The Impact of Commonly Abused and Illicit Drugs in Wastewater Treatment

By Heather Jennings, PE, Senior Project Engineer for Probiotic Solutions®

I was attending a wastewater conference and overheard an operator talking about how a drug bust turned his lagoon orange and almost put him out of compliance with his permit. At another location, I was told that the city I was visiting had been hit by an unexpected source of ammonia that almost “wiped out” their bugs. I asked an operator if it was possible that the influent to his wastewater system might have illicit drugs in it. His reply was to the effect that, although he frequently found drug paraphernalia in his screens, he didn’t know of any illicit drugs being present in his system. So, I started wondering what illicit drug impacts really have on wastewater systems. The following is what I found.

Read the entire article online in the August 2018 issue of Water & Wastes Digest:

Download a PDF version of the article.

Conclusion: Here’s what we can do about it.

Operators and municipalities need to realize that their systems can be significantly impacted by commonly abused and illicit drugs. They should also understand that they are not alone. It is not just a United States problem: other nations are struggling with these same issues. Developing a pretreatment program and enforcing existing programs for industrial and commercial users can be very useful in isolating locations within the collection systems into which chemicals can be dumped. Proactively adding pH meters into branch lines in areas where illegal dumping can occur will provide advance warning to WWTPs. When WWTP upgrades are considered, more sophisticated treatments such as membranes, mixed bed bioreactors, and tertiary treatment can reduce PPCPs and illicit drugs from leaving in the effluent.3 Additional sewer epidemiology lab testing can also be a valuable tool in identifying the locations of contaminant sources.

If pretreatment and upgrades are not possible, developing partnerships and notification protocols with local police departments and drug enforcement agencies may be the single most effective thing that wastewater operators can do to be alerted to potential impacts to wastewater systems and to more quickly and knowledgeably address potential upsets within their systems.

The occurrence and impact of commonly abused and illicit drugs in WWTPs is a problem that is likely to grow. Plant operators must be vigilant and prepared. Although not designed as such, WWTPs are the last line of defense in protecting our water resources from drug pollution.


BIO ENERGIZER® Reduces Sludge at Sugar Refinery Wastewater Treatment Lagoons

Location: Louisiana

A large sugar refinery struggled with elevated BOD and COD values in its wastewater treatment lagoons due to the sugar refinery process. The lagoon wastewater system capacity was 25 million gallons with an influent of 1.25 million gallons per day. The wastewater system also suffered from accumulating sludge as well as significant odor issues. The sugar refinery had a history of periodically being unable to meet its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements.

Probiotic Solutions® BIO ENERGIZER® applied to a sugar refinery wastewater lagoon system over 9 months resulted in reduced accumulated sludge, TSS, and odors, with improved BOD and COD reduction.

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Download the full report PDF in English

Download the full report PDF in Spanish


Rural Colorado Town Uses BIO ENERGIZER® to Reduce Wastewater Lagoon Sludge and Save Money

The wastewater treatment plant superintendent for a rural Colorado town of about 500 people noticed that the plant’s three wastewater lagoons were filling with sludge, but he was dealing with budget constraints. The town’s population fluctuates throughout the year, and the varied loading was affecting system performance. In addition, the aeration systems were not keeping up with the oxygen demand in the ponds. The superintendent decided to try a bioremediation approach to sludge reduction, using BIO ENERGIZER®, before embarking on the expensive process of mechanically dredging, hauling, and disposing of the sludge.

Using BIO ENERGIZER® is now saving the city thousands of dollars in mechanical dredging, hauling, and disposal costs. Lagoon desludging using BIO ENERGIZER® is typically one-fifth to one-tenth of the cost of mechanical dredging and land-applying or land-filling sludge.

Read the full report in English online

Read the full report in Spanish online

Download the full report in English

Download the full report in Spanish

BHN’s Heather Jennings Receives TAPPI Division Leadership & Service Award

Heather Jennings, Senior Project Engineer for Probiotic Solutions® at Bio Huma Netics, Inc. (BHN), was presented the Division Leadership & Service Award by the TAPPI Women in Industry Division at the PaperCon meeting in Ohio on April 16. The Award was presented in recognition of Ms. Jennings’ outstanding leadership and exceptional service. She was a co-founder of the TAPPI Women in Industry Division in 2015 and has been division vice chair since that time. She will assume chairperson duties for the division in 2019.

TAPPI is a not-for-profit, volunteer-led association that is built around a community comprising thousands of member engineers, managers, scientists, academics, suppliers, and others from around the world who are involved in the papermaking industry. TAPPI Divisions grant awards to individuals in recognition of outstanding accomplishments or contributions to the industry’s technology or the TAPPI organization. Each technical division may grant no more than one award for leadership and service per year. More about TAPPI and its Women in Industry Division can be found at

BHN President and CEO Lyndon Smith stated, “I’m very proud of the work Heather has done with TAPPI, particularly in terms of supporting and promoting roles and opportunities for women in industry. She is a wonderful representative of Probiotic Solutions® and BHN to the scientific and engineering community.”

Ms. Jennings has been with BHN since 2015. She has a BS in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and has 15 years of engineering experience.

Probiotic Solutions® is the BHN soil and wastewater bioremediation division that assists industries such as food processing, municipal wastewater, pulp and paper, chemical refineries, and others who use water in their processes to treat and return safe, clean water to the environment.

Bio Huma Netics Appoints New CFO

Bio Huma Netics, Inc. (BHN), President and CEO Lyndon Smith has announced the appointment of Scott Bostwick to the position of Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Bostwick replaces Mike Smith, who is retiring after almost 30 years with the company. BHN produces the Huma Gro®, Huma Gro® Turf, Probiotic Solutions®, and Mesa Verde Humates® product lines.

Mr. Bostwick, an Arizona State University graduate, completed his certified public accountant (CPA) exam in 2007 and, after working in various accounting and finance positions for government and private companies, joined BHN as Senior Director of Accounting in 2014.

Lyndon Smith said, “Mike Smith has been our strong right arm at BHN for nearly 30 years. He provided conservative steady financial guidance through a period of rapid company expansion. With Mike’s insights and contributions sales grew ten-fold, and he has built a solid financial structure that will ensure our success well into the future. This has been especially felt as we launch our new product line, Fertilgold® Organics, in the coming months. I will miss my daily interaction with Mike, but I’m also very confident that Scott has the financial leadership capabilities we need to continue BHN’s growth and success.”

Bostwick said, “Mike Smith has been a terrific mentor and friend to me over the past 4 years, and he has helped me to become well prepared to provide BHN’s financial guidance going forward. Mike has agreed to remain available to BHN on a consultant basis, and it is great to know that he is there for assistance should a need arise. BHN is a great company, and I am excited to be able to take the financial leadership role in continuing a legacy of success.”

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About Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

Founded in 1973, Bio Huma Netics, Inc., (BHN) is a three-generation-family/employee-owned company that is a global leader in providing sustainable solutions to the world’s environmental challenges for agriculture (HUMA GRO®, MESA VERDE HUMATES®); horticulture, turf & ornamentals (HUMA GRO® TURF); and soil & wastewater remediation (PROBIOTIC SOLUTIONS®) through its proprietary Micro Carbon Technology® and its continuously improving and ever expanding product lines. Learn more at

Solids Destruction Efficiency Using BIO ENERGIZER®

A small Missouri Sewer District operated a single wastewater lagoon that treated approximately 10,000 gallons per day of municipal sewage. The lagoon was in need of sludge removal as it had not been dredged since it was constructed in the ‘70s. By treating the lagoon with Bio Energizer®, the District saw improvement in water clarity, a reduction in odors, and a drastic reduction of accumulated solids. To continue reading . . .

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Contact a Probiotic Solutions® representative for recommended dosing.

BIO ENERGIZER® Reduces Sludge, BOD, and Odor—City in Illinois

A small town in Illinois (pop. 3,500) had a municipal wastewater system that was in need of sludge removal. The sludge accumulation problem had become so problematic that the sludge was visible at the surface. The exposed sludge was causing an odor problem for the nearby residents. In addition, due to the high solids accumulation, the BOD values were higher than the State’s acceptable range.  Something had to be done at a cost that the town could afford. To continue reading . . .

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Contact a Probiotic Solutions® representative for recommended dosing.

Recovering Wastewater Treatment Activated Sludge Systems After Hurricane Irma

By Heather Jennings, PE

Hurricane Irma hit Southern Florida in early September as a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 180 miles per hour.  Due to flooding and lack of power, millions of gallons of untreated or partially treated wastewater were spilled or discharged from overwhelmed systems (see Washington Post article).

Florida is already dealing with an aging infrastructure and flat terrain that requires systems to use electricity-dependent lift stations. From what I’ve seen in the field, even a day without power can negatively impact activated sludge systems, and prolonged power loss can result in the death of the whole biomass, rendering such systems ineffectual!

Probiotic Solutions® has products that can help activated sludge systems recover more quickly. Our MICROPLEX™ JS product is capable of reseeding systems with a two-part formulation of a live synergistic blend of natural, Class I bacteria, specifically chosen for their ability to rapidly degrade solids, fats, lipids, proteins, detergents, hydrocarbons, and other compounds. Our MICROPLEX™ N product is formulated to enhance the nitrification process under toxic, inhibitory, or cold weather conditions and specifically to reseed nitrifying systems and maintain the nitrification process.

Contact a Probiotic Solutions® representative for recommended dosing.

BIO ENERGIZER® Reduces Sludge at Municipal Wastewater Treatment Facility in New Mexico

A small town in New Mexico (pop. 1,300) had a municipal wastewater system with a flow rate of 50,000 gallons per day. The system included a series of three lagoons. A recent sludge judge showed Pond 1 had an average sludge depth of 1.9 feet, Pond 2 averaged 3.5 feet, and Pond 3 averaged 2.7 feet. The system was in need of reducing the sludge in its lagoon wastewater system to meet state requirements. Dredging costs were more than the town could afford to budget, and an alternative method for reducing the sludge accumulation was needed. To continue reading . . .

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BIO ENERGIZER® Reduces Sludge at a Small Municipal Facility in Utah

A small municipality in Utah (pop. 1,800) had a wastewater system with a flow rate of 192,000 gallons per day. The system included a series of four lagoons, although at this time only Ponds 1 and 2 were being evaluated for treatment.

The influent consisted of domestic waste as well as septic. Pond 1 was specifically being addressed due to a State mandate. A sludge judge was performed which showed Pond 1 had an average sludge depth of 2.7 feet and Pond 2 averaged 1.9 feet. Two years later surfacing sludge prevented a sludge judge from being performed. The system was in need of reducing the sludge in its lagoon wastewater system to meet state requirements quickly in preparation for additional capital changes to the system.

Dredging costs were more than the town could afford, so an alternative method was sought to biologically break down the accumulated solids. To continue reading . . . Download PDF          Read Online


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