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Michigan Environmental Education Curriculum
Wastewater Treatment

Pretty much everything that happens in a wastewater treatment plant would happen in nature anyway. Pathogens would die. Solids would settle to the lake bottom. Nutrients would be removed from the water by plants. Organic matter would decompose. And, toxic materials would eventually move into the air or into the bottom sediments of a river or lake. In the process, however, the health of humans and wildlife would be threatened and our waters would no longer be fishable and swimmable.

The trick with wastewater treatment is that we hold the water within the plant until natural and engineered processes can remove the pollutants form the waste stream. We essentially do what nature does, but in a carefully controlled environment separated from natural ecosystems.

Wastewater Treatment Steps

The basic steps in wastewater treatment are:

  • preliminary treatment - to protect plant operation;

  • settling - to remove solids;

  • biological treatment - to remove organic matter;

  • disinfection - to remove pathogens; and

  • solids processing - to provide safe final disposal.
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