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Drinking Water and Wastewater From Sanitation, Research Paper Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1349

Research Paper

The United States has one of the safest public drinking supplies, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  (CDC, 2009)  Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the public drinking system is composed of both community and non-community systems. (CDC, 2009)   The community water system is responsible for supplying water to the same population throughout the year; whereas a non-community water system is composed of transient and non-transient water systems that provide water to different populations throughout different times of the year.  The EPA is also responsible for drinking water regulations and is composed of National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs).  The purpose of these regulations is to monitor the public water systems in order to protect the public from consuming high levels of contaminants in drinking water.  There are over 150,000 public water systems in the United States.  In addition, almost 300 million United States residents obtain their tap water from community water systems, which provide over 80% of the water to the U.S. population through municipal water systems. (EPA, 2008)   This paper describes the regulations enforced by the EPA, the types of contaminants present in drinking water and the processes that sanitation districts use to treat wastewater before it is available to the public.

The first recognition of pollutants in the U.S. surface waters was the implementation of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The CWA is responsible for regulating the standards that apply to surface waters and regulating the discharge of pollutants into the waters of the United States.   Through the CWA, the EPA has also provided programs for pollution control, particularly in the sanitation operations, such as wastewater industries.  In addition, water quality standards in regard to contaminants have also been established.  (EPA, 2012a)  The EPA implemented the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit in order to control the discharge of pollutants from points of source into surface waters.  The points of interest are structures, such as pipes.  The permit conditions industries and municipal companies to obtain the permit if they are discharging wastewater directly into the surface waters.  (EPA, 2012a)

In addition to the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) was also established.  This Act was established in 1974 for purpose of directly focusing on water that had potential use for drinking, whether from surface water or underground water sources.  The Act implemented water quality standard for public health.  (EPA, 2012b)   Through this Act the public water systems and sanitation districts must meet water standards.  The water quality is therefore analyzed through biological and chemical methods in order to meet the federal monitoring regulations in regard to drinking water compliance.  In addition, the companies must comply with the methods that were approved through the EPA.  There are several methods and standards that must be followed and met for drinking water such as, inorganic contaminants and other inorganic constituents, radionuclides, organic contaminants, disinfection byproducts, total Coliform, Ground Water Rules, and long term enhanced surface water treatment.  (EPA, 2012c)  These standards must be applied in order to provide drinking water, as well as obtain the NPDES permit to release wastewater into the surrounding surface waters.

Wastewater is an important source of contamination for drinking water.  Wastewater can come from different sources, such as residential or industrial and is therefore composed of bathroom, kitchen and industrial wastes.  The wastewater is treated because contains microorganisms and chemicals, as well as, can impact the ecology of the environment.  In regard to human health, medical experts need to consume at least two liters of water per day and therefore, the health of individuals depends on the availability of clean and safe drinking water.

Due to the increase in population size, industrial, community, and technology development, there is also an increase in the possible contamination of drinking water.  For instance, water contamination can occur through animal and human waste, landfills, or chemicals that were not disposed of correctly.  (Ahmed, 2012)

Due to the possibility of the risk of human health, the sanitation and water districts are responsible for treating the water that is to be used for human consumption.  Again, the industries must follow the regulations provided through the EPA.  The treatment processes that occur at wastewater treatment plants follow the natural and physical biological processes that would normally occur to sewage waste.  The treatment plants move the wastewater into tanks in which the natural and physical biological processes occur in the waste, removing most of chemicals and biological organisms.   (OCSD, 2012)  There are three different types of treatment in which wastewater undergoes,

The preliminary treatment is the initial step to the process.  This occurs when the wastewater enters the sanitation plant.  During this step there are usually large pieces of trash or other types of objects.  The larger objects are filtered through a screen and the wastewater is then flowed into grit chambers where the smaller types of objects are filtered out.  The waste then flows to the primary settling tanks where advanced primary treatment takes place.  During this treatment process, no biological process occurs, only physical processes.  The buoyancy effect acts upon the solids in the water, allowing the lighter material to float at the surface and the heavier material to sink to the bottom.  In these tanks, there are skimmers at the top and scrapers at the bottom that get rid of the material.  (OCSD, 2012)

After advanced primary treatment, the wastewater enters secondary treatment where the treatment plants divide the waste into two paths.  One path lead to trickling filtration and the second path leads to a sludge aeration tank.  During the trickling filtration, water is trickled over matrix containing a microbial biofilm.  The microbes on the film extract most of the organic material in the wastewater.  The other path leading to the sludge aeration takes allows the water to be stirred, air injected and colonies of aerobic (oxygen loving) bacteria added.  Again, here the bacteria consume most of the organic material in the wastewater.  The wastewater for both paths enters the settling tanks after secondary treatment and undergoes disinfection using chlorine bleach to kill the remaining microorganisms.  (OCSD, 2012)

The wastewater that has been treated has the possibility of different destinations, such as coastal groundwater outflow, offshore ocean discharge (depending on location of district), and water districts.  The water going to the districts to be used for drinking water undergoes the tertiary treatment where it removes dissolved substances, such as metal, organic chemicals and nutrients.  The biological process that occurs during this process is termed Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR).  (SDWF, 2012)

Although the wastewater treatment processes remove a great deal of the contaminants initially found in wastewater before it is released for drinking purposes, there are still ways that wastewater can end up polluted.  For instance, not all of the waste actually makes it to the wastewater treatment plant for treatment.  In addition, sewer failure can cause problems with the wastewater, as well as old pipes that collect stormwater runoff and sewage.  Therefore, if heavy rain occurs, the possibility of sewage and stormwater released into the environment can occur.

Not only can there be harmful effects to human health, but there can be harmful effects to organisms in the environment.  (SDWF, 2012)

Overall, it is important for the EPA to continually monitor the wastewater industries and make sure the regulations and permits are followed and acquired in accordance to the water quality standards.  Safe drinking water is necessary to sustain the health and individuals, as well help maintain the health and ecology of organisms in the environment.

References

Ahmed, R.  (2012). Drinking Water Contamination and its Effects on Human Health.  MPHP 429: Introduction to Environmental Health.  Water Research Foundation.  9pps.  Available at: http://www.cwru.edu/med/epidbio/mphp439/Drinking_Water.pdf

CDC.  (2009).  Public Water Systems.  Web. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/public/index.html

EPA.  (2008).  Environmental Protection Agency. Factoids: drinking water and ground water statistics for 2007. March 2008, April 2008. Available at http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/cwa.html

EPA.  (2012a).  Summary of the Clean Water Act. Laws and Regulations.  Web. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/data/getdata.html.

EPA.  (2012b).  Summary of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Web.  Available at: http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/sdwa.html

EPA.  (2012c).  Drinking Water Analytical Methods.  Web.  Available at: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/drinkingwater/labcert/analyticalmethods.cfm

OCSD.  (2012).  Orange County Sanitation District.  Environmental Biology Lab, Fullerton College.  8pgs.

SDWF.  (2012).  Wastewater Treatment.  Available at: http://www.safewater.org/PDFS/resourcesknowthefacts/WastewaterTreatment.pdf.

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