The Various Risks of Wastewater

While wastewater is often a valuable source of moisture for irrigation or other purposes, it also poses a wide range of hazards. The risks of wastewater also vary greatly between different sources and industries. The waste produced at a manufacturing facility may need extensive treatment before it can be reused or discharged, while wastewater from a food processing cannery might be ready to reuse immediately. Understanding the risks among all the various types of wastewater will prepare you for designing the proper containment measures. The more risks your particular wastewater poses, the better containment strategies you will need, to avoid environmental or property damage and costly fines.

Bacterial and Viral Spread

All wastewater has the potential to contain dangerous bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Waste from sewage lines, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and livestock farms tend to contain the highest levels of these health hazards. Proper processing can greatly reduce these problems, but only if the processing ponds themselves are designed to keep treatment center workers safe. Some diseases, such as dysentery and cholera, are largely spread through the mishandling of wastewater and sewage. Even a small amount of wastewater splashing out of the designated containment zone can set off a contamination issue that leaves many people sick. E. coli, in particular, is a problem with wastewater reused as irrigation for agriculture. Even greywater from showers and sinks can carry enough bacteria to create hazards on crops ready to harvest for immediate consumption.

Chemical and Nutrient Levels

Irrigation runoff, from hundreds of acres of agricultural land, has a massive impact on native waterways in the area. While the nutrients in the water may sound valuable, they cause serious damage when the water mixes in with natural rivers and causes an overgrowth of algae. Proper control of nutrient-rich runoff allows for reuse, to capture those valuable fertilizers, rather than letting them go to waste. The same concept is true for wastewater high in chemical contamination. While chemical-rich waste is damaging to the environment and dangerous to humans exposed to it, it’s often valuable and easy to reclaim when contained properly from the start.

Vapors and Fumes

There’s no need to make direct contact with wastewater to risk damage from it. The fumes and vapors produced by the breakdown of organic material and the evaporation of chemicals can accelerate corrosion of metal and concrete. They’re also dangerous to inhale and can quickly overwhelm workers leaning over the water’s surface or entering an enclosed space. Hydrogen sulfide and methane are the most dangerous gases commonly produced by sewage and mixed wastewater, while industrial waste can produce a wide range of gases. Chemicals added to purify and sanitize the waste also create ammonia and chloride fumes. Impermeable covers, vapor barriers, and active air displacement systems all reduce these risks substantially.

Deep Channels and Fast-Moving Water

Many wastewater containment systems include channels and canals for directing runoff that develop rapid flows during certain release periods. Storm runoff also turns normally shallow parts of a drainage system into deep and fast-moving flows. Deep ponds and tanks also pose hazards to workers who are working around the edges and might fall in. This kind of depth and speed is also hazardous to wildlife attracted to the water, which create further clogging and contamination problems if they can’t make it back out. Covers and safety fencing may be necessary around the deepest parts of a wastewater containment system.

High Risks of Clogs

Wastewater tends to contain a higher level of dissolved solids than other liquids, resulting in sludge accumulation and volume reduction. Even relatively clean runoff like storm water can carry along solid debris like sticks, food wrappers, leaves, and miscellaneous materials. Deep channel designs only work so well to prevent clogging. Without regular maintenance and inspections, wastewater containment is often overwhelmed and flooded by one or more major clogs. Design your wastewater system so every part is easily inspected and cleaned. Filters and traps for debris also make it easy to remove large blockages in a hurry before flooding conditions develop.

Sudden Flooding

Wastewater containment areas must be designed with record flooding levels in mind for safety. Since wastewater handled in these systems tends to be hazardous in at least one way, flooding that flushes the containment area can lead to property and environmental damage. Proper sizing ensures that the containment system absorbs all of the excess water rather than allowing it to overflow the sides. Sensors and alarms also assist in dealing with emergency flooding conditions. If a system isn’t sized for high water levels but can be drained when needed, alarms are essential for warning that it’s time to open the drains.

Non-Compliant Discharge

Relying on a sewage system or outlets that dump into a nearby waterway may leave you paying thousands of dollars in fines for non-compliant discharge. Most parts of the country only allow for a limited release of clean and contaminant-free wastewater from commercial and residential buildings. If there’s too much soap, sewage, or fertilizer mixed in, your discharge options will become more and more limited. Non-compliant and accidental discharge can eat into the profit margins of a business or sink the budget of a non-profit. Control discharge issues with a properly designed wastewater containment system.

Wastewater risks shouldn’t interrupt business operations or inflate operating costs. With proper testing to determine the precise content of each flow, it’s possible to design containment and processing that results in zero leaks and discharge issues. Let BTL Liners help you create impermeable and leak-resistant ponds and containment areas with our reliable, reinforced polyethylene (RPE) liners. Our expert team can help you select the right liner based on the particular risks of your wastewater mixture.

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