Industrial Liquid Waste Management: What To Know as a Facility Manager
Appropriate liquid waste management is an essential part of industrial, commercial, and residential sites.
Every year, about 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste are generated and disposed of, and it takes $271B to maintain proper wastewater infrastructure.
As a plant manager, appropriate liquid waste management tactics should not and cannot be overlooked. For the safety of humans, animals, and the environment, wastewater must be managed properly.
Many treatment and chemical plants budget significant operating capital for liquid waste management. The impact of improperly managed wastewater can result in major regulatory time-consuming issues, which is why proper operation of the process is on top of to-do lists for industrial facilities.
Let’s dive into what liquid waste management is, why it’s important, and how to manage your site.
What Is Liquid Waste?
First, what is liquid waste?
Liquid waste is anything that is contaminated and deemed unusable. Wastewater mostly comes from residential, municipal, and industrial instances. Liquid waste is essentially any liquid that gets discharged down drains or washed down pipes. Liquid waste includes fats, oils, and grease (FOG), spent chemicals, liquids, gases, solids, or sludge.
On a commercial scale, wastewater comes in byproducts, waste, or residuals of industrial projects. Papermills, manufacturing facilities, chemical plants, and pharmaceuticals factories all produce wastewater, and usually on a mass scale.
Types of Industrial Liquid Waste
- Organic and inorganic wastewater
- RCRA wastewater with heavy metals
- Human waste
- RCRA wastewater with organics
- Non-hazardous wastewater
- Oil and water mixtures
- Listed hazardous rainwater
Most of the time, liquid waste is dangerous to the environment, humans, and animals.
Why Is Liquid Waste Management Important?
Liquid waste management is important for keeping the environment, plants, animals, and humans safe and healthy.
Proper liquid waste management includes all phases of the facility process — liquid collection, storage, transportation, disposal, and treatment.
Liquid waste management is difficult to deal with and often a confusing part of a facility to navigate and strategize for without the proper knowledge and guidelines in place.
Dealing with liquid waste can be tricky because liquid can easily spread and seep into other materials and products — unlike solid waste, which can be easily sorted and removed. Liquids are hard to keep track of and it’s difficult to limit contamination. They easily spread on land, sea, and air.
Approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and most facility wastewater discharge leads to these bodies of water, making them easy targets for contaminated and hazardous liquids.
Neglecting to manage all aspects of liquid waste management can lead to contaminated water runoff. When untreated water seeps into the soil, it affects plant life and agricultural products consumed by humans. At the same time, unsafe wastewater that runs into large bodies of water can affect the water humans and animals drink, negatively impacting their health.
According to the World Health Organization, prolonged exposure or ingestion of contaminated water “can transmit diseases such [as] diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio” and is estimated to cause 485,000 diarrheal deaths each year.
Liquid waste accounts for a considerable amount of waste material accrued around the world. The World Bank expects trash disposal to rise up to 70% by the year 2050, requiring strict guidelines on how liquid waste needs to be disposed of.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) provides an in-depth guide to industrial waste management for more information.
Common Liquid Waste Disposal Practices
While storing and collecting waste can be easy, properly disposing of liquid waste is a common problem plant managers deal with. Expenses can be high, and procedures are strict.
When liquid waste is non-hazardous, dewatering can be used and is a relatively easy way to dispose of liquid waste.
Dewatering filters the solid waste out of the water. The waste is put into a large container, water is removed, leaving only the waste. Then, the solid waste is commonly disposed of at a landfill.
Dewatering is an easy process for liquid waste disposal, but not the most environmentally friendly since the solid waste is discarded and not reused.
During the process of composting, liquid waste is put in a tank or pit with microbes for a long time. The microbes decompose the sludge waste in the water. When the materials are separated, the solid waste can be reused for fertilizer since it includes beneficial nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and sodium.
Composting is a popular liquid waste disposal option in the U.S. because it’s very environmentally friendly. Both the solid and liquid waste can be used afterward.
Incineration is a very efficient and common way to dispose of liquid waste. It includes the disposal of hazardous waste such as acids, chemicals, and scrap metals.
During incineration, liquid waste is put in combustion chambers at extremely high temperatures. When this happens, it creates hot gases and ashes. The ashes are discarded, and the gas goes through a treatment process so it can safely be released into the environment.
The heat energy from the gases can also be collected and used for supplying power to turbines.
The most challenging aspect of incineration is the price. Incinerators are difficult to operate and costly to build while using a lot of energy.
Robotic Tank Cleaning
A more technologically advanced way of liquid waste management can be completed with robotics.
Remote-controlled robots are used to remove sludge from industrial tanks by a company like Ecorobotics, with the waste then treated and disposed of properly by the facility owner.
When the sludge is removed, the water can easily undergo a treatment process and become safe for disposal or, in some cases, reuse. Robots can keep humans out of confined spaces and harm’s way; plus, they limit any contact with harmful chemicals or waste.
This process allows facilities to turn liquid waste into solid waste. Bulking agents such as lime dust, sawdust, or fly ash are added to water to solidify it.
Solidification can be done in an eco-friendly way but will emit greenhouse gases, so it’s not ideal for environmentally conscious plant managers.
The solidification process is also expensive because of the bulk transportation of solid waste to the disposal site.
The root zone liquid waste method is used mainly for human liquid waste, some of the most toxic waste produced.
The root zone process involves waste going through a 4-step filtering system to create filtered, safe water that is safe enough to be released to water sources.
Upgrade Your Liquid Waste Management Methods
When liquid waste isn’t managed, stored, and disposed of properly, it leads to adverse environmental impacts and health effects on humans and animals.
If you’re still using traditional liquid waste management methods, see how utilizing robotic tank cleaning can help reduce costs, improve productivity, and reduce environmental impacts.