When we visit our customers at wastewater treatment plants and ask operators “what are your facility’s most pressing concerns?”, the answers we most frequently hear are ever tightening budget constraints and dealing with aging infrastructure. And this concern echoes not only in the United States, but in many parts of the world. So this is nothing new right? City budget problems have existed for years. Well, the problem is that aging infrastructure designed to treat sewage may not be equipped for rising urban populations and shrinking green space to protect us from harmful bacteria and other negative health effects.
A New York Times article highlights these concerns. For example, more than 9400 of 25000 American sewage systems have reported violating environmental laws by dumping partially treated human waste, chemicals and other hazardous materials in lakes, rivers and waterways. “This may contribute to more than 20 million illnesses each year in the U.S. alone from drinking water contaminated with bacteria and other pathogens that spread from untreated waste.”* When sewage systems overflow they may be discharged close to water intake points or public beaches which is of major concern.*
From a pump manufacturer’s stand point, obviously having updated equipment and increasing spending on infrastructure would be a great way to address the problem. But what we really need is a multifaceted solution involving government, plant operators, the public, manufacturers and environmental groups to address the modern realities of cities with aging infrastructure. After all, we all drink the same water and it is in everyone’s best interest to get involved.
Credit given: Charles Duhigg. “As Sewers Fill, Waste Poisons Waterways.” The New York Times. November 22, 2009