In the modern world, the problem of the environment pollution is considered to be one of the most serious global problem. At the same time, this problem is often closely related to the problem of the water pollution. This problem is vitally important because the population grows while the sources of safe and pure water gradually become more and more scares. This is why the most developed countries, such as the US, pay a particular attention to the effective treatment of wastewater. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that there is a popular trend in the US to treat wastewater to a very high level, and then inject it back into the ground, where it can be used to replenish the groundwater table for drinking. In such a situation, the arguments concerning the treatment of the wastewater that is supposed to be recharged.
Basically, there are two major ways of treatment the wastewater that will be recharged. On the one hand, it is suggested to use secondary treatment. This treatment is a continuation of the primary treatment and it further “reduces organic matter through the addition of oxygen to the wastewater which provides an aerobic environment for microorganisms to biologically break down this remaining organic matter” (Schiff). On the other hand, it is also suggested to use the tertiary treatment and recharge the wastewater that implies a more profound treatment of water.
In such a situation, many argues concerning the type of treatment that should be used for the wastewater. At first glance, it would be logical to use the tertiary treatment for the wastewater that will be recharged to replenish the groundwater. Such a decision seems to be quite logical because the tertiary treatment implies that the wastewater will undergo a complicated and highly effective process of treatment. As a result, the final product, i.e. the wastewater that will be recharged, is supposed to be relatively clean and safe water where all dangerous elements, including the organic matter which remains after the secondary treatment. Consequently, it is possible to presuppose that this wastewater will be the most environmentally friendly and most safe for the groundwater which can be later used for regular consumption. It is worthy of mention that the tertiary treatment of the wastewater makes this water closer to its natural consistency than the secondary treatment that is viewed by many as another advantage of the tertiary treatment.
However, in actuality, the tertiary treatment is not effective as it may seem to be when it is used to treat the wastewater that will be recharged to replenish the groundwater. In fact, it is possible to estimate quite the contrary that the secondary treatment of the wastewater will be more effective and useful if this water is used for the recharge. The reason is quite obvious and, basically, the explanation of such a paradoxical statement may be found in the essence of the secondary treatment of water, which has been already briefly described above. What is necessary to understand at this point is the fact that the secondary treatment implies that there will remain some organic matter which is broken down by microorganisms that are present in the soil on the way of the wastewater to the groundwater and after that back to consumers.
Actually, this means that the secondary treatment of the wastewater stimulates the development of microorganisms which naturally break down the remaining organic matter. In such a way, it is obvious that the remaining organic matter is not dangerous to the environment and can hardly pollute the groundwater. Moreover, it is necessary to underline that the presence of this organic matter stimulates the progress of microorganisms which evolves along with the matter they have to ‘cope with’. In other words, they grew more complicated and, therefore, more effective in the breaking down the matter remaining after the secondary treatment that means that natural treatment of the water will be more effective. In contrast, the tertiary treatment minimizes the presence of the organic matter and the wastewater does not really stimulates the development of microorganisms which contribute to the effective treatment of the water.
As a result, the tertiary treatment would be simply a primitive recharge of the wastewater to the groundwater, while the secondary treatment, being less complicated, can stimulate the processes, such as the development or improvement of microorganisms that contribute to the natural treatment of the water. In such a way, the water may be not simply recharged but, along with the decreases of the cost of the artificial treatment, the wastewater is treated naturally and the secondary treatment increases its effectiveness since the microorganisms evolve to break down effectively the remaining organic matter.
- Cooperative Extension Service, University of North Carolina, Soil Science, Septic Systems and Their Maintenance. Retrieved from the Web at http://ces.soil.ncsu.edu/soilscience/publications/Soilfacts/AG-439-13/
- East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD). Retrieved from the Web at http://www.ebmud.com/services/waterquality/plants.html
- National Resources Defense Council (2003). What’s on Tap? Grading Drinking Water in U.S. Cities. Retrieved from the web on 11/16/06 at http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/uscities/contents.asp
- Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, Characteristics of Effluents from Small Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants in 1993. Retrieved from the Web at http://www.sccwrp.org/pubs/annrpt/93-94/art02.htm
- Schiff E. Municipal Wastewater Treatment Process. Retrieved from the Web at http://members.aol.com/ErikSchiff/prelim.htm
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Public Health Concerns About Infectious Diseases. In: The Use of Reclaimed Water and Sludge in Food Crop Productions. Retrieved from the Web at http://www.epa.gov/owm/pipes/sludmis/mstr-ch5.pdf#search=%22reclaimed%20wastewater%20uncertainty%22
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