While industrial wastewater treatment plants are critical to communities and ecosystems across the United States, their arrival understandably generates some anxiety among local residents. This is why it’s so important for facilities to stay on good terms with the communities they exist within.
The Importance of Odor Management
Water treatment can produce unpleasant odors, particularly those associated with hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and a range of volatile organic compounds. In fact, ‘unpleasant’ may be understating the matter. These compounds can result in physical reactions in humans and animals such as discomfort or even serious illness.
The need for odor management in industrial wastewater is well documented. When a spokesperson for the Driggs Wastewater Treatment Plant in Idaho explained that the facility’s odor was only temporary in June 2022, this was just the latest in a long line of similar disputes. Similarly, the construction of two odor control units at a treatment facility in Fort Dodge, Iowa was high on the agenda as the local city council sought to justify the $8 million of public funds invested in the improvement project. To put it simply, wastewater plants need to control odors if they are to maintain good relations with local communities.
Building Strong Community Relationships in Other Ways
Odor management and natural odor control are of course vital to the relationship between wastewater treatment facilities and local communities, but there are other crucial aspects too.
A wastewater treatment plant needs to be serious about pollution and preventing the spread of this pollution into nearby waterways and environments. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and poor management of pollution has landed plants in trouble with local communities in the past.
Earlier in 2022, the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, under the jurisdiction of Baltimore City, was found to have dumped significant amounts of pollutants into the nearby river, which flows into Chesapeake Bay further downstream. The pollution was even linked to a severe ear infection suffered by a local child who had been kayaking on the river.
Pollution can be a highly visible form of contamination, and this means it is often one of the first flashpoints between water treatment plants and the communities they are situated in. Allowing pollution to escape into rivers and watercourses will quickly erode community relations, while keeping waterways free from pollution will demonstrate the worth and responsibility of the plant to local residents.
Sustainability and Recycling
Large areas of the United States are now suffering from water shortages, and this is projected to get worse in the coming years. With this in mind, a concerted effort must be made to actively recycle water and ease the burden on local sources.
In July 2022, water conservation efforts in Los Angeles were lauded, as the city’s inhabitants reduced their water usage in the face of a growing crisis. However, these reduction efforts may not be enough. Instead, active recycling may be required, similar to that which is already in place in nearby Orange County.
Water scarcity issues — and the measures put in place to counteract them — are likely to be high on the agenda in the near future, as these problems become more acute. This will essentially place wastewater treatment plants at the frontline of sustainability efforts, and plants that are able to recycle water efficiently and effectively will be huge assets to their communities.
There are other aspects to sustainability too. In Michigan, the City of Luddington was commended for a plan to operate their wastewater treatment facility using solar energy, boosting the plant’s green credentials and protecting the environment on a local and global scale.
Protecting Local Habitats
Every single state across the country is home to wetland areas, which provide valuable habitats for numerous species of flora and fauna. Even a state like Nevada, renowned for its deserts, features thousands of acres of wetland habitat. Then there are lakes, rivers, coastal regions and other waterways to consider — the USA biodiversity depends on these watercourses.
These areas are, understandably, very important to local communities. Providing lucrative tourism, local and civic pride, and pure and simple joy to residents, these habitats must be maintained and protected. If industrial wastewater treatment facilities put these regions at risk, it will be very difficult to maintain positive relations in the future.
Behaving responsibly and keeping local habitats free from contamination is critical here, but facilities can do more. Getting involved in local conservation and environmentalism projects can actively help to defend these habitats while strengthening local community bonds.
Unemployment is high in some areas of the United States, and this puts local communities under significant pressure. In Alaska and Nevada, 4.7% and 4.9% of the respective workforces are unemployed, while in New Mexico the figure is over 5%.
Wastewater treatment facilities can make a real difference in these locations, providing worthwhile jobs that have a positive impact. After all, wastewater treatment facilities — when managed properly — provide a vital public service. If the facility management and team members can provide jobs, upskilling, training, mentoring, and other career development and education opportunities to nearby residents, this is of major benefit to the local community.
This kind of action fosters genuine ties between the treatment facility and the community it serves. Essentially, the facility is investing in the future of the local area.
Becoming Active Forces for Good
There are two common themes among the points we’ve discussed so far. One: Water treatment facilities need to behave responsibly and effectively, essentially remaining out of sight (and out of smell) and out of mind. This is to keep things on an even keel and to keep local residents happy. Two: In order to actively repair passed transgressions, or to leave a positive impression on the local community, outreach and connection are required.
This is why it pays for facility teams to get involved with local community projects. Charity events, fundraisers, cultural projects, environmental programs — all of these things form the nuclei of communities across the United States. By joining in and helping with these activities, the facility team can demonstrate their commitment to their local area.