Key topics on COVID-19’s impact on wastewater treatment

During the trying times our country and the entire world is experiencing, it is difficult to predict the myriad of possible measures that will be employed to maintain the nation’s critical infrastructure.  Increased production due to higher demand, production curtailment or full shutdown due to reduced staffing, postponed maintenance periods, extra disinfection procedures, and other scenarios will all ultimately have an impact on downstream operations, such as the wastewater treatment process. 

Many familiar with operations of a biological wastewater treatment facility are aware that these systems sometimes behave more closely to living organisms than chemical processes and are significantly impacted by changes in the eight biological growth pressures: BOD/COD/TOC (food) loading, pH, temperature, viability of the bacterial population, toxicity and/or inhibition, retention time, dissolved oxygen availability, and macronutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). 

Our supply chain is strong and has no foreseeable breaks in the coming months due to COVID-19. The supply of nutrient products, bacteria products (including nitrifying bacteria), consulting and expertise, and laboratory services will remain available for the duration of this pandemic to assist our clients and potential clients with the management of these eight growth pressures. Our top priority is the safety and well being of our client base, our employees, and their families, but in the face of this adversity, we are here to help during these difficult times.  

Key topics

Facility shutdowns and startups

Decreased BOD/COD/TOC loading

Bacteria supplementation

Nitrification loss

Supplemental nutrients

Decreased aeration capacity

Establishing baseline laboratory data

Success starts with having a good shutdown or startup plan

A wastewater treatment system will face many diverse challenges even under ideal circumstances, and every system is different. Maintaining proper nutrient levels, adjusting to variations in loading, and the health of the biomass are all important considerations that the operations staff must account for. However, when less than ideal circumstances arise those everyday challenges can become real obstacles. Whether it’s a planned outage or simply wanting to start back up after, success starts with having a good plan in place. There are a few key areas to focus on, but every system will have its own unique challenges. Screw and belt press operation, clarifier performance, and pump maintenance are all important operational items. Understanding the health of your biomass, ensuring an adequate supply of nutrients is on hand, and having well-trained operators who understand what the system is telling them, is equally important. Analytically, obtaining a good baseline dataset prior to going into the outage is crucial to have a benchmark to compare to when coming back on-line. EBS can assist with outage planning as well as establishing an effective, efficient process for starting back up again.

At times, using a supplemental BOD source such as MicroCarb may be necessary

When industrial operations slow down due to unforeseen circumstances or cease altogether, the accompanying reduction in BOD loading to the WWTP can have adverse effects on the microorganisms. The health of the biomass depends on a consistent source of BOD loading to prevent endogenous decay. Supplementing with alternative BOD sources such as EBS’ MicroCarb is the ideal solution. MicroCarb is non-hazardous and is a more readily biodegradable food source than some less conventional approaches, and is more economically viable, with more BOD content per dollar spent. The average system loses approximately 3-5% of its biomass per day without food. Adding MicroCarb will help ensure that the WWTP is able to weather the storm and sustain a healthy, viable biomass that is better able to respond when normal operations resume.

Case Study: Alternative Carbon Source Comparison

Bioaugmentation can make a system more resilient and more responsive to change

Bioaugmentation can give a much-needed boost to the bacterial population of a wastewater treatment system under certain conditions, such as startup following an outage or shutdown, additional toxic or inhibitory substances due to increased cleaning frequencies or less precise chemical feeds (think reduced staffing to control), or increased BOD load due to production increases to meet market demands for urgently needed materials.  By using our patented BAC unit technology, EBS can increase the efficiency of bacteria application over 100 times and significantly reduce cost, when compared to traditional bioaugmentation application methodologies. EBS has the right bacterial formulations to meet the needs of various industries’ wastewater treatment types.

Case Study: BOD Removal through Bioaugmentation

Nitrifying bacteria are particularly susceptible and may need a boost

Nitrifying bacteria are generally one of the most sensitive strains of bacteria within a wastewater treatment system.  Under changing conditions, the nitrifying bacteria can die off due to lack of food, excess of food, temperature and pH fluctuations, and HRT and SRT fluctuations.  If your facility is permitted on ammonia and you’ve lost your nitrifying bacteria, EBS NitriStar will provide a boost to your biological population to help stay within permit limits.  EBS NitriStar is a live culture blend of Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter with an ammonia removal rate of at least 500 mg NH3/hr/kg product.

Application of NitriStar to Improve Ammonia Removal

Maintaining adequate nutrients is especially critical for building a robust biomass

Macronutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) are a critical part of industrial wastewater treatment system health.  For every 100 lbs of BOD to remove, bacteria require 5 lbs of nitrogen and 1 lb of phosphorus. Some industrial facilities have adequate macronutrients, while some must supplement with nitrogen or phosphorus or both.  EBS is a supplier of pH-neutral nitrogen and phosphorus blends of varying concentrations, commercially named MacroGro for the safe, effective application of supplemental macronutrients. MacroGro is available in tote or bulk quantities.

Calcium Nitrate (CN9) is an ideal solution for improving system performance when low DO conditions exist

Oxygen is one of the most critical of the eight biological growth pressures for a healthy wastewater treatment system.  Oxygen acts as the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain of bacteria – it’s how they “breathe”. During periods of low or no oxygen availability, most bacteria in wastewater treatment systems are facultative, meaning they can utilize other electron acceptors like nitrate, sulfate, etc.  Low dissolved oxygen scenarios can include increased BOD loading due to increased production, failure or inefficiency of aeration equipment, etc. EBS supplies CN-9 to its clients to take advantage of this facultative capability of most wastewater bacteria and allow BOD removal to continue in the absence of adequate oxygen.  CN-9 is available in tote or bulk quantities and dosing rates should be based on the amount of COD or BOD to be removed.

Application of Calcium Nitrate for Enhanced BOD Removal

Using treatability or other laboratory-based consulting allows you to better understand the conditions of the WWTP as well as monitor progress

The EBS laboratory remains open during these challenging times.  Whether routine analysis is needed, a new process is brought online to aid in COVID-19 response, or monitoring and guidance during an upset, the EBS treatability, advanced analytical, microbiology, and chemistry labs are available and ready to serve its clients and potential clients.  Treatability testing can be used to simulate the effects that process changes will have on the wastewater treatment plant so that the effects can be evaluated and prepared for before they impact the full-scale system.

Laboratory Capabilities

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