Sep 01, 2016

Industrial Wastewater Takes Center Stage

Elisabeth Lisican

Earlier this year, I wrote about Brazil’s water woes, mentioning a Nov. 5, 2015, spill that spewed millions of gallons of iron ore waste. According to a Dec. 20, 2015, LA Times article, the Rio Doce turned bright orange, and many people were displaced, suffering illnesses from their tainted water supply. A researcher told the newspaper “there’s no telling how many more might die from long-term public health problems generated by the disaster.”

A TeleSur article reported that the spill released 60 million cu meters of mine waste—that’s equivalent to 20,000 Olympic swimming pools.

I noted the fact that the downtrodden country was to host the Olympic Games this summer, and indeed the 2016 host city Rio won some not-so-desirable attention for its water problems amidst the celebrations of so many hardworking athletes. 

Guanabara Bay, the estuary that served as the site of Olympics sailing and rowing, for instance, has a real raw sewage problem. While the bay is full of raw sewage from human waste, pollution from urban runoff and industrial wastewater abounds as well—from about 17,000 industries around Guanabara Bay—according to a recent National Geographic article. These industries include pharmaceuticals, refineries, and oil and gas terminals. An estimated 150 metric tons of industrial wastewater flows into the bay daily. The National Geographic noted that’s enough to fill about seven large tanker trucks.

While human sewage carries viruses and bacteria, industrial water pollution spells health risks from heavy metals and industrial chemicals, including PCBs and hydrocarbons from petroleum products. 

Amidst all of the negative press, we need to recognize the solutions and applications out there that do successfully protect water sources from industrial contamination. That is why this year, iWWD’s sister publication W&WD has added a Top Industrial Projects component to its popular annual Top Projects award program, and we will be announcing those winners during the Water Environment Federation Exhibition & Conference, happening Sept. 24 to 28 in New Orleans. So keep your eyes peeled for some truly remarkable industrial innovations, and let’s all keep our eyes on the prize when it comes to improving water quality worldwide.

About the author

Elisabeth Lisican | Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]