Wastewater Treatment: A Brilliantly Buggy Process

You’ve probably heard it a million times—having access to high-quality, safely processed water is important. But why exactly is that? Sure, we must consider the impact on our bodies, such as avoiding potentially dangerous chemicals that could cause our biological systems harm, but have you ever considered the toll that untreated water, known as “wastewater” can take on the environment? It’s absolutely critical that all wastewater, which comes from sources such as bathing and using the toilet, is treated before being discharged to our waterways—otherwise, it could leave a seriously damaging mark on the place we call home.

Photo of staff member, Jason Meier

If you weren’t already aware, the wastewater we treat is tested, quite literally, all the time—rain or shine, 365 days a year. According to Jason Meier, the District’s lead laboratory operator, this is because various bugs and microbes involved in this process don’t really care about the status of weather or what holiday may be happening. Wastewater testing is a 24/7 process if we want to maintain cleanliness, safety and quality!

So, how can we make sure our wastewater is safe, while simultaneously doing our due diligence to avoid harsh chemicals and unnatural treatment tactics? Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of our process, why it’s so critical in terms of public health and how we ensure our byproduct is environmentally friendly.

A Process Like None Other

First and foremost, when beginning to test wastewater quality, we start out by simply collecting a sample. According to Jason, this is done either by himself or another operator at the District, at various places around the treatment facilities.

“Once we have collected a proper sample, we transport them to the lab where the testing process can officially begin,” said Jason. “Using different types of probes and testing equipment, we test for various elements such as dissolved oxygen, PH levels, and various microorganisms. On a tri-weekly basis, we also test for things like E-Coli, ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand and more.”

Hold on, there are microorganisms involved in the wastewater testing and treatment process? Many people aren’t aware of this, but wastewater treatment is actually very much so a “biological” process, meaning that microorganisms or “bugs” are physically doing the work on our behalf! The reason we test for things such as dissolved oxygen and PH is actually to keep these micro-friends happy and healthy in their environment so they can keep up the hard work they do every day.

“The beauty of this process and what sets it apart from so many others is truly just how natural it really is,” said Jason. “Rather than relying on harsh chemicals, the District leverages microorganisms to ensure wastewater is clean and safe to be put back into the Earth.”

We get it—bugs tend to have a bad rep in day-to-day life, but when it comes to wastewater and protection of our lands, they are an unbelievably supportive sidekick!

Why is Wastewater Treatment and Testing so Critical?

At the District, we maintain a strong dedication to “over-treating” our wastewater to ensure the byproduct is safe for the environment. Because it is discharged into our waterways, we can’t emphasize enough just how imperative it is to be free of any potentially dangerous or negative contaminants that could cause harm to our natural land. In fact, if wastewater isn’t treated properly, there can be serious consequences to wildlife and fish species, oxygen depletion and restrictions on recreational water use.

“Testing and treating wastewater isn’t done just to read the levels or check off a box—it’s done to ensure we are doing our number one job of protecting the public and the receiving waters that we discharge into.”

By treating the wastewater properly, the District can protect public health AND make sure clean water is being released back into the natural environment. What’s more, Jason notes that the water we are treating and then sending back into the waterways doesn’t just meet state and federal water requirements—it exceeds them.

“One of the most amazing parts for customers, besides the health and safety aspects, is the cost efficiency,” said Jason. “While this process is complex and time-consuming, it only costs customers $25 a month, which is a small price to pay for ensuring environmental health.”

Interested in learning more? Water & Waste Digest offers a great resource to dive even deeper into wastewater and the treatment process! Check it out here.


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