Disposal Methods

The most common ocean disposal method is to thicken the waste to a sludge or solid and barge it to the point of disposal. When the waste is toxic, it is usually put in containers and dropped in more remote places. So-called approved areas exist on the East, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts for waste disposal.

Detailed oceanographic studies indicate that inversion areas, in the water above the outfalls, of piped sludge limit the spread of solids and coliform bacteria to the surface although evidence exists that some digested sludge travels as much as 6 miles.

Wastewater treatment facilities can also dispose sludge at sea through a pipeline either by diluting digested sludge with the treated effluent from the plant or reducing the solids content and allowing the solids to be diffused into the ocean with the sewage. The advantage of removing the solids and digesting them prior to disposal is that this treatment results in an 80% reduction of volatile solids and more than a 99% removal of coliform and pathogenic bacteria.

The disposal of sludge and other solid waste in the ocean is more prevalent in other countries than in the United States (particularly in the industrialized areas of Japan and Europe).

Abstracts appearing regularly in the Journal for Water Pollution Control Federation stress the need for stricter regulations for ocean dumping as well as pollution abatement on a world scale. A low-cost alternative to ocean disposal is the disposal of digested sludge on croplands.

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