Low-Cost Infrared Sensor Could Clean Up U.S. Rivers

Luxury car technology is now being used to make wastewater treatment plants more efficient.

Although great advances have been made since the days when human waste was merely tossed into the street, about half the raw sewage generated in the U.S. never gets treated before it reaches open water.

One of the reasons for this is that many systems intermingle rainwater runoff and sanitary sewage. In periods of heavy rainfall, the treatment plant cannot handle the amount of mixed water and sewage coming in, and they dump the untreated mixture directly.

The problem is compounded because almost no sewage treatment plants have any way of knowing whether what is coming in is mostly rainwater or sewage.

Using the same principles as rain sensing windshield wipers, the Hydreon Optical Rain Gauge uses beams of infrared light to sense water hitting the outside surface.

The RG-11 detects the surface condition, caused by dirt, contaminants, aging, and other factors. It properly compensates the data, making the device virtually impervious to environmental factors.

The device has no moving parts, and the convex surface is self-cleaning, making the device maintenance free. Control systems of wastewater treatment plants can use data provided by the Rain Gauge to keep the level of untreated discharge to a minimum. The rain data also serves as a diagnostic to optimize inflow, outflow, and energy usage.

Given that millions of tons of sewage are generated in the U.S. daily, even a small improvement in wastewater treatment efficiency can have an impact in the water quality of rivers and lakes.

Article by Beth Buczynski, appearing courtesy Crisp Green.

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