How to Treat Industrial Wastewater without Chemicals

According to The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017, the volumes of industrial wastewater could double by 2025, while the market for wastewater treatment technologies is also predicted to grow as much by 2020. This shouldn’t be a surprise since wastewater can present an opportunity for cost saving and reducing water dependency when managed properly, instead of being a costly item and an operational challenge.

However, many of the currently used wastewater treatments include the use of chemicals which does eliminate the most frequent water pollutants, but still leaves the water contaminated with toxins. This article stresses the importance of wastewater treatment and perspectives on healthier ways of treating it.

The necessity of wastewater treatment

While there have been some advances in this territory, we are still far from finding an ideal way of treating industrial wastewater and doing that in significant volume. Much of the wastewater still ends up in open watercourses, without any treatment, thus reducing the quality of water and sometimes even contaminating groundwater resources.

Clean, uncontaminated water is not only critical for animals and plants that live in water, but also for species living near the shoreline, visitors who come for swimming and recreation, and people who live close to rivers and lakes.

What is wastewater treatment?

This process includes converting water that is no longer suitable for use into water that can be returned into the environment without causing harm. The process that is usually used for treating the industrial wastewater is called physical treatment and it consists of using chemical reactions and physical processes. The chemicals used in this process serve to adjust the pH value and modify the ionic charge. Some of them are Ca (OH) (calcium hydroxide, a hydrated form of lime), CaO (calcium oxide or lime), Mg (OH) (magnesium hydroxide) and MgO (magnesium oxide).

A typical way of treating wastewater also requires use of a lot of energy, and thus produces significant CO2 emissions. Chlorination or chlorine disinfection, which is the most frequent and is considered to be the most effective, method of treating wastewater can create toxic by-products and does not perform as well when it comes to pathogen inactivation.

Is there any other way?

Depending on the type of contaminants in the wastewater, it is possible to use other ways of decontamination which do not involve chemicals. As the world is moving more and more toward environmentally-friendly industries, businesses are given other greener options such as implementing industrial UV water treatment systems, which are not only eco-friendly, but also cost-effective.

Wastewater management is an opportunity for cost savings and reducing water dependency

This method is significantly safer for the environment, but also for plant workers and communities. At the same time, UV treatments can effectively destroy harmful microorganisms, without creating carcinogenic by-products and contaminating the environment.

Why is UV treatment the best solution?

UV wastewater treatment does not increase effluent toxicity, which is something that happens with the most conventional wastewater treatment – chlorine. Unlike water which is treated with chlorine, UV treated wastewater can be reused for irrigation, which significantly increases the cost-efficiency of the entire process.

In addition, UV water treatments are very easy to install and maintain, because they only require minimal disruption such as changing the lamps and wiper rings. Finally, the operational costs are lower, so this would be a huge change for the better from the business perspective too.

Considering how simple it is to adapt the current chlorine disinfection systems to environmentally-friendly UV water treatment facilities, this is a change that should happen as soon as possible. All of us can benefit from a greener approach to industrial wastewater treatment, including water animals and plants, shoreline habitats, the population living close to water surfaces, industries (large and small), and, finally, each individual living on this planet.

Derek Lotts

Contributor at Smooth Decorator
Derek Lotts is a Sydney-based writer and researcher.

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