» Sewage & Industrial Wastewater


Dr.Eng. Abdulrzzak Alturkmani

The wastewater from industries varies so greatly in both flow and pollutional strength. So, it is impossible to assign fixed values to their constituents. In general, industrial wastewaters may contain suspended, colloidal and dissolved (mineral and organic) solids. In addition, they may be either excessively acid or alkaline and may contain high or low concentrations of colored matter. These wastes may contain inert, organic or toxic materials and possibly pathogenic bacteria. These wastes may be discharged into the sewer system provided they have no adverse effect on treatment efficiency or undesirable effects on the sewer system. It may be necessary to pretreat the wastes prior to release to the municipal system or it is necessary to a fully treatment when the wastes will be discharged directly to surface or ground waters.

1. Industrial Wastewater Characteristics

The physical and chemical characterization presented below is valid for most wastewaters, both municipal and industrial.

1-1 Physical characteristics

The principal physical characteristics of wastewater include solids content, colour, odour and temperature.

– Total Solids

The total solids in a wastewater consist of the insoluble or suspended solids and the soluble compounds dissolved in water. The suspended solids content is found by drying and weighing the residue removed by the filtering of the sample. When this residue is ignited the volatile solids are burned off. Volatile solids are presumed to be organic matter, although some organic matter will not burn and some inorganic salts break down at high temperatures. The organic matter consists mainly of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Between 40 and 65 % of the solids in an average wastewater are suspended. Settleable solids, expressed as millilitres per litre, are those that can be removed by sedimentation. Usually about 60 % of the suspended solids in a municipal wastewater are Settleable (Ron & George, 1998). Solids may be classified in another way as well: those that are volatilized at a high temperature (600 °C) and those that are not. The former are known as volatile solids, the latter as fixed solids. Usually, volatile solids are organic.

– Colour

Colour is a qualitative characteristic that can be used to assess the general condition of wastewater. Wastewater that is light brown in colour is less than 6 h old, while a light-to-medium grey colour is characteristic of wastewaters that have undergone some degree of decomposition or that have been in the collection system for some time. Lastly, if the colour is dark grey or black, the wastewater is typically septic, having undergone extensive bacterial decomposition under anaerobic conditions. The blackening of wastewater is often due to the formation of various sulphides, particularly, ferrous sulphide. This results when hydrogen sulphide produced under anaerobic conditions combines with divalent metal, such as iron, which may be present. Colour is measured by comparison with standards.

– Odour

The determination of odour has become increasingly important, as the general public has become more concerned with the proper operation of wastewater treatment facilities. The odour of fresh wastewater is usually not offensive, but a variety of odorous compounds are released when wastewater is decomposed biologically under anaerobic conditions. The different unpleasant odours produced by certain industrial wastewater are presented in Table 1.

Table 1 Unpleasant odours in some industries (Brault, 1991)

Origin of odours
Cement works, lime kilns
Acrolein, amines, mercaptans, dibutyl sulphide, H2S, SO2, etc.
Pharmaceutical industries
Fermentation produces
Food industries
Fermentation produces
Food industries (fish)
Amines, sulphides, mercaptans
Rubber industries
Sulphides, mercaptans
Textile industries
Phenolic compounds
Paper pulp industries
H2S, SO2
Organics compost
Ammonia, sulphur compounds

– Temperature

The temperature of wastewater is commonly higher than that of the water supply because warm municipal water has been added. The measurement of temperature is important because most wastewater treatment schemes include biological processes that are temperature dependent. The temperature of wastewater will vary from season to season and also with geographic location. In cold regions the temperature will vary from about 7 to 18 °C, while in warmer regions the temperatures vary from 13 to 24 °C (Ron & George, 1998).

   1-2 Chemical characteristics

• Inorganic chemicals

The principal chemical tests include free ammonia, organic nitrogen, nitrites, nitrates, organic phosphorus and inorganic phosphorus. Nitrogen and phosphorus are important because these two nutrients are responsible for the growth of aquatic plants. Other tests, such as chloride, sulphate, pH and alkalinity, are performed to assess the suitability of reusing treated wastewater and in controlling the various treatment processes (Rein, 2005).
Trace elements, which include some heavy metals, are not determined routinely, but trace elements may be a factor in the biological treatment of wastewater. All living organisms require varying amounts of some trace elements, such as iron, copper, zinc and cobalt, for proper growth. Heavy metals can also produce toxic effects; therefore, determination of the amounts of heavy metals is especially important where the further use of treated effluent or sludge is to be evaluated. Many of metals are also classified as priority pollutants such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, etc.
Measurements of gases, such as hydrogen sulphide, oxygen, methane and carbon dioxide, are made to help the system to operate. The presence of hydrogen sulphide needs to be determined not only because it is an odorous and very toxic gas but also because it can affect the maintenance of long sewers on flat slopes, since it can cause corrosion. Measurements of dissolved oxygen are made in order to monitor and control aerobic biological treatment processes. Methane and carbon dioxide measurements are used in connection with the operation of anaerobic digesters.

 Organic chemicals

Over the years, a number of different tests have been developed to determine the organic content of wastewaters. In general, the tests may be divided into those used to measure gross concentrations of organic matter greater than about 1 mg/l and those used to measure trace concentrations in the range of to mg/l. Laboratory methods commonly used today to measure gross amounts of organic matter (greater than 1 mg/l) in wastewater include (1) biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), (2) chemical oxygen demand (COD) and (3) total organic carbon (TOC). Trace organics in the range of to mg/l are determined using instrumental methods including gas mass spectroscopy and chromatography. Specific organic compounds are determined to assess the presence of priority pollutants (Metcalf & Eddy, 1991). The BOD, COD and TOC tests are gross measures of organic content and as such do not reflect the response of the wastewater to various types of biological treatment technologies. It is therefore desirable to divide the wastewater into several categories, as shown in Figure 1.

Fig. 1 Partition of organic constituents of a wastewater (Eckenfelder, 1989)
·   Volatile organic carbons (VOC)
Volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, xylenes, trichloroethane, dichloromethane, and trichloroethylene, are common soil pollutants in industrialized and commercialized areas. One of the more common sources of these contaminants is leaking underground storage tanks. Improperly discarded solvents and landfills, built before the introduction of current stringent regulations, are also significant sources of soil VOCs. Many of organic substances are classified as priority pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, 1,3-butadiene, 1,2-dichloroethane, dichloromethane, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), etc, . In Table 2, a list of typical inorganic and organic substances present in industrial effluents is presented.
       Table 2 Substances present in industrial effluents (Bond & Straub, 1974)
Present in Wastewaters from
Acetic acid
Acetate rayon, beet root manufact
Chem. manufact, mines, textiles manufact
Cotton and straw kiering, wool scouring
Gas and coke and chem. manufacture
Sheep dipping
Plating, chrome tanning, alum anodizing
Citric acid
Soft drinks and citrus fruit processing
Copper plating, copper pickling
Gas manufacture, plating, metal cleaning
Fats, oils, grease
Wool scouring, laundries, textile industry
Scrubbing of flue gases, glass etching
Synthetic resins and penicillin manufact
Free chlorine
Laundries, paper mills, textile bleaching
Petrochemical and rubber factories
Free chlorine
Laundries, paper mills, textile bleaching
Mercaptans mills
Oil refining, pulp
Nitro compounds
Explosives and chemical works
Organic acids
Distilleries and fermentation plants
Gas and coke manufact., chem. plants
Food processing, textile industries
Dairies, breweries, sweet industry
Textile industry, tanneries, gas manufact.
Pulp processing, viscose film manufact.
Tannic acid
Tanning, sawmills
Tartaric acid
Dyeing, wine, leather, chem. manufacture
Galvanizing zinc plating, rubber process.



1- Abdulrzzak Alturkmani, Dairy Industry Effluents Treatment, Thesis. UTCB University, Bucharest-Romania 2007
2- Brault, Water Treatment Handbook, 1991
3- Califorina State University, Industrial Waste Treatment, V1&V2. USA,1999
4- Eckenfelder, Industrial Water Pollution Control, 1989
5- Kiely, Environmental Engineering, 1996
6- Krenkel, P.G. and V. Novotny, Water Quality Management, 1980
7- Metcalf & Eddy, Wastewater Engineering, 1991
8- R.G. Bond, C.P. Straub, Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1974
9- Wang & Howard, Handbook of Industrial and Hazardous Wastes Treatment, USA, 2004