Book Educates Key Groups On Treatment Basics

A new book aims to describe collection, treatment and recycling in terms almost anyone can understand.
Book Educates Key Groups On Treatment Basics
Turning Sewage Into Reusable Water: Written for the Layperson

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Search for information about wastewater treatment and most likely you’ll find two extremes: Brochures and websites giving brief and extremely basic overviews, and technical materials designed for industry professionals.

You may have wondered why no one created something in between — a reasonably complete description of the processes, in terms simple enough for almost anyone to understand. Well, now someone has. Joseph Reichenberger, P.E., and Madan Arora, Ph.D., P.E., have published a 160-page book, Turning Sewage Into Reusable Water: Written for the Layperson.

Reichenberger observes, “Our intent was to produce a nontechnical (or at least as nontechnical as possible) book on the important subject of treating our wastewater and recycling it. Our hope is that civic leaders and decision-makers, along with students and others, would find this informative.”

A useful tool

If you’re an operator, you aren’t going to learn from this book — it’s well below your level, by design. But that doesn’t mean it’s without value to the profession. Here’s a book you can share with your utility board and city council members, local journalists, civic leaders and others whose support helps you do your job well. Perhaps best of all, it’s a book to share with young people who show an interest in clean-water careers, and with the high school teachers and guidance counselors who advise them.

The trick is to get people who receive the book to actually read it. Many or most likely will not, but those who do will come away with a better understanding of and appreciation for what you do every day. And for that reason alone, this book is a good thing.

The co-authors have deep experience in wastewater treatment. Reichenberger is a professor of civil engineering and environmental science at Loyola Marymount University; Arora is a technical director at the Parsons engineering and construction company. Both are life members of the Water Environment Federation and registered civil engineers, each with more than 50 years’ experience in water, wastewater treatment and water recycling facilities.

Essential understanding

The authors believe the book can help generate more positive dialogue about wastewater treatment. “Political leaders in general know very little about this topic,” says Reichenberger. “At times I read articles in the newspaper, and the reporters don’t get things quite right. Sometimes they actually shed a bad light on the industry, as when they talk about biosolids being a hazardous waste.

“We decided to create a book that would be easy to digest and give some basic background and facts. Our intent was to help decision-makers ask the right questions of their staffs, and understand the technical information their staffs send them, so that when the plant operators say they need a new laboratory information system, for example, or a program to control I&I, they understand the reason behind it. If it helps officials better appreciate what their operators and public works staffs are up against, it can be a real asset.

“The book should also be useful for middle school and high school students and for environmental science teachers. And someone coming into a plant as an operator intern could benefit from it, because it provides a thumbnail view of what the system does.”  

The whole picture

The book covers wastewater treatment from start to finish, beginning with the water cycle. It outlines the history of treatment and the attendant regulations; it describes collections systems and I&I, effluent limits, the basic treatment stages (primary, secondary, tertiary, advanced), biosolids handling, water recycling and reuse, treatment costs, and sustainability in treatment plants. It includes sections on decentralized treatment (individual and cluster septic systems) and on natural treatment systems such as lagoons and constructed wetlands.

Is this book perfect? No. It could have benefited from very simple diagrams of the various treatment processes, because most people respond better to “show and tell” than to just “tell.” For example, pictures of primary clarifiers, aeration basins and secondary clarifiers are fine, but they don’t show what actually goes on inside, and that’s what readers need to understand.

Overall, though, this a worthy effort to tackle a challenging subject for the benefit of a diverse yet important set of audiences. Turning Sewage Into Reusable Water (Archway Publishing) is available in hardcover, softcover and as an e-book. It can be ordered online through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.   



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