Commercial wastewater is generated from commercial enterprises. It is no different to wastewater that comes from households, containing pathogens and harmful elements that pose a risk to the environment and human health.
Almost 80% of the world’s wastewater, including commercial wastewater, is dumped into waterways, exacerbating the risks and increasing water creation because of rapid urbanization. Thus, treatment of all wastewaters—residential, municipal, commercial, and industrial properties—is critical.
Why Commercial Wastewater Treatment is Essential
Wastewater treatment is critical to environmental protection and for the safety of human health. Businesses also have to comply with local regulations and standards required for wastewater discharge, making wastewater treatment necessary.
Protecting ecosystems and water sources
Untreated wastewater affects ecosystems and biodiversity. Wastewater from commercial activities can contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, which can lead to eutrophication (excessive nutrients). This can cause harmful algae blooms, resulting in the depletion of oxygen, affecting marine life. Treatment of commercial wastewater reduces the risks to the environment and protects human health by decreasing the likelihood of contamination and water-borne diseases.
Reducing pollution and carbon footprint
Commercial wastewater contains soils, oils and greases, organics, acids and alkalis, harmful pathogens, and toxic materials. If left untreated, these substances can pollute the environment and waterways, affect wildlife, and reduce water quality. Proper treatment of commercial wastewater can capture biogas (contains potent greenhouse gas, methane), a is byproduct of the treatment processes, and utilise it for energy generation. This helps reduce reliance on fossils fuels, lower greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.
Economic and Operational Benefits
Cost savings through water reuse
Wastewater treatment enables recycling of water so that it can be reused in business operations, which translates into cost savings for commercial enterprises. Reusing water also reduces the amount of wastewater discharged into the local sewerage systems, which helps businesses save on fees they have to pay for disposing trade waste.
Enhancing business reputation and trust
Commercial enterprises that demonstrate commitment towards responsible wastewater treatment enhance their reputation and build trust, especially amongst environmentally conscious customers and stakeholders.
Legal and Regulatory Implications
Avoiding fines and penalties
New Zealand has strict environmental regulations and standards governing wastewater disposal and treatment, designed to protect the environment and public health. Businesses have to obtain a resource consent from the local council to discharge wastewater. The consent specifies the conditions and limits under which wastewater can be discharged. Proper commercial wastewater processes and practices ensure that businesses avoid fines and penalties associated with non-compliance of regulations.
Staying ahead of evolving environmental regulations
Businesses that are compliant with wastewater treatment and discharge regulations typically maintain detailed records and monitor treatment processes, staying ahead of evolving technological advancements and new environmental regulations.
Diverse Types of Wastewater Treatment Systems for Commercial Use
Physical Treatment Systems
- Sedimentation and flotation processes
These are common physical treatment systems that separate solid particles from liquid wastewater. With sedimentation, the heavier solid particles settle to the bottom of a tank separating from the liquid. This is usually the first step in the wastewater treatment process. The flotation process uses air bubbles to attach to suspended solid particles or oil so that it floats to the top of the water’s surface.
- Screening and filtration mechanisms
Screening and filtration processes play an important role in the preliminary stages of commercial wastewater treatment. Screening removes large objects like leaves, sticks, plastics, and other debris when the wastewater flows through a bar screen or a screen rack. Filtration is used to remove smaller particles or objects when the wastewater is passed through a filtration medium, enabling clearer wastewater to flow.
Chemical Treatment Systems
- Coagulation and flocculation
These processes use chemicals to destabilise and remove fine suspended particles from wastewater. Coagulation involves the addition of a coagulant to the wastewater, resulting in small gel-like clumps of the particles called “coagulated flocs.” The next step is flocculation, which involves gently stirring the liquids so that coagulated flocs adhere to each other and form larger and denser substances called “flocculated flocs”, enabling them to settle to the bottom of the tank.
- Disinfection and pH adjustment
Disinfection kills disease-causing pathogens in wastewater with the use of a disinfectant. pH adjustment is a process required to balance the acidity or alkalinity of the wastewater to make it safer for further treatment processes or for releasing into the environment.
Biological Treatment Systems
- Activated sludge processes
These are biological processes that rely on microorganisms known as “activated sludge” to break down organic waste. The aeration process provides oxygen in the tank to promote the growth of the microorganisms that feed on the organic matter, converting them into less harmful substances. In the settling tank, the activated sludge settles to the bottom of the tank and separates from the liquid.
- Anaerobic digestion and lagoon systems
Anaerobic digestion is a biological process that breaks down organic contaminants found in wastewater using microorganisms in the absence of oxygen. Lagoons are large man-made ponds where wastewater remains for a long time, during which the organic matter settles to the bottom of the tank. Lagoon systems rely on various natural processes to treat wastewater.
Advanced Treatment Systems
- Membrane bioreactors
Membrane Bioreactors (MBRs) are advanced treatment systems that combine biological and membrane filtration (microfiltration or ultrafiltration) to remove organic contaminants, solids and pathogens from wastewater.
- Ozonation and UV treatment
These processes are used individually or in combination to treat commercial wastewater. Ozonation is the use of Ozone (O3), a powerful oxidizing agent, to kill harmful pathogens and break down organic and inorganic contaminants. It also helps remove odours from wastewater. UV treatment uses a UV light to kill pathogens and break down some organic compounds.
Choosing the Right System for Your Business
Many businesses need to consider wastewater disposal and treatment to comply with regulations and prevent damage to the environment. When choosing a wastewater treatment system for your business, you should consider the following factors:
- Nature of the wastewater, including composition, volume, and flow rate.
- Purpose of the system, making it easier for you to choose the right system.
- Consider a treatability study, which is a small-scale test in a laboratory to give insight into the right solution.
- Scale of your business and plans for future expansion.
- Local regulations and permissible contaminants and treatment standards.
- Budget, initial and long-term operating costs and return on water reuse.
- Available space and infrastructure needs.
- Maintenance and operation of the system, and regular water quality checks required.
- Local service, warranty, and support.
- Demonstrated experience of suppliers.
Commercial wastewater treatment is a necessary activity for most businesses and choosing the right system for you can require proper effort. At Hynds, we are dedicated to helping customers make the right decisions and choose the products that are best for them. Talk to us or check out our range of commercial wastewater treatment systems.