Automated Wastewater Treatment: Clean, Compliant and Cost-Effective

March 31, 2021

Manufacturers involved in metal forming, fabricating, machining or finishing all must meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as other federal, state and local wastewater requirements for effluent. Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA has identified 65 pollutants and classes of pollutants as “toxic pollutants,” of which 126 specific substances have been designated “priority” toxic pollutants. 

Equipment-Automated-Wastewater-Treatment-SaboTypically, metal-processing industries rely on washing to remove any residue, lubricant, oil or acid before, during or after various process steps. Doing so generates significant amounts of wastewater, including coolant, acid, alkaline or etching compounds and rinses. Metal refining, stamping, tube forming, machining, grinding, quenching, tumbling, plating, electroplating, powder coating and scrap-metal recovery all contribute to the wastewater stream. Manufacturers must take measures to monitor the stream and clean it up. Failing to meet requirements to remove and dispose of targeted substances from wastewater streams can result in severe and quickly escalating fines.

For manufacturers dealing with metal, this means installing wastewater-treatment systems that effectively separate the contaminants from the water so that the processed water legally can be discharged into sewer systems, or even re-used.
However, traditional wastewater-treatment systems can be complex, often requiring multiple steps, a variety of chemicals and a considerable amount of labor. Even with supposedly automated systems, too often technicians still must 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 still can fall below mandated requirements.

Paying to haul away wastewater, while an option, proves extraordinarily expensive. Much more cost-effective: treating industrial wastewater at its source, enabling treated effluent to enter the sewer and treated sludge that passes a TCLP (Toxicity Characteristics Leaching Procedure) test to be disposed of as nonhazardous waste in a local landfill.

Fortunately, employing fully automated wastewater-treatment systems makes complying with EPA and local wastewater regulations much easier. Such systems not only reliably meet regulatory wastewater requirements, but when using the proper separating agents, also significantly reduce the cost of treatment, labor and disposal.

Less Monitoring, Fewer Steps

Separation-Automated-Wastewater-Treatment-SaboIn contrast to labor-intensive, multiple-step processes, automated wastewater treatment, usually a one-step process, also helps streamline production while lowering production costs.

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 within minutes. That’s according to the metal-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. 

A de-watering table or bag-filter setup typically separates the water for discharge into sewer systems for further filtering and reuse as process water. Other de-watering options include using a filter press or rotary drum vacuum. The resulting solids, non-leachable and considered nonhazardous, will pass all required testing.

Wastewater-treatment systems employing the above-mentioned features are available as manual batch processors or as semiautomatic and automatic setups. They can be designed as closed-loop systems for water reuse or to provide legally dischargeable effluent suitable for the sewer system. That said, proper wastewater treatment may not require a new, fully customized system. In many cases, adding to or modifying a facility’s current system, when feasible, yields a quick and cost-effective remedy.

Note that with every wastewater stream unique to its industry and application, each treatment solution also must be tailored to the application. The first step in evaluating the potential cost savings and effectiveness of a new system, according to Sabo Industrial experts: Sample the wastewater to determine its chemical makeup, and undertake a full review of local water-authority requirements.

Also, analyze the volume of wastewater to be treated, which determines whether a batch unit or flow-through system is required. Other considerations include size restrictions, which ensures that the system fits within a facility’s available footprint.

Separating Agents Are Key

Despite the advances in automating wastewater-treatment equipment, any such system requires the use of effective separating agents that agglomerate with the solids in the wastewater. These agents allow safe and effective solids separation.

For example, Sabo Industrial’s ClearTreat line of wastewater-treatment chemicals uses a special type of bentonite clay. The ClearTreat line is formulated to break oil and water emulsion, provide heavy metals removal, and promote flocculation, agglomeration and suspended-solids removal.

Bentonite, featuring a large specific surface area with a net negative charge, provides a particularly effective adsorbent and ion exchange for wastewater-treatment applications to remove heavy metals, organic pollutants, nutrients, etc. These attributes make bentonite essential to effectively encapsulate the materials—typically achieved in a one-step treatment, which lowers process and disposal costs.

In contrast, polymer-based products do not encapsulate the toxins, making systems using that type of separating agent more prone to having waste products leach back out over time or upon further agitation.

Today’s automated systems, along with effective separating agents, provide metal-parts manufacturers with cost-effective solutions that allow compliance with local ordinances and the EPA. Although automated wastewater-treatments systems entail a cost, they do not require much attention and prove much more economical than paying fines or hauling waste. MF

Article provided by Sabo Industrial, Newburgh, NY; 845/562-5751; email;

Industry-Related Terms: Electroplating, Etching, Forming, Grinding, Powder Coating, Quenching, Solids, Surface
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Sabo Industrial Corp.

Technologies: Finishing


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