Water and wastewater treatment facilities across the country have experienced a significant change to their intake flows due to the COVID pandemic. Many facilities located in suburban areas have experienced a significant increase of intake flow while other facilities located in downtown locations have experienced a decrease. While drastic change in flow volume affects many different operational processes of a wastewater treatment facility, the most important aspect it impacts is the biology of the facility.

The biology that is used to treat wastewater relies on a specific amount of intake flow to survive. When facilities experience an immediate reduction in intake flow, facilities must find an alternative food source for the biology to avoid strains on equipment and long-term issues to asset life cycle time.

This week, Pinnacle’s Teddy Huerta interviewed Christian Miranda and Wyatt Troxel to discuss the challenges their clients have had adjusting their biology to the drastic changes in flow levels. Miranda is an Operations and Maintenance Manager at Pinnacle and Troxel is Grade 5 operator and consultant for wastewater optimization and troubleshooting.

One of your customers has been seriously affected by a drastic decrease in flow to its wastewater treatment facility. How did you and your team quickly adjust to keep the biology alive and avoid long-term issues to the facility?

CM: We were facing two shutdowns at two different facilities due to the immediate decrease in flow caused by the pandemic. The facilities are located near hotels and are completely dependent on the flow provided from the hotels and local casinos to feed their biology. When travel restrictions were put in place, the hotels and casinos had to shut down which immediately decreased the flow to the wastewater treatment facilities. Additionally, cleaning crews were using extra chemicals to clean the hotels which were flushed down their pipes and affected the facility’s biology.

We created two plans: a shutdown plan and a plan for bringing the facilities back up to speed after the hotels opened back up. Additionally, we implemented a flushing program which minimized the amount of stagnant water sitting in the pipes. The stagnant water could cause CO damage to the faucets and could cause septic flow to enter the facility and kill the biology.

How did you manage your client’s biology and processes when they had less throughput and volumetric flow?

CM: We maintained clear, direct communication with their water quality control board. Our main priority was to find a carbon source for the biology, such as sugar or dog food. While those two items are an immediate solution, it can be very expensive to maintain. We reached out to Wyatt who helped us get the necessary bacteria our facility needed to treat the sulfites and establish nitrification.

WT: We needed to find an immediate, sustainable solution to continue feeding the biology despite not having the sewage coming into the facility. As Christian mentioned, some facilities use sugar or dog food, but the biology needs a long-term carbon or nitrogen source to grow. One alternative food source that the industry is not yet familiar with is bioaugmentation, also known as population mechanics. With bioaugmentation, you manage the biology by importing the biology and not importing the food. One crucial element for bioaugmentation to be successful is knowing the nature of your sewage and the diversity of your population in your treatment plant, particularly the activated sludge. Through analytical procedures and DNA analysis, you have a better shot at importing the specific cultures that fit your facility’s demographics.

For more information on how you can address the challenges caused by reduced flow, listen to the entire discussion by watching the recording below.

Watch the Full Recording

For more information on how how your facility can overcome challenges caused by COVID-19,
watch the full event recording here.

View Other Water Reliability Topics

Have any questions for the presenter?