Sustainability of wastewater treatment technologies

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A set of indicators that incorporate environmental, societal, and economic sustainability were developed and used to investigate the sustainability of different wastewater treatment technologies, for plant capacities of < 5 million gallons per day (MGD) or 18.9 × 103 cubic meters (m3 / day). The technologies evaluated were mechanical (i.e., activated sludge with secondary treatment), lagoon (facultative, anaerobic, and aerobic), and land treatment systems (e.g., slow rate irrigation, rapid infiltration, and overland flow). The economic indicators selected were capital, operation and management, and user costs because they determine the economic affordability of a particular technology to a community. Environmental indicators include energy use, because it indirectly measures resource utilization, and performance of the technology in removing conventional wastewater constituents such as biochemical oxygen demand, ammonia nitrogen, phosphorus, and pathogens. These indicators also determine the reuse potential of the treated wastewater. Societal indicators capture cultural acceptance of the technology through public participation and also measure whether there is improvement in the community from the specific technology through increased job opportunities, better education, or an improved local environment. While selection of a set of indicators is dependent on the geographic and demographic context of a particular community, the overall results of this study show that there are varying degrees of sustainability with each treatment technology. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Journal of Environmental Management