Decentralization and wastewater treatment technologies can help “save the source”
Nutrient contamination is one of the most serious threats to our source water, whether in lakes, rivers, or aquifers. Overloads of nutrients in drinking water, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, can be risk factors for cancer and other severe health consequences. They can also cause toxic algal blooms that contaminate drinking water, kill people and animals, and cause eutrophication that destroys fisheries.
Some of the largest shares of nutrient contamination come from fertilizer in agricultural runoff, inadequately treated sewage discharges from water utilities, or non-compliant septic systems. While bringing wastewater treatment plants into compliance is relatively straightforward, tackling more diffuse issues like residential septic system failures over a wide area or regional farm runoff can be complicated. How can we protect source water from them?
Strategies for Source Water Protection
Homeowners who lack the financial means to address failing septic systems can benefit from “septic-to-sewer” programs. These initiatives aim to connect residents to a centralized sewer grid, sparing them from the burden of raising tens of thousands of dollars. Modular wastewater systems now make it much easier to establish small decentralized utilities and community water systems even in rural areas.
Farm runoff, on the other hand, is difficult to address primarily because it is not regulated as a point source under the Clean Water Act, but pressure is mounting to regulate it as such. The EPA is also signaling it may move to do so. Agricultural runoff is already frequently channeled into drainage tile and ditches, so it is not hard to envision an agricultural community, a group of growers, or an agricultural region to direct runoff toward a common treatment system. Modular decentralized plants can again come to the rescue, establishing treatment far from other infrastructure, even in remote agricultural areas.
Wastewater Treatment Technologies
In the quest to protect source water, it’s crucial to acknowledge the role of advanced wastewater treatment technologies. These technologies play a pivotal role in removing excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from wastewater streams, preventing their entry into source waters. Innovative solutions, including biological nutrient removal (BNR) and chemical precipitation processes, are increasingly being employed to target specific contaminants effectively. Embracing these technologies alongside comprehensive source water protection strategies is a proactive step towards safeguarding the quality of our vital water resources.
In this context, Seven Seas offers purpose-built greenfield treatment plant projects and solutions for existing, non-compliant plants. We employ a range of approaches, from traditional upgrades and repairs to plant acquisitions and concession arrangements. Our focus extends beyond modular equipment for decentralization, encompassing modern financing models that ensure long-term operation and maintenance. Through public-private partnerships, build-own-operate, and build-own-operate-transfer financing structures, Seven Seas optimizes capital to protect source water effectively.
For comprehensive protection of source water, it is essential not only to address specific contamination sources but also to understand the regulatory frameworks and challenges associated with each source, ensuring a well-rounded approach to water quality management. Contact Seven Seas for help in protecting source water in your area.
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