How Industrial Wastewater Producers Can Reduce "User Fees"

Author: Chandler Crane | August 16, 2016 | Category: Wastewater Treatment

Industrial process waste is an unavoidable part of any operation.  Wastewater is either treated on site or sent to a municipal wastewater treatment facility.  Wastewater sent to a municipal wastewater plant is usually subject to fees.  User fees are what the municipality charges for them to treat the wastewater.  Although fee structures vary from municipality to municipality, they are often costly. 

Although unavoidable, the fees are rarely analyzed to see if there is potential cost savings. To understand where costs can be reduced, we must first examine how municipal wastewater treatment facilities determine user fees.

Municipalities charge industrial wastewater fees based on three factors: Organic Loading, Solids Loading, and Hydraulic Loading.

Organic loading is typically represented as BOD, or the amount of oxygen needed to fully oxidize the organics. This is usually tested as mg/l and calculated as pounds per day. This is factored because high organic loading costs more to treat. Therefore, the higher the organic loading, the higher the user fee.

Solids loading is typically represented as TSS, or the amount of suspended solids in the wastewater.  This is usually tested as mg/l and calculated as pounds per day.  This is factored because high solids loading costs more to remove and dispose of. Therefore, the higher the solids loading, the higher the user fee.

Hydraulic loading is simply the total volume of waste to be processed. This is usually measured and represented as gallons per day.  This is factored because the more flow, the more it costs to treat.  The higher this value is, the more you will pay.

Wastewater treatment facilities also monitor other measures that can affect user fees—for example, phosphorous, pH levels, chloride or ammonia. Knowing this, the easiest ways to reduce wastewater fees are to reduce the parameters determining your bill.  Listed below are some specific ways to do so.

1. Find Out What Is Costing You

The first step should be to look at your statement and review your permit.  After reviewing these two items, you will see where the majority of your costs are being incurred.  An experienced professional can also assist with potential savings. 

2. Equalization Tank

A possible solution to solving your problem is to install an equalization tank. An equalization tank provides some pretreatment, by reducing the peak flows and blending the wastewater. 

3. Aeration

Aeration is used in most municipal wastewater treatment plants, but performing this process before you send your wastewater could reduce the BOD and prove very cost effective.

4. Adjusting your pH levels

Most municipal wastewater plants prefer a neutral pH.  An effective system to maintain a constant pH can extend the life of your system and the municipal system.  It can also minimize the potential for unknown future costs from the damage high or low pH will cause over time. 

Waste that contains a pH that is too high or too low could shock the municipal wastewater ecosystem—destroying microorganisms and effectively stopping the processes they perform to purify waste.

5. Process Changes

The way you work could be the cause of excess user fees.  An experienced professional can review your systems to determine if there is a part of your process creating costly by-products.

User fees don't have to eat away at your profit margins! If you feel your user fees or cost for wastewater treatment is too high or you are simply looking to decrease costs of different parts of operations, you have options. Talk to an experienced wastewater professional to see what can be done in your facility.

User fees getting out of control? Ask us about it! We gladly provide technical assistance to businesses and municipalitites in Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

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