Who would have thought that the agriculture and food industry, as vital as they may seem, will be one of the greatest challenges in wastewater treatment? Huge amount of chemicals, nutrients, suspended and dissolved solids, organic carbon, and inorganics can damage receiving waters and disrupt publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) when not treated into a level of safety.
Each food and agricultural waste has its own contribution to the increasing challenges in wastewater treatment. As demands rise, production blows up which results to the escalation of wastewater materials. Because of that, thorough guidelines and permits are being implemented to secure that effluents will not be detrimental when discharged to sewers.
Biodegradable carbohydrates and brining products are the usual waste content of food and vegetable processing while oil, grease, fats, protein and different levels of BOD and COD are the contaminants produced in the fishing industry. Meanwhile, fats, inorganic (nitrates), and nitrogenous organic (proteins) are the waste components that are generated from meat and poultry industries.
On the other hand, dairy production also poses great challenges in wastewater treatment as latter post-milk processing is the largest contributor to the strength of the wastewater as well as wastewater production, though its products are majorly biodegradable. Oil and fat processing will never be an exemption as these products can give off big amounts of solid residues with higher levels of COD.
One technology that can potentially solve the challenges in wastewater treatment while generating energy resource is anaerobic treatment. The said treatment can create methane gas as a byproduct which can cut the cost of energy consumption in facilities. Today, it is widely used to generate electricity and provide heat in municipal waste treatment plants. Moreover, they could provide publicly owned treatment works a stable energy source and insulation but the said system might require refined operations management.
This technology may turn the challenges in the wastewater treatment as an opportunity to generate biogas which can be a promising sustainability solution. Because of the high organic carbon content of the waste material produced from the food and agriculture industry, it can be a qualified source of electricity that can power up communities while avoiding pollution.
Oakland, California and Washington, D.C. have been using this method to produce energy. Washington uses Cambi thermal hydrolysis, an advanced anaerobic digestion, and biogas process, to generate ⅓ of its electricity. While expenses in treating wastewater are high, this can be overturned as anaerobic technology can reduce offset process costs and at the same time, decrease carbon footprint and pollution.
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