Innovative Technologies

Innovative technologies are helping MSD improve water quality in local streams and rivers while keeping costs in check. The technologies, which range from smarter sewers to algae from the South pole, are highlighted below:

Smarter Sewers

MSD is building a smarter sewer system that will help reduce sewer overflows into our creeks and rivers. And the cost is less than any other solution, gray or green.

Like many wastewater utilities across the nation, MSD is faced with a multi-billion dollar Consent Decree (federal mandate) to keep raw sewage mixed with stormwater out of our waterways when it rains.

Wet Weather SCADA (click for larger view)

To help address this issue, MSD has been working to use its existing sewer system more efficiently. For example, when it rains in one part of Cincinnati, the interceptor sewers in that location may be full, but other areas where it hasn’t rained may have available capacity.

This approach, known officially as Wet Weather Operational Optimization, allows MSD to store flows inside large interceptor sewers, storage tanks, and high-rate treatment facilities in different parts of the sewer system, using sensors to measure flow levels and gates and valves to direct the flows controlled by a SCADA computer system.

This helps keep sewage in the pipes and out of our creeks.

In early 2015, MSD deployed its new smart sewer system in the Mill Creek basin, which covers the central portion of Hamilton County. Within the first several weeks of operation, the technology was used to store flows at a high-rate treatment facility, avoiding 1.4 million gallons in sewer overflows at a location nearly 11 miles away.

MSD has now incorporated this technology in its remaining basins and is advancing the construction of new "control points" at targeted overflow locations. The addition of operable gates at these locations will enable more flow to be intercepted and taken to a treatment plant when capacity is available in downstream pipes.

Early data shows that smarter sewers cost about $0.01/gallon of overflow volume reduced, as compared to about $0.23/gallon for green stormwater controls and about $0.40/gallon for larger pipes and storage tanks.

The cost savings results from not having to build as many new capital projects to reduce the overflows, such as larger sewers and storage tanks. Gray infrastructure in particular is very expensive and takes a long time to plan and construct.

South Bend, Ind. invested in a similar technology, which is projected to reduce its Consent Decree spending by about 27%. MSD's smart sewer system is anticipated to save tens of millions of dollars in capital investments in projects to control sewer overflows.

View an article on MSD's smarter sewer system in Sustain Magazine. Also view our "Smarter Sewers" animation.

View The Case for Wet Weather Operational Optimization.

Fighting Algae with Algae

Wastewater is loaded with organic matter and nutrients like ammonia and phosphorus. During warm weather, nutrient-loving microorganisms or “bugs” in the secondary aeration tanks do a great job of “eating” the excess nutrients. But during colder weather, the bacteria can become dormant, causing increased levels of nutrients in the effluent discharged to local streams and rivers, which can potentially lead to permit violations or algal blooms.

To address this challenge, MSD is developing an all-weather, algae-based technology to remove and recover nutrients from wastewater. A native Ohio algae and an algae from the Antarctic (South pole) have been tested in the laboratory and show promising results.

MSD is now focusing on pilot studies of both strains of algae, with the goal of blending the two types of algae to create a nutrient removal system that works in all temperatures.

Future of Disinfection

Disinfection of treated effluent prior to discharging it into a local stream or river is an essential part of the wastewater treatment process. Although most solids, organic matter, and metals are removed from wastewater during the treatment process, the effluent still contains bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing organisms. Disinfection is the only way to destroy these pathogens to maintain water quality and prevent disease.

MSD’s plants currently use sodium hypochlorite or ultraviolet (UV)-based systems. Both methods are highly effective, but are either expensive or create byproducts.

To address these challenges, MSD is currently evaluating peracetic acid and performic acid as potential alternative disinfectants. Testing in the lab and pilot studies are part of this evaluation. MSD’s ultimate goal is to improve the environment, conserve energy, and reduce the cost of wastewater treatment at MSD plants.

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