Water is essential for life, both inside and outside our bodies. Even as terrestrial animals, we have a tendency to establish major cities near large bodies of water to enhance our way of life. However, because of this dependence on and close proximity to water, our waste can drastically harm this key resource and those who use it.
Despite errors made in management in the past, a great deal of the wastewater nationwide is properly treated to prevent harm to humans and their surrounding environment. According to the EPA, wastewater treatment facilities in the United States process approximately 34 billion gallons of wastewater every day and about 25 percent of homes in the United States use septic systems that locally treat their wastewater. Existing wastewater treatment standards give the guidelines needed to perform this process.
Wastewater, if not treated properly, can cause significant environmental harm through pollution of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, the majority of which ultimately connect with and flow into the ocean. Wastewater can contain high levels of nutrients due to runoff from agriculture and other sources that can create “dead zones” in the ocean where nothing can live. To learn more about this, please refer to our past post on ISO 14000 Collection 2.
NSF/ANSI 245-2013 - Wastewater Treatment Systems - Nitrogen Reduction addresses the issue of nutrient runoff by giving guidelines for wastewater treatment systems that provide for the reduction of nitrogen, the key contributor to dead zones.
While nutrient runoff is a concern, the main reason why we control waste in human society isn’t to prevent the spread of unneeded nutrients. As our large intestines contain microbes to aid in digestion, trillions of these microbes can be found in human feces. Among these, there are microbes that cause or carry disease.
NSF P231-2003 - Microbiological Water Purifiers and NSF/ANSI 55-2015 - Ultraviolet microbiological water treatment systems give the requirements necessary for eliminating dangerous microorganisms, such as bacteria, Cryptosporidium oocysts, and Giardia cysts, from contaminated water. These standards are not necessarily intended to make nonpotable water drinkable, but to make the former waste into water pure enough to be able to exit safely into bodies of water.
However, AWWA B130-2013 - Membrane Bioreactor Systems not only gives specifications for water treatment systems for returning that water to the surrounding environment but also for the process of water reclamation, in which wastewater or other nonpotable water is made into drinking water.
In addition, NSF/ANSI 62-2015 - Drinking water distillation systems specifies the appropriate steps necessary for providing the public with a clean and safe drinking water system.
It is also important to note that non-biological chemicals can inhabit the wastewater through storm drains and other means. Removing these is just as important as handling other matter that can be harmful to humans and the environment, and they must be addressed in any wastewater management system. ASTM E2060-06(2014) - Standard Guide for Use of Coal Combustion Products for Solidification/Stabilization of Inorganic Wastes deals with this.