Stay in Compliance with Automated Wastewater Treatment


It’s critical for industrial facilities
to meet EPA and local wastewater requirements for effluent, including those under the Clean Water Act. Failing to do so can result in severe fines that quickly escalate.

Although the type of industry and specific operational practices determine the type of wastewater generated, most involve suspended solids, heavy metals, organic compounds, or a variety of other pollutants. Under the Clean Water Act, for example, the EPA has identified 65 pollutants and classes of pollutants as “toxic pollutants,” of which 126 specific substances have been designated “priority” toxic pollutants.

For many facilities, this means installing a wastewater treatment system that effectively separates the contaminants from the water so it can be legally discharged into sewer systems or even re-used. However, traditional wastewater treatment systems can be complex, often requiring multiple steps, a variety of chemicals, and a considerable amount of labor. Even when the process is supposedly automated, too often technicians must still monitor the equipment in person. This usually requires oversight of mixing and separation, adding of chemicals, and other tasks required to keep the process moving. Even then, the water produced can still fall below mandated requirements.

Although paying to have industrial wastewater hauled away is also an option, it is extraordinarily expensive. In contrast, it is much more cost effective to treat the industrial wastewater at its source, so treated effluent can go into a sewer and treated sludge passes a TCLP (Toxicity Characteristics Leaching Procedure) test and can be disposed of as non-hazardous waste in a local landfill.

Fortunately, complying with EPA and local wastewater regulation has become much easier with more fully automated wastewater treatment systems. These systems not only reliably meet regulatory wastewater requirements, but also significantly reduce the cost of treatment, labor, and disposal when the proper separating agents are also used.


This EconoFlow unit includes Human Machine Interface (HMI), which can be remotely adjusted.

In contrast to labor-intensive multiple step processes, automated wastewater treatment can help to streamline production, usually with a one-step process, while lowering costs at industrial facilities.

An automated wastewater treatment system can eliminate the need to monitor equipment in person while complying with EPA and locally mandated requirements. Such automated systems separate suspended solids, emulsified oil, and heavy metals, then encapsulate the contaminants, producing an easily de-waterable sludge in minutes. The water is typically then separated using a de-watering table or bag filters before it is discharged into sewer systems or further filtered for re-use as process water. Other options for de-watering include using a filter press or rotary drum vacuum. The resulting solids are non-leachable and are considered non-hazardous, so will pass all required testing.

These systems are available as manual batch processors, semi-automatic, or automatic, and can be designed as a closed-loop system for water reuse or to provide a legally dischargeable effluent suitable for the sewer system. A new, fully customized system is not always required. In many cases, it can be faster and more cost effective to add to or modify an industrial facility’s current wastewater treatment systems when this is feasible.

Wastewater treatment equipment requires effective separating agents that agglomerate with the solids in the wastewater.

However, because every wastewater stream is unique to its industry and application, each wastewater treatment solution must be suited to or specifically tailored to the application. The first step in evaluating the potential cost savings and effectiveness of a new system is to sample the wastewater to determine its chemical make-up, followed by a full review of local water authority requirements. The volume of wastewater that will be treated is also analyzed to determine if a batch unit or flow-through system is required. Other considerations include the size restrictions so the system fits within the facility’s available footprint.


One example of successful automated wastewater treatment involves one of the largest independent corrugated manufacturers, which processes more than 8 million sq. ft. of corrugated packaging and displays per day. This corrugated manufacturer required more efficient treatment of wastewater that is generated from the washdown of its flexographic printing presses, which use various inks in the manufacturing process.

For this, the corrugated manufacturer turned to an EconoFlow fully automated wastewater system, as well as Cleartreat separating agent, from Sabo Industrial Corp. Sabo Industrial is a New York-based manufacturer, distributor, and integrator of industrial waste treatment equipment and solutions, including batch and fully automated systems, Cleartreat separating agents, bag filters, and accessories.

The system includes a high-volume flow-through mix unit, large capacity feed hopper, bag housing for solids removal, self-indexing dewatering table, and final polishing vessels. Sensors ensure proper material flow and operation, and onscreen audio-visual alerts indicate if anything requires attention.

What sets this system apart is that, instead of typical labor-intensive in-person monitoring of equipment, to correct a problem the mix chambers’ motors are controlled electronically by Human Machine Interface (HMI) and can be remotely adjusted, along with the mix motor speed and powder feed, by Sabo Industrial. The industrial wastewater equipment provider can use the equipment’s integrated webcams as needed to view the mixing chambers for flocculant formation, floc structure, color, and water clarity. Remote access also enables viewing alert conditions on the touchscreen and provides the ability to reset the machine if needed.


Despite the advances in automating wastewater treatment equipment, any such system requires effective separating agents that agglomerate with the solids in the wastewater so the solids can be safely and effectively separated out. Because of the importance of separating agents for wastewater treatment, Sabo Industrial uses a special type of bentonite clay in a line of wastewater treatment chemicals called ClearTreat. This line of wastewater treatment chemicals is formulated to break oil and water emulsion; provide heavy metals removal; and promote flocculation, agglomeration, and suspended solids removal.

Bentonite has a large specific surface area with a net negative charge, which makes it a particularly effective adsorbent and ion exchange for wastewater treatment applications to remove heavy metals, organic pollutants, nutrients, etc. As such, bentonite is essential to effectively encapsulate the materials. This can usually be achieved in one-step treatment, which lowers process and disposal costs.

In contrast, polymer-based products do not encapsulate the toxins, so systems that use that type of separating agent are more prone to having waste products leach back out over time or upon further agitation.

Another example comes from a heavy equipment dealer with six locations in New York and Connecticut. This company required a treatment system for the wastewater created by equipment washdowns. The wastewater contained oil, grease, suspended solids, heavy metals, and cleaning agents.

For the application, Sabo Industrial supplied an EconoFlow 10-gallon per minute unit using a bentonite-based ClearTreat formulation. The EconoFlow unit included a 24-bag filter tank, a single stage bag filter housing, final polishing vessels, and an 850-gallon storage tank for water reuse. The system also has HMI capabilities that allow remote monitoring and adjustment of the equipment as needed. The system provides reliable, one-step wastewater treatment, and legally dischargeable or reusable effluent.

Today’s automated systems, along with the most effective Cleartreat separating agents, can provide manufacturers with an easy, cost-effective alternative so they remain compliant with local ordinances and the EPA. Although there is a cost to these systems, they do not require much attention and can easily be more economical than paying fines or hauling. 

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, CA, who writes about health, business, technology, and educational issues. Learn more about Sabo Industries at