by Jennie Saxe
At your local wastewater treatment plant, professional operators not only use precisely-dosed treatment chemicals, but they also utilize mother nature – a diverse community of microorganisms – to successfully treat the wastewater that’s collected. While wastewater treatment plants have always been on the front lines of protecting public health and the environment, some treatment plants, like the one we blogged about in York, Pennsylvania, are now also investigating technologies to become resource recovery facilities, pulling phosphorus out of wastewater for fertilizer and capturing natural gas to produce energy.
EPA’s recent progress report on Promoting Innovation for a Sustainable Water Future highlights many examples of innovation in the wastewater sector, including three wastewater treatment plants in the mid-Atlantic:
- The Philadelphia Water Department is using the heat from wastewater to warm its facilities and save money on energy bills.
- In our nation’s capitol, DC Water is using a Cambi process to create biogas and generate energy.
- The town of Crisfield, Maryland, is planning to use the coastal location of its wastewater treatment plant to generate wind energy, a project that is anticipated to power the treatment plant and save the town up to $200,000 each year in energy costs.
And just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) is taking steps to produce enough energy to “get off the grid” entirely.
Still not sold on the wonder of wastewater treatment? Check out this new video featuring CCMUA’s “net zero” energy approach. It just may open your eyes to some innovative things that wastewater treatment plants can do for the communities they serve – leading the way to a more sustainable future by becoming “net zero heroes.”
About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs.