Wastewater is the dirty water that goes down drains, toilets, sinks, showers, washing machines and more. It is also known as sewage and contains contaminants like biosolids (See the source image) and pollutants that could harm the environment. 

What is Wastewater Treatment?

Wastewater treatment is the process that cleans this dirty water so it can safely enter the environment again. Prior to the establishment of wastewater treatment plants, most wastewater was emptied into bodies of water where it polluted the environment, causing shutdowns of local waterways, fishing, and recreational activities. This changed after the Clean Water Act was passed and regional facilities like ACUA's were built to service the community. 

 

How Does Treatment Work?

Wastewater travels through pipes from homes and businesses to ACUA’s Treatment Facility in Atlantic City, NJ.  Here, an energy intensive process treats the contaminants found in the wastewater. The remaining disinfected water is returned to the Atlantic Ocean.  The entire treatment process takes about 8 hours and is closely monitored by staff around the clock.  

Hundreds of municipal-owned pump stations are located throughout the county in the various towns with sewer service. Wastewater from your drain, shower, toilet and washer is conveyed by gravity through underground pipes. When these pipes get too deep in the ground, pump stations are needed to lift the wastewater back up to street level, and continue to convey it through the systems. The ACUA maintains approximately 20 strategically located pump stations throughout the county. The wastewater is then pumped through large force mains to the regional wastewater treatment facility located on the outskirts of Atlantic City. Incoming wastewater is collected from 14 municipalities using over 60 miles of force main which discharges into the 40 million gallon per day treatment facility.
 
chart of the places water goes down the drain
  1. The ACUA also accepts septage, leachate and liquid sludge for processing in the plant influent.
  2. Before entering the plant, several bar screens remove large solids to protect pumps and other equipment.
  3. The wastewater then enters the primary clarifiers where the flow is slowed to permit solids to settle to the bottom where they are collected.
  4. Overflow from the primary clarifiers enters the aeration basins where dissolved solids are digested.
  5. All wastewater then enters the secondary clarifiers from which 85% to 95% of the pollutants have been removed.
  6. The treated effluent is then disinfected.
  7. The effluent pumping station discharges the clean effluent wastewater to the Atlantic Ocean via the ocean outfall pipe and diffuser system.
  8. Solids collected from the clarifiers are thickened in the primary sludge thickener.
  9. The waste activated sludge centrifuge.
  10. The combination of thickened products is then homogenized in the blend conditioning tank.
  11. This sludge is then pumped to several high speed centrifuges where it is further dewatered.
  12. All sludge is conveyed for final disposal in the multiple hearth incinerator.
  13. The residue from the incinerator process is trucked to a landfill. This non-hazardous inert ash represents about 10% by volume of all sludge entering the facility.
pileof toys that all look way to big to go down the drain

DON't PUT Garbage
down the drain!

Sewer infrastructure is one of the most crucial pieces to public health. Help us keep it working properly by only flushing #1, #2, and toilet paper down the toilet! This picture shows real examples of items we’ve removed from the system.

Protect our water and sewage pipes by avoiding flushing or putting these items down the drain. Put them in the trash instead.

  • "Flushable" wipes - these items, while marketed as flushable, are commonly the cause of major build up in sewage pipes
  • Tampons, condoms and feminine hygiene products 
  • Contact lenses
  • Cooking oil and grease residue - bag oil or place in a non-recyclable container then throw into the trash
  • Fat trimmings 
  • Q-tips 
  • Toilet cleaning pads - yes, even those "flushable" ones
  • Paper towels  

When placed down the drain, these items can wreak havoc on sewer lines and also cause sewage overflows in homes, businesses and local waterways.