Process overview

Process overview

    • Sewage can be treated close to where it is created (in septic tanks, biofilters or aerobic treatment systems), or collected and transported via a network of pipes and pump stations to a municipal treatment plant. Sewage collection and treatment is typically subject to local, state and federal regulations and standards. Industrial sources of wastewater often require specialized treatment processes.

    • Conventional sewage treatment may involve three stages, called primary, secondary and tertiary treatment. Primary treatment consists of temporarily holding the sewage in a quiescent basin where heavy solids can settle to the bottom while oil, grease and lighter solids float to the surface. The settled and floating materials are removed and the remaining liquid may be discharged or subjected to secondary treatment. Secondary treatment removes dissolved and suspended biological matter. Secondary treatment is typically performed by indigenous, water-borne micro-organisms in a managed habitat.

    • Secondary treatment may require a separation process to remove the micro-organisms from the treated water prior to discharge or tertiary treatment. Tertiary treatment is sometimes defined as anything more than primary and secondary treatment. Treated water is sometimes disinfected chemically or physically (for example by lagoons and microfiltration) prior to discharge into a stream, river, bay, lagoon or wetland, or it can be used for the irrigation of a golf course, green way or park. If it is sufficiently clean, it can also be used for groundwater recharge or agricultural purposes.
    • Pre-treatment removes materials that can be easily collected from the raw wastewater before they damage or clog the pumps and skimmers of primary treatment clarifiers.


    • The influent sewage water is strained to remove all large objects carried in the sewage stream. This is most commonly done with an automated mechanically raked bar screen in modern plants serving large populations, whilst in smaller or less modern plants a manually cleaned screen may be used. The raking action of a mechanical bar screen is typically paced according to the accumulation on the bar screens and/or flow rate. The solids are collected and later disposed in a landfill or incinerated.

    Grit removal

    • Pretreatment may include a sand or grit channel or chamber where the velocity of the incoming wastewater is carefully controlled to allow sand, grit and stones to settle.

Last modified: Wednesday, 29 February 2012, 9:43 PM