Aging wastewater treatment infrastructure and the sheer abundance of wastewater produced in the United States have created an urgent need for alternative treatment methods outside of centralized public and private wastewater treatment systems. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s 2017 report card,
the United States scored a D+ on wastewater infrastructure. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emphasizes the scope of this age problem: Data suggests that by 2020, up to half of the assets in our sewer systems may be beyond the midpoint of their useful lives (EPA, 2015). With systems in dire need of repairs and advancements, aging and neglected infrastructure cannot properly manage vast amounts of wastewater at the speed and caliber users demand.
Contaminants found in wastewater exacerbate the effects of age and impede treatment facilities’ efficiency and effectiveness. In addition to a variety of emulsions and chemical mixtures such as paints and pesticides, wastewater can also contain contaminants, such as non-toxic siloxane surfactants found in many toiletries and cleaning products, that build up on facility equipment over time, causing further damage and thus accelerating the deterioration of machinery. Without proper investments put into updating and expanding our wastewater treatment infrastructure, the consequences of sewer system deterioration and overload remain a present threat. Alternative wastewater treatment solutions alleviate a portion of the stress put on centralized treatment infrastructure while producing an oftentimes cleaner, safer effluent.