How is sewage water treated? Can sewage water be turned into drinking water? Would you drink it?
Contaminated sewage water is hazardous to our health. But did you know it can be transformed into clean, safe drinking water? Even the most contaminated wastewater has been successfully treated through various processes and technologies, revitalizing what was once seen as refuse for human consumption. The image above shows Bill Gates drinking treated sewage water in 2015.
Reusing sewage water for drinking is an innovative way to combat water scarcity and reduce wastewater discharge. With careful treatment processes, wastewater could become a sustainable source of clean water. Although this is not the focus of TAPP Water we still find this to be important knowledge for our team.
In this article, we will dive into the incredible three-pronged approach responsible for purifying sewage waste. Check out this deep dive into physical, chemical, and biological processes needed to make sure we can enjoy a fresh glass of reuse-ready H2O.
How Sewage Water Treats For Drinking Water - 3 Treatment methods
To ensure our drinking water is safe, wastewater treatment has become a vital part of modern society. By removing particles, toxins, and infectious agents in sewage water through physical, chemical, and biological processes-treated, drinking can be enjoyed worldwide with peace of mind.
Here’s a breakdown of how crazy and complicated this process is:
Physical Treatment Processes:
Physical treatment processes are the first method in this process, as they help remove larger water pollutants. There are a few operations to be performed:
- Bar screens are typically used for this purpose, which act as a mechanical filter by trapping large objects such as sticks or plastic pieces from entering further into the treatment system.
- Grit removal systems are also employed to eliminate sand and other fine particles.
- Sedimentation tanks allow suspended particles in sewage water to settle out so they can be removed more easily.
- Sludge thickeners and digesters reduce the number of solids that need to be removed by using anaerobic digestion to break them down into more manageable particles.
- Filtration systems are then used to filter out smaller particles, such as bacteria or viruses.
- Finally, UV disinfection systems use ultraviolet light to kill any remaining microorganisms that cannot be removed physically.
Chemical Treatment Processes:
These processes are another method of treating sewage water before it is suitable for drinking. Chemical treatment involves handling the following parts:
- Coagulation and flocculation involve adding chemicals such as aluminum sulfate (alum) or polymers that cause small suspended particles in the water to bind together so that they can be filtered out more quickly.
- pH adjustment and aeration may also be necessary for treating acidified waters or reducing odors caused by hydrogen sulfide gas.
- Disinfection with chlorine, chloramine, ozone, or UV light destroys any remaining pathogens.
- Adsorption via activated carbon or resins helps trap dissolved organic materials such as oil or gasoline components, which can give off unpleasant odors when released into the atmosphere after disinfection.
- Precipitation processes may also be used to precipitate out heavy metals like lead or copper, which can contaminate drinking water supplies if left
- Lastly, demineralization and pH adjustment at the end of the process helps restore calcium and magnesium levels to mimic natural spring water quality standards.
Biological Treatment Processes:
Biological processes are essential in wastewater treatment for drinking because they remove organic material from wastewater streams that may not permanently be removed by physical or chemical treatments alone. Here are some of the
important biological processes involved:
- Aerobic and anaerobic digestion processes help break down organic material into harmless substances such as carbon dioxide and methane gas. These substances can then be safely released into the environment without causing harm.
- Activated sludge involves introducing oxygen-rich air bubbles into a tank filled with biomass (microorganisms) that consume organic matter in sewage water and turn it into inert products like carbon dioxide.
- Trickling filters are also commonly used. In these filters, wastewater flows over layers of rock covered with aerobic bacteria colonies. This bacteria gets organic material through oxidation reactions freeing up dissolved oxygen in return which is needed for downstream biological treatments.
- Membrane bioreactors combine a membrane filtration system and a biological reactor tank. This allows tight control over what gets filtered out
of a waste stream while providing high-effluent quality.
- Wetlands built with vegetation are also used to help remove nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater streams. And they provide
additional biodiversity benefits and recreational opportunities.
Note: Ensure the safety of your water supply with an efficient treatment system composed of physical, chemical, and biological processes. Nothing beats clean, safe drinking water for everyone to enjoy.
What Happens If You Drink Sewage Water or Wastewater Without Treating It?
If someone drinks untreated sewage water or wastewater, they will experience various unpleasant symptoms. These can include watery diarrhea, vomiting, headache, fever, and abdominal cramps.
It is important to note that these symptoms may not occur immediately after drinking the water, as they can take a few hours to manifest.
How Long Does Sewage Contamination Last In Water?
Contamination from sewage in water can last for a maximum of five days. After one day of contamination, there will be 100,000 bacteria per 100ml water. By the end of day five, this number has reduced significantly to just 1 bacterium per 100ml.
This means that following a small spill (e.g., 30 liters), there would be an initial total of 30,000,000 bacteria before gradually reducing over the course of five days until only 3,000 are left at the end.
Can You Get Sick from Touching Sewage Water?
Coming into contact with sewage carries a range of health risks. When raw sewage is exposed to the skin, it can cause irritation, itching, and even infection. Inhalation of sewage can lead to respiratory infections and flu-like symptoms.
Ingesting sewage can result in severe gastroenteritis, characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. If untreated, this can lead to other serious health complications, including dehydration or even organ failure.
Conclusion: Striving for Clean Drinking Water
Drinking water production from sewage is an incredibly complex process involving numerous physical, chemical, and biological methods. Each way works better to ensure that the end product meets stringent safety standards and can be safely consumed by the public. By understanding these processes, we can better appreciate the efforts that go into providing us with this precious resource and make sure it is used responsibly.
Through careful management, we can protect our environment while still meeting
our needs for clean drinking water.
Guest post by Ryan David