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Treatment plants remove impurities contained in wastewater so that the treated wastewater can be safely returned to the environment. The same stabilization occurs in nature, to break down wastewater to its most basic components of carbon dioxide and water, if given enough time. Due to the increase in the earth’s population and the volume of wastewater generated, the natural process would be overwhelmed. A wastewater treatment plant speeds up the process. The cleaned water is disinfected and returned to local rivers and creeks.
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Wastewater comes from our homes in the form of human and household wastes from toilets, baths and drains as well as from industries, schools and businesses in the form of wastes from factories, food service operations, shopping centers, etc. On average, each person in the US contributes approximately 100 gallons of wastewater daily.
All of the wastewater treatment plants operated by the Frederick County Division of Water and Sewer Utilities use Ultraviolet light to disinfect the wastewater discharge (effluent).
The daily treatment plant operation is conducted by highly trained and state certified wastewater operators. Wastewater operators are required to obtain and maintain state certification. In order to become certified, the operator must be a trainee for 3 years and pass the state certification exam and attend a minimum of 30 to 46 CEUs of approved certification training, every three years to maintain their certification. In addition to operations staff, a team of maintenance personnel are required to maintain the equipment at the treatment plant as well as over 432 miles of sewer line and 33 pump stations that are part of the wastewater collection system.
The Division of Water and Sewer Utilities currently operates 10 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs).
The plants operated by the Division of Water and Sewer Utilities range in size from 5,000 gallons per day to 15 million gallons per day (MGD).The Ballenger-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant is the County’s largest and most sophisticated treatment plant. It was recently upgraded to provide Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR) treatment to remove Nitrogen and Phosphorus and uses membrane technology to produce high quality effluent. It has a permitted capacity of 15.0 MGD and is manned by certified operators 24 hours/day, 365 days per year.
Any products that are labeled as hazardous materials should never be disposed of in the sewer. Hazardous materials are often labeled as corrosive, toxic, reactive or flammable. The list includes many items we have in our homes such as all-purpose cleaners, antifreeze, paint, paint thinner, pool chemicals, solvents and motor oil to name a few.
Many of the paper products labeled “flushable” should not be disposed of in the sewer. For example, “disposable wipes” do not breakdown in the sewer and cause clogs in the sewers and pumps.
Animal and vegetable derived cooking oils and grease can block drains and sewer lines.
Homeowners can collect grease in a metal can and, once it cools, place it in the trash. Restaurants and other commercial food preparation activities that generate a large quantity of fat and oil are required to have grease traps installed and have them pumped regularly to keep grease from entering the sewer.