Achieving Water Authority Compliance with Automated Wastewater Treatment for Agriculture

Automated wastewater treatment systems can help farmers remain in compliance with EPA and local standards, while significantly reducing the cost of treatment, labor and disposal

Farmers must meet EPA and local wastewater requirements for effluent, including those

under the Clean Water Act. Under the Clean Water Act, for example, the EPA has
identified 65 pollutants and classes of pollutants as "toxic pollutants", of which 126
specific substances have been designated "priority" toxic pollutants. Failing compliance
can result in severe fines that quickly escalate.
Wastewater generated from agricultural processing operations, however, has high
concentrations of suspended solids and can vary in fruit and vegetable effluents due to the
seasonal nature of post-harvesting. Vegetable washing not only generates wastewater
with significant particulate matter and some dissolved organic matter, but also may
contain surfactants. Low levels of pesticides used to treat the vegetables may also be
present along with moderate levels of disinfectants such as chlorine. Pollutants, such as
free and emulsified oil/grease, suspended solids, organic colloids, dissolved inorganics,
sludges, and acidity or alkalinity, can also be present in agricultural wastewater and
effluents during certain stages of common waste-water treatment. So, different types of
wastewater contamination can require various strategies to remove the contamination.
For many farmers and agricultural professionals, this can require installing a wastewater
treatment system that effectively separates the contaminants from the water so it can be
legally discharged.
However, traditional wastewater treatment systems can be complex, often requiring
multiple steps, a variety of chemicals and a considerable labor. Even when the process is
supposedly automated, too often a technician must still monitor the equipment in person.
This usually requires oversight of mixing and separation, adding of chemicals, and other
tasks required to keep the process moving. Even then, the water produced can still fall
below mandated requirements.
Although paying to have agricultural wastewater hauled away is also an option, it is
extraordinarily expensive. In contrast, it is much more cost effective to treat the
agricultural wastewater at its source, so treated effluent can be legally discharged. In
addition, when treated sludge can pass a TCLP (Toxicity Characteristics Leaching
Procedure) test it can be disposed of as non-hazardous waste in a local landfill.
Fortunately, complying with EPA and local wastewater regulation has become much
easier with more fully automated, wastewater treatment systems. Such systems not only
reliably meet regulatory wastewater requirements, but also significantly reduce the cost
of treatment, labor and disposal when the proper Cleartreat® separating agents are also
Cost-Effective, Automated Wastewater Treatment
In contrast to labor-intensive multiple step processes, automated agricultural wastewater
treatment can help to streamline production, usually with a one-step process, while
lowering costs at agricultural sites.
An automated wastewater treatment system can eliminate the need to monitor equipment
in person while complying with EPA and locally mandated requirements. Such
automated systems separate suspended solids, emulsified oil and heavy metals, and
encapsulate the contaminants, producing an easily de-waterable sludge in minutes,
according to agricultural industry consultants at Sabo Industrial Corp., a New York-based
manufacturer, distributor and integrator of industrial waste treatment equipment and
solutions, including batch and fully automated systems, Cleartreat separating agents, bag
filters, and accessories.
The water is typically then separated using a de-watering table or bag filters before it is
discharged onto land, into sewer systems, or further filtered for re-use as process water.
Other options for de-watering include using a filter press or rotary drum vacuum. The
resulting solids are non-leachable and are considered non-hazardous, so will pass all
required testing.
These systems are available as manual batch processors, semi-automatic, automatic and
can be designed as a closed loop system for water reuse or provide a legally
dischargeable effluent. A new, fully customized system is not always required. In many
cases, it can be faster and more cost effective to add to or modify a facility's current
wastewater treatment systems when this is feasible.
However, because every wastewater stream is unique to its application, each wastewater
treatment solution must be specifically tailored. The first step in evaluating the potential
cost savings and effectiveness of a new system is to sample the wastewater to determine
its chemical make-up followed by a full review of local water authority requirements, say
agricultural industry consultants at Sabo Industrial.
The volume of wastewater that will be treated is also analyzed, to determine if a batch
unit or flow-through system is required. Other considerations include the size
restrictions, so the system fits within the agricultural facility's available footprint.
Separating Agents
Despite all the advances in automating wastewater treatment equipment any such system
requires effective separating agents which agglomerate with the solids in the wastewater
so the solids can be safely and effectively separated out.
Because of the importance of separating agents for wastewater treatment, Sabo Industrial
uses a special type of bentonite clay in a line of wastewater treatment chemicals called
ClearTreat. This line of wastewater treatment chemicals is formulated to promote
flocculation, agglomeration and suspended solids removal as well as break oil and water
emulsion and provide heavy metals removal.
Bentonite has a large specific surface area with a net negative charge that makes it a
particularly effective adsorbent and ion exchange for wastewater treatment applications
to remove organic pollutants, nutrients, heavy metals, etc. As such, bentonite is essential
to effectively encapsulate the materials. This can usually be achieved in one-step
treatment, which lowers process and disposal costs.
In contrast, polymer-based products do not encapsulate the toxins, so systems that use
that type of separating agent are more prone to having waste products leach back out over
time or upon further agitation.
An Irrigation Solution During Drought
As drought increasingly impacts farming, automated cleaning and reclaiming of
wastewater for irrigation can also be an important solution.
According to the USDA, treated wastewater may be the irrigation wave of the future.
Agriculture accounts for more than 80% of the nation's water consumption, notes
USDA's Economic Research Service, but water shortage is an increasing problem
worsened by persistent drought.
However, research by Clinton Williams, lead research soil scientist at ARS's U.S. Arid
Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, AZ. shows that municipal wastewater
can be used to irrigate crops, as cited in a recent USDA article.
( "The safe use of wastewater to irrigate food crops is manageable with
treatment and monitoring," said Williams in the article.
To provide needed irrigation even during periods of drought, today's automated systems
along with Cleartreat separating agents can provide farmers with easy, cost-effective
wastewater treatment so they remain compliant with local ordinances and the EPA.
Although there is a cost to these systems, they do not require much attention and can
easily be more economical than paying fines or hauling.
For more information, call 845-562-5751; Fax: 845-562-5909; email:; visit; or write to Sabo Industrial at 2
Little Britain Road Newburgh, NY 12550.

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