.[10] Milorganite was popularized during the 1930s and 1940s before inorganic urea became available to homeowners after WWII. With the help of researchers in the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin, the use of waste solids (i.e., activated sludge) as a source of fertilizer was first developed in the early 20th century.[11] "The world’s first large scale wastewater treatment plant was constructed on Jones Island, near the shore of Lake Michigan."[12][13][14][15] The 1925 plant has been designated as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Since its development in 1926 as the first pelletized fertilizer in the United States, Milorganite has sold over 9,000,000,000 pounds (4.1×109 kg) of recycled waste.[6][7][16]

In the United States, as of 2013 about 55% of sewage solids are turned into fertilizer, despite demand from farmers who wish to buy more.[17] Sewage solid disposal can otherwise be accomplished by burning (which causes air pollution and consumes energy), landfilling, or dumping into waterways (which can cause harmful algal blooms). Challenges to increased levels of recycling include capital needed to build digesters, the complexity of complying with health regulations, and avoiding neighbors who object to unpleasant smells. There are also new forms of contaminants in urban sewage systems which make the process of turning sludge (biosolids) more complex. These have led some municipalities to ban biosolids on farms and even in forests.

Epidemiology[edit]

Sewage can be monitored for both disease-causing and benign organisms with a variety of techniques. Traditional techniques involve filtering, staining, and examining samples under a microscope. Much more sensitive and specific testing can be accomplished with DNA sequencing, such as when looking for rare organisms,[18] attempting eradication,[19] testing specifically for drug-resistant strains,[20] or discovering new species.[21] Sequencing DNA from an environmental sample is known as metagenomics.

Sewage has also been analyzed to determine relative rates of use of prescription[22] and illegal[23] drugs among municipal populations.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary (International Edition) New York, 1960, p. 1152.
  2. ^ McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (View excerpt at Answers.com
  3. ^ Wastewater use in agriculture: Not only an issue where water is scarce! International Water Management Institute, 2010. Water Issue Brief 4
  4. ^ "Sewage sludge to fertiliser plant". Tucsongreentimes.com. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  5. ^ "Milorganite Reaches 9 Billion Pounds with 85 Years of Recycling" (Press release). Milwaukee, Wisconsin: PRWEB. June 2, 2012. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Tanzilo, Bobby (28 September 2012). "Urban spelunking: Brewing up Milorganite". RSS Feed/OnMilwaukee.com. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Foote, Stephanie, Ed.; Mazzolini, Elizabeth; Schneider, Daniel (Chapter 7) (2012). "7, "Purification or Profit: Milwaukee and the Contradiction of Sludge". Histories of the Dustheap: Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. pp. 171–197. ISBN 0262017997. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  8. ^ Mortimer, Clifford (May 1981). "The Lake Michigan Pollution Case: A Review and Commentary on the Limnological and Other Issues". Publications of the Great Lakes Center for Research (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Center for Great Lakes Studies, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee): 2–3. Retrieved March 29, 2014. .
  9. ^ Eleventh Annual Report of the Sewerage Commission of the City of Milwaukee for 1924, pp. 32–42.
  10. ^ See, North American's Most Widely Known, Respected, and Beloved Turfgrass Agronomist, The O.J. Noer Research Foundation, Inc., Michigan State U. Libraries, Turfgrass Information Center, www.lib.msu.edu/tgif.
  11. ^ "History of Milorganite". Milorganite/Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ Stephens, Odin L.; Mengak, Michael T.; Osborn, David; Miller, Karl V. (March 2005). "Using Milorganite to temporarily repel white-tailed deer from food plots" (PDF). Wildlife Management Series (2). University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
  13. ^ Harrison, Ellen Z. Director (2006). "Fact Sheet 2006: Home Garden Use of Milorganite" (PDF). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Waste Management Institute. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  14. ^ Behm, Don (January 18, 2009). "EPA derails plans to market Milorganite as deer repellent". Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved March 29, 2014. 
  15. ^ Newsletter. National Biosolids Partnership. January 22, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  16. ^ "About us". Milorganite/Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ Cities Turn Sewage Into 'Black Gold' For Local Farms
  18. ^ Environmental Occurrence of the Whipple’s Disease Bacterium (Tropheryma whippelii)
  19. ^ Poliovirus detected from environmental samples in Israel
  20. ^ Drug resistant bug review: NDM-1 in New Delhi’s sewage, WHO calls to action, recent outbreaks of antibiotic resistant bacteria
  21. ^ Raw Sewage Harbors Diverse Viral Populations
  22. ^ Miao, X. S.; Metcalfe, C. D. (2003). "Determination of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs in aqueous samples using liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry". Journal of chromatography. A 998 (1–2): 133–141. doi:10.1016/S0021-9673(03)00645-9. PMID 12862379.  edit
  23. ^ 'Testing the waters': First International conference on drug wastewater analysis

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]