Sludge Lagoons

This is a technique that relies both on the settling characteristics of sludge and solar evaporation. The considerable labor involved in sludge drying bed operation may be avoided by the use of sludge lagoons. These lagoons are nothing but excavated areas in which digested sludge is allowed to drain and dry over a period of months or even a year or more (refer to Figure 22 for an example). They are usually dug out by bulldozers, or other dirt-moving equipment, with the excavated material used for building up the sides to confine the sludge. Depths may range from two to six feet. Areas vary, and although drainage is desirable, it is not usually provided. Digested sludge is drawn as frequently as needed, with successive drawings on top of the previous ones until the lagoon is filled. A second lagoon may then be operated while the filled one is drying.

After the sludge has dried enough to be moved, a bulldozer, or a tractor with an end-loader, may be used to scoop out the sludge. In some locations it may be pushed from the lagoon by dozers into low ground for fill. Lagoons may be used for regular drying of sludge, re-used after emptying, or allowed to fill and dry, then leveled and developed into lawn.

Lagoons Wastewater
Figure 22. Sludge lagoon used by a treatment plant in Russia

They can also be used as emergency storage when the sludge beds are full or when the digester must be emptied for repair. In the latter case it should be treated with some odor control chemicals, such as hydrated or chlorinated lime.

The size of the lagoon depends upon the use to which it will be put. Lagoons may take the place of sludge beds or provide a place for emergency drawings of sludge, but they may be unsightly and even unwanted on a small plant site. However, they are becoming more popular because they are inexpensive to build and operate.

Although lagoons are simple to construct and operate, there can be problems associated with sizing them. These problems largely arise from uncertainty in estimating the solar evaporative capacity.

In semi-arid regions evaporation ponds are a conventional means of disposing of wastewater without contamination of ground or surface waters. Evaporation ponds as defined herein will refer to lined retention facilities. Successful use of evaporation for wastewater disposal requires that evaporation equal or exceed the total water input to the system, including precipitation. The net evaporation may be defined as the difference between the evaporation and precipitation during any time period. Evaporation rates are to a great extent dependent upon the characteristics of the water body. Evaporation from small shallow ponds is usually considered to be quite different than that of large lakes mainly due to differences in the rates of heating and cooling of the water bodies because of size and depth differences. Additionally, in semi-arid regions, hot dry air moving from a land surface over a water body will result in higher evaporation rates for smaller water bodies. The evaporation rate of a solution will decrease as the solids and chemical composition increase. Depending upon its origin, evaporation pond influent may contain contaminates of various amounts and composition. Decreases in evaporation rates compared to fresh water rates can seriously increase the failure potential of ponds designed on fresh water evaporation criteria. Designers of settling ponds and lagoons that rely on evaporation need to know the probability level of their designs being exceeded. Confidence limits for published evaporation normals have not been given, nor have analyses been made of the effects of uncertainty in the estimated normals or of the temporal variation of net evaporation. Definition of the spatial and temporal distribution of parameters such as evaporation and precipitation is difficult in mountainous regions. A concern is that the application of many of the empirical equations, based on climatological data, for estimating evaporation have not been thoroughly tested for high altitude conditions. In particular, the ability of these equations for defining the variability of evaporation basically is unknown. Historically, pan data is the most common means for defining free water evaporation. However, the density of evaporation pan stations is much less than that of weather stations.

Many methods exist for either measuring or estimating evaporative losses from free water surfaces. Evaporation pans provide one of the simplest, inexpensive, and most widely used methods of estimating evaporative losses. Long-term pan records are available, providing a potential source of data for developing probabilities of net evaporation. The use of pan data involves the application of a coefficient to measured pan readings to estimate evaporation from a larger water body. Among the most useful methods for estimating evaporation from free water surfaces are the methods which use climatological data. Many of these equations exist, most being based directly upon the a method which was originally intended for open water surfaces, but is now commonly applied to estimates of vegetative, water use.

Monthly evaporation estimates can be made using the Kohler-Nordenson-Fox equation with a pan coefficient of 0.7. The Kohler-Nordenson-Fox equation describes evaporation as the combination of water loss due to radiation heat energy and the aerodynamic removal of water vapor from a saturated surface. The general form for the combination equation is:

where E is the evaporation in inches per day, d is the slope of the saturation vapor pressure curve at air temperature in inches of mercury per degree F, Y is the psychrometric constant in inches of mercury per degree F, Rn is the net radiation exchange expressed in equivalent inches of water evaporated, and Ea is an empirically derived bulk transfer term of the form :

Where f(u) is a wind function and (es - ed) is the vapor pressure deficit.

Kohler-Nordenson-Fox evaluated the aerodynamic term using pan data resulting in the form:

Where ea is in units of inches of water per day, Up is the wind speed 2 feet above the ground expressed in miles per day, and es and ea are the saturation vapor pressures at mean air and mean dew-point temperatures, respectively (expressed in inches of mercury). For development of the wind function, an adjustment in the psychrometric constant is generally made to account for the sensible heat conducted

through the sides and bottom of the evaporation pan. One may also apply as an approximation the following expression for the psychrometric constant:

where P is the atmospheric pressure in inches of mercury. My own experience in designing surface lagoons and evaporation ponds over the years, and substantiated in the literature, has been to apply a pan coefficient of 0.7.

Of concern is that there is very little information often available concerning the effects of common waste waters on evaporation rates. As noted, the evaporation rate of a solution will decrease as the solids and chemical concentrations increase. However, the overall effects on evaporation rates of dissolved constituents as well as color changes and other factors of wastewater are largely unknown.

Evaporation from surface ponds are usually based upon estimates of annual net evaporation. Calculation of annual evaporation rates requires estimates during periods when the surface may be frozen. Most studies related to cold weather evaporation have been concerned with snow rather than ice. In general, the evaporation from a snow pack is usually much less than the amount of melting that occurs. Considering the large percentage of the annual evaporation which occurs during the warmer months and the overall uncertainties involved in estimates of evaporation from water surfaces, the amount of evaporation from frozen ponds during winter can reasonably be neglected in calculating annual evaporation. A more important consideration is the evaporation which occurs during winter from ponds which may remain unfrozen due to the introduction of warm wastewater. In these cases, water temperature will influence the evaporation rates. However, the low value of the saturation vapor pressure of the air above any water body will limit evaporation. Annual estimates of evaporation herein can be made by applying the Kohler-Nordenson-Fox equation throughout the year. Such estimates should provide near maximum possible evaporation estimates. For lined ponds, evaporation will be confined mainly to the water surface area. Evaporation from the soil and vegetation on the banks surrounding the pond should be minimal. However, for ponds which have appreciable seepage to the surrounding area, evaporation from this area will be dependent upon the type and amount of vegetation, as well as the moisture content of the upper soil layers. Methods foe estimating evaporation and/or évapotranspiration in these instances are readily available and you can find some of these studies and estimating procedures by doing a Web search.

If water losses from the surrounding area are a major component of the total evaporative losses of the pond, then soil moisture conditions will be expected to be high. Under non-limiting soil moisture conditions vegetative moisture losses are often defined as "potential" losses. Evaporative losses in this case would not be expected to differ greatly from free water evaporation. The literature recommends in fact that lake evaporation be used as a measure of potential évapotranspiration. Thus, for high soil moisture conditions, evaporation rates calculated for the water surface should be applicable to the surrounding area. The influence upon evaporation of vegetative growth within a pond is uncertain. The literature is inconclusive as to whether vegetation will increase or decrease evaporation compared to an open surface. It appears that the effect may be somewhat dependent upon the size of the water body. Literature studies indicate vegetation will decrease evaporation for extensive surfaces with the effect being less for smaller surface areas. It is very possible, however, that the introduction of vegetation upon the surface of a water body of more limited extent may increase its evaporative water loss, but only while the vegetation remains in a healthy, robust condition. Thus, the effect of the presence of vegetation appears to range from being a water conservation mechanism to that of increasing evaporation. In either case, the potential effects appear to be quite large with reported ratios of vegetative covered to open water evaporation under extreme conditions ranging from 0.38 to 4.5. In most instances, this ratio would be expected to be much closer to unity.

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