PerspectiveWater Treatment

Anticipating the next century of wastewater treatment

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Science  27 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6191, pp. 1452-1453
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255183

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Rapid urbanization and industrialization in the 19th century led to unhealthy environments and wide-spread epidemic diseases. In response, research was undertaken that led to the development of sanitation technology. Exactly 100 years since the activated sludge process was presented (1), it is still at the heart of current sewage treatment technology. Activated sludge is a mixture of inert solids from sewage combined with a microbial population growing on the biodegradable substrates present in the sewage. The settling and recycling of sludge inside treatment plants was the invention of Ardern and Lockett. The current demands from a rapidly growing human population and the need for a more sustainable society are pushing forward new developments for sewage handling. These developments have two main drivers: general process improvements and the contribution to the recycling of resources (2, 3).