Sewage treatment (or domestic wastewater treatment, municipal wastewater treatment) is a type of wastewater treatment which aims to remove contaminants from sewage to produce an effluent that is suitable for discharge to the surrounding environment or an intended reuse application, thereby preventing water pollution from raw sewage discharges. Sewage contains wastewater from households and businesses and possibly pre-treated industrial wastewater. There is a high number of sewage treatment processes to choose from. These can range from decentralized systems (including on-site treatment systems) to large centralized systems involving a network of pipes and pump stations (called sewerage) which convey the sewage to a treatment plant. For cities that have a combined sewer, the sewers will also carry urban runoff (stormwater) to the sewage treatment plant.
A large number of sewage treatment technologies have been developed. Very broadly, they can be grouped into high tech (high cost) versus low tech (low cost) options, although some technologies might fall into either category. To decide which sewage treatment process to choose engineers and decision makers need to take into account technical and economical criteria, as well as quantitative and qualitative aspects of each alternative.: 215 Often, the main criteria for selection are: desired effluent quality, expected construction and operating costs, availability of land, energy requirements and sustainability aspects. For example, broadly speaking, the activated sludge process achieves a high effluent quality but is relatively expensive and energy intensive compared to waste stabilization ponds which are a low cost treatment option but require a lot of land. In developing countries and in rural areas with low population densities, sewage is often treated by various on-site sanitation systems and not conveyed in sewers. These systems include septic tanks connected to drain fields, on-site sewage systems (OSS), vermifilter systems and many more. An advanced, fairly expensive, sewage treatment plant in a high-income country may include primary treatment to remove solid material, secondary treatment to digest dissolved and suspended organic material, tertiary treatment to remove the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, disinfection and possibly even a fourth treatment state to remove micropollutants (although this is still rare).
At the global level, an estimated 52% of sewage is treated. However, sewage treatment rates are highly unequal for different countries around the world. For example, while high-income countries treat approximately 74% of their sewage, developing countries treat an average of just 4.2%.
The treatment of sewage is part of the field of sanitation. Sanitation also includes the management of human waste and solid waste as well as stormwater (drainage) management. The term "sewage treatment plant" is often used interchangeably with the term "wastewater treatment plant".
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