Year in Review: The Most Popular Articles of 2019

Year in Review: The Most Popular Articles of 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we’d like to take a few moments to look back on some of our most popular stories this year at If you missed any of these, now is your chance to catch up. Enjoy this look back at the past year.

10. Wastewater Effluent May Contain Antibiotic-Resistant DNA
Concerns surrounding antibiotic-resistant DNA are growing, and it’s a topic TPO readers were interested in this year. Read about how researchers at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering are studying the development of these genes in wastewater treatment processes.

9. Study Shows 'Flushable' Wipes Don't Disperse in Sewer Systems
It’s not as if you need an official study to tell you that so-called “flushable” wipes aren’t ideally suited for our sewer systems, but here’s some research on it anyway. A lab at Ryerson University tested 101 single-use products — of which 23 were labeled “flushable” by the manufacturer — against rigorous flushability criteria and found that not one single wipe was able to disperse safely through its sewer system test.

8. Scientists Map Huge Undersea Freshwater Aquifer in Northeast U.S.
This year, a survey of the sub-seafloor off the U.S. Northeast coast revealed a gigantic aquifer of relatively fresh water trapped in porous sediments lying below the salty ocean. The aquifer may be the largest yet discovered, as it likely stretches from the shore from Massachusetts to New Jersey extending outward 50 miles.

7. The Operators at the End of Nowhere: Treating Antarctica's Wastewater
If you’ve ever daydreamed about joining the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Program, this is the story for you. Jeanne Sabin is a wastewater treatment plant operator who took the opportunity of a lifetime — working as the sole night-shift operator at the treatment plant at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

6. How Utilities Can Ride the Wave of Operator Retirements
As a generation of operators rapidly nears retirement age, this topic continues to resonate with our readers. These retirements are leaving behind a major vacuum in the industry workforce, and increased licensure requirements are compounding the issue. Read about how utilities can prepare in this online exclusive story.

5. Are Apprenticeship Programs the Answer to Operator Shortage?
If the social media feedback we received on this story is any indication, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to the operator shortage. Apprenticeship programs can be part of a comprehensive approach in the industry, however, and the Vermont Rural Water Association is setting a great example for other groups in North America.

4. Industry Fights Back Against Biosolids Report
After a recent report by the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General casted doubt on the safety of biosolids land application, we talked to a couple sources in the biosolids industry to get their take on the matter.

3. Treatment Plant Chemical Spill Hospitalizes 55 People
These are the kinds of accidents the industry tries its hardest to avoid with proper safety protocols. In this story out of Birmingham, Alabama, workers accidentally mixed hypochlorite and ferric sulfate to create a hazardous chlorine gas at a treatment. The mishap resulted in the hospitalization of 55 people.

2. Are PFAS Regulations Going Too Far?
As if the wastewater industry didn’t have enough public perception issues, the conversation around per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has reached a fever pitch. The chemicals have been linked to health issues including hormone disruption, child development and increased cancer risk, among others. Ned Beecher of the North East Biosolids & Residuals Association calls it the most challenging issue of his 25-year career.

1. Wastewater Treatment Plants Could Become Sustainable Biorefineries
The top article of 2019 examines a Swedish university study aiming to validate a new concept to produce acetic acid and hydrogen in wastewater treatment facilities. The idea is that one day in the future, treatment plants can have a broader function by being converted into biorefineries for the production of biogas and other materials.


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