Stepping a back from my normal biological only part of waste treatment focus, I am going to consider the entire waste treatment system from an operational perspective. During daily operations, operators do not often look at average chemical usages (polymers, odor control, anti-foam), sludge wasting volumes, sludge going to off-site disposal, nutrient additions, or energy usage. As a result, often treatment costs tend to increase slowly and there is a tendency to stick with existing technologies without regard to costs or evaluating better options.
Therefore, I believe it helps for both operators and managers to conduct periodic reviews or audits of the system. This can be a simple review of daily operational charts and looking at moving averages. Or, it can be a more complete audit including outside technical review - since a new set of eyes can often help see new options or question existing practices. Even with paying for outside consultation, the savings from small reductions in per unit treatment costs can quickly add up and prove valuable to extending the effective operational life of the system.
Before doing any capital investment, an audit should be performed. As there are many competing options for your equipment purchases, it is good to get an independent engineer's opinion before committing to a single technology choice.
As for frequency of audits, it all depends on the system! However, I think it is valuable to set up a dashboard with moving averages on energy, chemical, loadings, and volumes. This dashboard will provide everyone from operators to management with a quick summary of what is taking place and trigger questioning if something suddenly increases above expected ranges.
Erik Rumbaugh has been involved in biological waste treatment for over 20 years. He has worked with industrial and municipal wastewater facilities to ensure optimal performance of their treatment systems. He is a founder of Aster Bio (www.asterbio.com) specializing in biological waste treatment.
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