Opening: Sewers can be described as mainframe computers, and rightfully so; old mainframe computers were an example of “centralized” computing, and have a similar history of usage. At the time that mainframes dominated the marketplace in 1950, much of the sewer infrastructure in the Midwest went into place.
Fast-forward 65 years later. The landscaping of computing is much different due to radical, new innovations like “servers” and hand-held devices, all with greater individual computing power than the mainframes of the past.
Centralized sewering systems allowed for permanent, distributed water management. Large centralized sewering systems are thought to be more efficient with energy, treatment, and transfer. Soil-based wastewater treatment disposal methods have never been able to offer this. Small-scale effluent pumping systems, which use pumps and small-diameter pipes to transfer wastewater, try to mimic this approach. However, they do not offer the same economic advantages that large sewering systems do.
Why only two choices? Because many people have not been aware of a viable option for permanent, distributed water management through the soil until now.
Centralized Sewering Systems: From time to time, municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants experience operational problems such as poor settling, foaming odors, loss of nitrification, poor effluent quality and maintenance issues. The smaller the treatment systems, the more likely that these issues will occur.
With centralized sewering systems, there has always been difficulty in managing strength, flow, and toxins. When you add other items like grinder pumps or STEP systems to the small community treatment systems, it continues to add ongoing maintenance costs.
Keep in mind, water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. It takes an enormous amount of energy from mechanical devices to move this weight from one side of the town to the other, not including leakages, water loss, and other fluctuations. This is before treatment has even begun. Even adding load-balancing technology to increase efficiency and decrease maintenance is not a viable solution for smaller systems.
The USEPA imposes significant fines for noncompliance with discharges. With small flow distributed systems, there is definitely greater financial risk of noncompliance of one’s wastewater management system.
NPDES permits are typically renewed every five years. With situations outside of the control of the community, i.e. impaired water designation caused by higher limits of bacteria, dissolved oxygen, soluble organics, and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), the design of the entire plant may need to be upgraded with new compliancy equipment to address these new standards. In many cases, the cost of upgrading the plant may exceed the cost of building the original plant.
Soil-Based Onsite Systems are designed to fail: Soil-based onsite systems are mainly used in rural applications with a lot of land and favorable soils. However, soil has a limited capacity to hold suspended solids, organics, and water. There are many variables to sizing, installing, and maintaining a soil-based system; and this further complicates the engineering of a reliable system. Based on pore size and volume, soil-based systems can be calculated for sizing until the moment of future inevitable failures. For example, a residential 300 GPD with typical loading of TSS 100 mg/L, 100 mg/L BOD, and a disposal area of 3000 ft(2) would take 14 years to fill the soil and thus biologically fail. With the same size 300 GPD system and 3000 ft(2) drainfield used for a commercial (typical high-strength loading of TSS 1000 mg/L and 1200 mg/L BOD) application, the system would fail in 1.3 years.
The septic tank holds the floatable and settleable solids, but does not remove suspended solids or soluble organics, and does not mitigate toxins. With aerobic treatment, a larger percentage of suspended solids are removed, and a large percentage of soluble organics are converted to settleable solids also being removed from the wastewater. This only occurs when toxins are below operating limits.
Whether soil-based or aerobic, the disposal field will eventually plug and seal off, causing failure.
Toxins come from everyday household cleaners. In 2010, the USEPA banned the use of phosphates in household cleaners in order to prevent algae blooms in streams and rivers, which degrade water quality. The cleaning products industry had to replace phosphates with another chemical, and the cheapest alternative were quaternary ammonium cations (quats). Quats are designed to kill bacteria and thus disrupt any biological treatment process, whether in a centralized, aerobic or soil-based treatment system.
When you fill up your disposal field with garbage every day, it will eventually run out of room. Thus, soil-based treatment systems can only be temporary until they fail.
Solving the “Centralized vs. Decentralized” Dichotomy: Onsite membrane bioreactors are based on science and physical separation of the pollutants and pathogens to create filtrate. Even though we use onsite water dispersal, these systems are not soil-based technologies, but they replace the idea of using septic systems or hookups to a centralized sewer network. For onsite water recycling systems, three things are important: 1) quality of filtrate; 2) quantity of filtrate; and 3) rate of filtrate delivery.
Onsite Water Recycling Systems: The BioBarrier® water recycling system provides precise process control for complete treatment before dispersing the filtrate. The only factor in sizing is hydroconductivity so water doesn’t surface. Even if this occurs, there is no public health risk because the water is free of bacteria. The remedy would be a small, inexpensive addition to the dispersal area.
This is how these sub-surface, dispersing, water-recycling systems can be based solely on hydroconductivity, can last for the life of the home or commercial property, and thus are as permanent as public sewers with zero money for up-front cost of piping, EPA permitting, and pump stations with corresponding sewer systems.
Quality of Filtrate: The soluble organics, pathogens, and suspended solids are all below detectable limits. This means no change in hydraulic conductivity over time. Because of the lack of organics and solids, the soil’s absorption rate remains constant over time.
Quantity of Filtrate: The size of dispersal area is the same, regardless of the influent strength of wastewater, whether domestic, commercial, or even extremely high-strength waste. If hydraulic overloads occur, the excess will be trapped and monitored with high-level alarms and process control strategy. The system overcomes the rate by shutting down and alerting maintenance, and therefore, the dispersal area can never be hydraulically overloaded beyond its design limits.
Rate of Filtrate Delivery: This is based on discharge of restricted flow, which will always be less than the filtration rate of the dispersal area, whether it’s from the most permeable to the least permeable conditions.
Using the BioBarrier is economically, ecologically, and, from a public health standpoint, is safer than either centralized sewering or soil-based treatment technologies. Lot size has always been limited by availability of public sewer or land for soil-based treatment. The BioBarrier’s filtrate dispersal area is smaller than the disposal area of a soil-based treatment system, typically one-tenth the size.
Conclusion: The BioBarrier is the lowest risk for distributed or onsite systems for total water management.
Enabled the Reclamation of Illinois Strip Mine into Recreational Resort
Goose Lake Ranch is an 800 plus acre reclaimed strip mine property in Fulton County, Illinois consisting of over 50 lakes that are famous for incredible fishing. The Herman Brothers family is rehabbing an existing campground, adding resort cabins, and 90 campsites and they plan to film a TV series on the property.
Since the property consists almost completely of reclaimed coalmine spoils and lakes in close proximity to each other, it posed some extremely challenging wastewater situations. The inconsistent soils, numerous lakes and drastic elevation changes challenged system designers along with stringent new code requirements.
NSF350 water recycling membrane systems were designed to meet the challenge the include Bio-Microbics® BioBarrier® Membrane (MBR) systems installed within Infiltrator IM-Series Tanks. The numerous MBRs are either 500 or 1000 GPD units and are built to suit the location with single units for individual cabins and 1000 GPD MBRs serve clusters of resort cabins, beach houses, a store, and a banquet hall. Installing the Infiltrator IM-Series Tanks allowed the units to be constructed in a shop to specifications and then delivered and installed around the property as needed without requiring a heavy boom truck thus saving substantial expenses.
EZflow by Infiltrator was used for the treated effluent dispersal fields, eliminating heavy trucking and the spreading and compaction challenges of stone. The Infiltrator IM-Series Tanks are also used for trash and pump tanks and the dispersal fields are time dosed by Aquaworx IPC Control Panels.
A blower outside the tanks in a plastic enclosure blows air to scour the membrane to keep it clean which keeps the biomass alive and growing. A 1.5 amp marine pump is attached to each MBR and very slowly pulls the recycled water out and then transitions to gravity flow to the EZflow dispersal fields. ~ Infiltrator Water Technologies
Powerful antimicrobial chemicals (also known as disinfectants) are increasingly found in household cleaners, from laundry detergent to kitchen cleaners. Research has shown the most common disinfectants, namely Chlorine bleach, Ammonia, Triclosan/Triclocarban, Ammonia Quaternary compounds (Quats), and Nano-silver used in cleaners could have serious health consequences and disrupt your onsite treatment system.
The main sources of cleaners that contain harmful chemicals are (in order of concentration):
1. Automatic dish-washing detergent
2. Liquid fabric softener
3. Toilet bowl cleaner
4. Laundry detergent
Product Labeling Laws.
Current labeling laws don’t require listing what cleaning products contain. Compounding this, the EPA has required the removal of phosphates (nutrients that cause algae blooms in lakes and rivers) from cleaning products. However, the phosphates were replaced with quaternary compounds to still be effective against bacteria.
Many of these are the worst offenders that disrupt a septic system and some are actually labeled “Safe for Septic Systems.” If no information is given on the label, ask for an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) from the product manufacturer.