Bacteria WWTP system

The existing bacteria based system at the Roberts Waste Water Treatment Plant was impacted by a high amounts of a chemical similar to hand sanitizer. Photo provided by CLEARAS Water Recovery.

About two weeks ago, a chemical infiltrated the system at the WasteWater Treatment Plant located in Roberts, killing part of the bacteria that assists in treating the area's wastewater. 

A high amount of a chemical called diisooctyl adipate, similar to common household hand sanitizer, made its way into the first, bacterial cleaning system, referred to as a Sequencing Batch Reactor. It uses bacteria to, primarily, convert ammonia to nitrate and nitrite. Due to the disruption in the first line of defense, a significant amount of solids made their way into the CLEARAS Water Recovery algae system. The facility isolated the SBRs from the algae system to focus on the SBR cleanup. 

“As soon as the SBR system returns to the level of treatment which can be expected, the CLEARAS ABNR [algae] system will be brought back online and treatment between the SBR and ABNR will resume,” said Jordan Lind, co-founder of CLEARAS Water Recovery. Both biologies, the algae and bacteria, will need an acclimation and growth period to meet the appropriate densities to resume treatment.

“One of the first things we did was isolate what we had to and notify the DNR,” said Public Works Director John Bond. 

In the meantime, the treatment plant has been maintaining its systems using a series of chemical treatments and precipitating things out in order to keep pollutants from leaving the plant, Bond said.

During COVID-19, “People are using so many disinfectants and the volume of disinfectant, it’s stressed biological systems all throughout the area,” said Bond. 

The plant intends to implement strategies to avoid contaminations like this in the future.

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