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Where do you go when you need assistance or guidance in operating your wastewater treatment facility? A wastewater consulting firm is generally the most obvious option, but are such services really worthwhile? The answer is this – it depends on your budget. Yes, a wastewater consultant can provide serious advantages to your facility, but these advantages come at a cost.
In this article, we examine how wastewater consultants can help facility teams improve treatment methods. This information will help you understand whether consultancy services are right for you and your plant.
Auditing and Assessing Wastewater Systems and Practices
A wastewater consultant will be able to apply their own knowledge and expertise to the systems and practices currently in use. This is designed to help facility managers better understand their water treatment procedures, and identify how these measures could be improved.
Typically, assessment will cover the entire water treatment process, and all mechanical and chemical aspects of this process. The consultant can also provide direct assistance and recommendations for how improvements can be carried out.
Eliminating Problems When they Arise
Having a consultant on hand can be useful for problem solving and troubleshooting. Problems in wastewater systems are not uncommon, and these will need to be overcome and eliminated in order to ensure effective operation in the long term. European water treatment plant equipment manufacturer, Hydrotech, identified some of the most common problems in sewage treatment plants, which are:
- Insufficient air in the system
- Blowers becoming overheated
- Excessive draining beyond recommended limits
- Leaks along key points in the system, including sludge tanks
- Sludge composition is not as expected, suggesting an inefficiency within the system
Recurrent problems can indicate a serious underlying issue, so any operational discrepancies will need to be monitored closely. Engaging the services of a wastewater consultant can help you not only to streamline operations in the short term but also to avoid recurring issues in the long term.
Providing Training for Personnel
Consultancy should be aimed at achieving self-sufficiency and sustainability for the wastewater treatment plant going forward. This means consultants do not simply step in and offer reactive fixes to existing problems – instead, they provide the knowledge and skills required to meet the developing needs of the treatment plant on an ongoing basis.
This can be achieved in several ways, but they all are based on the same principles – passing on the knowledge and understanding of the consultant to the facility’s in-house teams. The consultant can work directly with existing team members in an advisory capacity, implementing new ways of working that will streamline operations in the future. Consultancy firms can also provide training and developmental coaching to new hires or to team members in search of upskilling opportunities.
Providing High-Level Technical and Scientific Understanding
Wastewater treatment is a complex and highly sophisticated process, bringing together elements of biology and chemistry to achieve effective results across the primary, secondary, and tertiary phases of treatment. There are also aspects of physics involved, relating to the fluid dynamics of the water and effluent in the system and the mechanical methods of separation and removal. All in all, there are a great many technical components to the procedure, and a high level of scientific understanding is required to get this right.
Your in-house teams are already equipped with knowledge and insight into the technical aspects of this process. However, best practices evolve over time, and methods are refined and fine-tuned to help treatment plants better meet the needs of local communities and ecosystems. With this in mind, a consultant becomes invaluable in ensuring that all team members are up to speed on the latest scientific concepts and ideas.
Wastewater treatment in the United States is tightly regulated, and it is governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among other bodies. This strict regulation is important, as wastewater effluent has a huge impact on communities, individuals, livelihoods, and ecosystems on a local and even a global level. To put it simply, wastewater facilities need to do what they can to remain compliant and in adherence to all applicable guidelines and requirements.
Staying on top of compliance requirements can be difficult for facility managers. Regulations and requirements change over time, and missing these changes may result in heavy penalties or fines for wastewater treatment facilities. Consultants may provide specialists assistance here, identifying how facilities can remain in adherence with regulation and effectively offering a guarantee of ongoing compliance.
Reducing the Strain on In-house Teams
Perhaps the most straightforward benefit of working with a consultant at your wastewater treatment facility is that it reduces the burden on your own teams. Your employees are already hard at work, handling a range of different duties at your treatment plant. If these teams then have to take on more duties – for example, researching compliance requirements and chemical processes, or identifying and troubleshooting ongoing problems – they may become overloaded.
Working with a consultant can help to alleviate this problem and reduce the burden on your teams. The consultant can handle many of the duties listed above, leaving your in-house teams free to focus on other aspects of operating your facility.
Balance Your Budget and Your Operational Requirements
A consultant can provide an array of benefits to your wastewater treatment facility, but these benefits are not free. The consultancy business model is a transactional one – they provide you with expert insight and valuable services, and you pay them a fee in return. This means your budget always needs to be top of mind when you consider engaging a wastewater consulting service.
Think about what you want to achieve with your consultant. Consider the specific benefits they will provide to you and your facility. Do you have a specific recurrent problem that you feel may indicate operational inefficiency? Are you looking for assistance in remaining fully compliant and adherent to regulations in your region? Have you identified areas of friction or complexity in your process, and do you need assistance as you straighten these areas out? A consultant can certainly help with this, but you will need to examine your own budget and decide how much these improvements are worth for you and your facility teams.