Reducing mercury in the environment

Posted in: Municipal, Water


mercury-sewers-waste-300x224pxReducing mercury in your community’s waste collection system is not only a cost savings method but is also good for the surrounding environment. Eliminating mercury at the source is more cost effective and can be done with a proper planning and review.

Waste from domestic and industrial sources may contain mercury and other pollutants that can pass through the wastewater treatment plant. They will interfere with the operation of the facility and/or contaminate the biosolids produced by the facility.

Low levels of mercury are present in domestic sewage presumably because it is present in human waste and in the discharges associated with household products that contain mercury. Operators at treatment plants strive to reduce the adverse effects of mercury to their facility and the environment. Treating mercury is expensive, so it’s more cost effective to remove mercury at the source with a Mercury Minimization Plan.

The goal of a successful MMP is to reduce mercury emissions entering the wastewater treatment plant and to maintain the effluent concentration of total mercury at or below 1.3 ng/l (parts per trillion). A good MMP provides the policies and procedures necessary to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations concerning the elimination of mercury and mercury containing compounds from a treatment plant’s effluent. The MMP is designed to monitor discharges into the collection system, treatment plant influent, treatment plant effluent and biosolids for mercury.

Periodic reviews will monitor the success of the MMP. The reviews target known and potential sources of mercury to maintain MMP compliance. Often, the first year of implementing an MMP will involve more frequent reviews when changes are made to the system or when deficiencies are found. The periodic reviews include assessments of source reduction and waste management practices, employee training and communication and wastewater monitoring. Additional factors such as regulatory changes, new industry in the community, new processes or operations and personnel changes may affect the complexity and frequency of reviews. Reviews identify deficiencies and omissions in the MMP and will also identify and emphasize its strengths.

Reducing mercury in the collection system is a benefit for the entire community. Elimination of mercury at the source saves money on treatment and prevent possible regulatory fines for violations. Mercury-free effluent will continue to provide a safe receiving stream for recreation, and biosolids can be land applied to safely return nutrients to the soil.


Casey Rose

About the Author

Casey Rose has worked in the wastewater industry for nearly 20 years with experience working for municipalities and consultant contract operations. Casey is well-known for his ability to build a strong relationships with each client and has a robust background in operations, safety, client communication, construction management and fiscal responsibility.

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