2X – Sewerage systems

Supporting article X: A basic understanding of sewerage systems and how they came about through the ages


Sewage collection and disposal
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sewage collection and disposal systems transport through cities and other inhabited areas to sewage treatment plants to protect public health and prevent disease. Sewage is treated to control water pollution before discharge to surface waters.

1 Collection
2 Design and analysis of collection systems
3 Historical sewage conveyance and disposal
3.1 Ancient systems
3.2 16th century
3.3 Industrial Revolution era
A sewage system may convey the wastewater by gravity to a sewage treatment plant. Where pipeline excavation is difficult because of rock or there is limited topographic relief (i.e., due to flat terrain), gravity collection systems may not be practical and the sewage must be pumped through a pipeline to the treatment plant. In low-lying communities, wastewater may be conveyed by vacuum. Pipelines range in size from pipes of six inches (150 mm) in diameter to concrete-lined tunnels of up to thirty feet (10 m) in diameter.

Community sewage can also be collected by an effluent sewer system, also known as a STEP system (Septic Tank Effluent Pumping). At each home, a buried collection tank is used to separate solids from the liquid effluent portion. Only the liquid portion is then pumped through small diameter pipe (typically 1.5″ to 4″) to downstream treatment. Because the wastestream is pressurized, the pipes can be laid just below the ground surface along the land’s contour.

Sewage can also be collected by low pressure pumps and vacuum systems. A low pressure system uses a small grinder pump located at each point of connection, typically a house or business. Vacuum sewer systems use differential atmospheric pressure to move the liquid to a central vacuum station. Typically a vacuum sewer station can service approximately 1,200 homes before it becomes more cost-effective to build another station.

2 Design and analysis of collection systems

Design and sizing of sewage collection systems considers population served, commercial and industrial flows, flow peaking characteristics and wet weather flows. Combined sewer systems are designed to transport both stormwater runoff and sewage in the same pipe. Besides the projected sewage flow, the size and characteristics of the watershed are the overriding design considerations for combined sewers. Often, combined sewers can not handle the volume of runoff, resulting in combined sewer overflows and causing water pollution problems in nearby water bodies.

Separate sanitary sewer systems are designed to transport sewage alone. In communities served by separate sanitary sewers, another pipe system is constructed to convey stormwater runoff directly to surface waters. Most municipal sewer systems constructed today are separate sewer systems.

Although separate sewer systems are intended to transport only sewage, all sewer systems have some degree of inflow and infiltration of surface water and groundwater, which can lead to sanitary sewer overflows. Inflow and infiltration is highly affected by antecedent moisture conditions, which also represents an important design consideration in these system.

A sewer bed is a piece of land typically used by a municipality for the dumping of raw sewage. Usually raw sewage was brought by truck or drawn by horses to be dumped, but the practice stopped back in the 1940s.

3 Historical sewage conveyance and disposal
The historical focus of sewage treatment was on conveyance of raw sewage to a natural body of water, e.g. a river or ocean, where it would be satisfactorily diluted and dissipated. Early human habitations were often built next to water sources. Rivers could double as a crude form of natural sewage disposal.

The Indus architects designed sewage disposal systems on a large scale, building networks of brick effluent drains following the lines of the streets. The drains were seven to ten feet wide, cut at two feet below ground level with U-shaped bottoms lined with loose brick easily taken up for cleaning. At the intersection of two drains, the sewage planners installed cesspools with steps leading down into them, for periodic cleaning. By 2700 B.C., these cities had standardized earthenware plumbing pipes with broad flanges for easy joining with asphalt to stop leaks.

3.1 Ancient systems

The first sanitation system has been found at the prehistoric Middle East, in south-east of Iran near Zabol In Burnt City (Shahre soukhteh) areas. The first time an inverted siphon system was used, along with glass covered clay pipes, was in the palaces of Crete, Greece. It is still in working condition, after about 3000 years.

Higher population densities required more complex sewer collection and conveyance systems to maintain (somewhat) sanitary conditions in crowded cities. The ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro of the Indus Valley civilization constructed complex networks of brick-lined sewage drains from around 2600 BC and also had outdoor flush toilets connected to this network.

The urban areas of the Indus Valley civilization provided public and private baths, sewage was disposed through underground drains built with precisely laid bricks, and a sophisticated water management system with numerous reservoirs was established. In the drainage systems, drains from houses were connected to wider public drains.
Ancient Minoan civilization had stone sewers that were periodically flushed with clean water.

Roman towns and garrisons in the United Kingdom between 46 BC and 400 AD had complex sewer networks sometimes constructed out of hollowed out Elm logs which were shaped so that they butted together with the down-stream pipe providing a socket for the upstream pipe.

A significant development was the construction of a network of sewers to collect waste water, which began from the Indus Valley civilization. In some cities, including Rome, Istanbul (Constantinople) and Fustat, networked ancient sewer systems continue to function today as collection systems for those cities’ modernized sewer systems. Instead of flowing to a river or the sea, the pipes have been re-routed to modern sewer treatment facilities.
3.2 16th century

The system then remained with not much progress until the 16th century, where, in England, Sir John Harington invented a device for Queen Elizabeth (his godmother) that released wastes into cesspools.

However, many cities had no sewers and relied on nearby rivers or occasional rain to wash away sewage. In some cities, waste water simply ran down the streets, which had stepping stones to keep pedestrians out of the muck, and eventually drained as runoff into the local watershed. This was enough in early cities with few occupants but the growth of cities quickly overpolluted streets and became a constant source of disease. Even as recently as the late 19th century sewerage systems in parts of the highly industrialised United Kingdom were so inadequate that water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid were still common. In Merthyr Tydfil, a large town in South Wales, most houses discharged their sewage to individual cess-pits which persistently overflowed causing the pavements to be awash with foul sewage.

3.3 Industrial Revolution era

As an outgrowth of the Industrial Revolution, many cities in Europe and North America grew in the 19th century, frequently leading to crowding and increasing concerns about public health. As part of a trend of municipal sanitation programs in the late 19th and 20th centuries, many cities constructed extensive sewer systems to help control outbreaks of disease. Initially these systems discharged sewage directly to surface waters without treatment. The first comprehensive sewer system was built in Hamburg, Germany in the mid-19th century. The first such systems in the United States were built in the late 1850s in Chicago and Brooklyn.

As pollution of water bodies became a concern, cities attempted to treat the sewage before discharge. Early techniques involved land application of sewage on agricultural land. In the late 19th century some cities began to add chemical treatment and sedimentation systems to their sewers. In the United States, the first sewage treatment plant using chemical precipitation was built in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1890.