Wastewater treatment plant

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A wastewater treatment plant is a physical plant where various physical, biological or chemical processes are used to change the properties of the wastewater (e.g. by removing harmful substances) in order to turn it into a type of water (also called effluent) that can be safely discharged into the environment or that is usable for a certain reuse purpose.[1] In the case of the latter, the term "reclaimed water" is commonly used. The treatment of wastewater belongs to the over-arching field of sanitation, just like the management of human waste, solid waste, sewage treatment, stormwater (drainage) management, and water treatment.[2] By-products from wastewater treatment plants, such as screenings, grit and sewage sludge are also treated in a wastewater treatment plant.[3]

A wastewater treatment plant may be as simple as a single clarifier.

Sewage treatment plants[edit]

A typical municipal sewage treatment plant includes primary treatment to remove solid material, secondary treatment to remove dissolved and suspended organic material, and disinfection to kill disease-causing micro-organisms. Larger municipalities often include factories discharging industrial wastewater into the municipal sewer system. The term "sewage treatment plant" is nowadays often replaced with the term "wastewater treatment plant".[4]

City wastewater collection and drainage systems called sewers became increasingly common through the 19th century. The drainage from these sewers became known as sewage; and treatment of sewage evolved through the 20th century into a standardized sequence of primary treatment, followed by secondary treatment, and ending with disinfection.

Industrial wastewater treatment plants[edit]

Industrial wastewater treatment plants are required where municipal sewage treatment plants are unavailable or cannot adequately treat specific industrial wastewaters. Industrial wastewater plants may reduce raw water costs by converting selected wastewaters to reclaimed water used for different purposes. Industrial wastewater treatment plants may reduce wastewater treatment charges collected by municipal sewage treatment plants by pre-treating wastewaters to reduce concentrations of pollutants measured to determine user fees.[1]

Although economies of scale may favor use of a large municipal sewage treatment plant for disposal of small volumes of industrial wastewater, industrial wastewater treatment and disposal may be less expensive than correctly apportioned costs for larger volumes of industrial wastewater not requiring the conventional sewage treatment sequence of a small municipal sewage treatment plant.[5]

An industrial wastewater treatment plant may include one or more of the following rather than the conventional primary, secondary, and disinfection sequence of sewage treatment:

Agricultural wastewater treatment plants[edit]

Agricultural wastewater treatment for continuous confined animal operations like milk and egg production may be performed in plants using mechanized treatment units similar to those described under industrial wastewater; but where land is available for ponds, settling basins and facultative lagoons may have lower operational costs for seasonal use conditions from breeding or harvest cycles.[10]

Leachate treatment plants[edit]

Leachate treatment plants are used to treat leachate from landfills. They can consist of three treatment steps: a biological treatment, a mechanical treatment by ultrafiltration and a treatment with active carbon filters.


  • Hammer, Mark J. (1975). Water and Waste-Water Technology. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-34726-4. 
  • Kemmer, Frank N. (1979). The Nalco Water Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 
  • Patterson, James W. (1980). Wastewater Treatment Technology. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ann Arbor Science. ISBN 0-250-40086-3. 
  • Reed, Sherwood C.; Middlebrooks, E. Joe; Crites, Ronald W. (1988). Natural Systems for Waste Management and Treatment. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. ISBN 0-07-051521-2. 


  1. ^ a b Hammer, pp.300-302
  2. ^ "Sanitation". Health topics. World Health Organization. 
  3. ^ "Chapter 14: Treatment, reuse and disposal of solids and biosolids". Wastewater engineering : treatment and reuse (4th ed.). Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., McGraw Hill, USA. 2003. ISBN 0-07-112250-8. 
  4. ^ Wastewater engineering : treatment and reuse (4th ed.). Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., McGraw Hill, USA. 2003. ISBN 0-07-112250-8. 
  5. ^ Kemmer, pp.40-4-40-11
  6. ^ Patterson, p.180
  7. ^ Kemmer, p.41-15
  8. ^ Kemmer, p.23-11
  9. ^ Patterson, p.210
  10. ^ Reed, Middlebrooks & Crites, pp.6-8