Dissolved methane in the influent of three Australian wastewater treatment plants fed by gravity sewers
Journal article, 2017
Methane (CH4) is an important anthropogenic greenhouse gas and a by-product of urban sewage management. In recent years and contrary to international (IPCC) consensus, pressurised (anaerobic) sewers were identified as important CH4 sources, yet relatively little remains known regarding the role of gravity sewers in CH4 production and conveyance. Here we provide the results of a nine month study assessing dissolved CH4 levels in the raw influent of three large Australian wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) fed by gravity sewers. Similar to recent international research and contrary to IPCC guidance, results show that gravity sewered wastewater contains moderate levels of CH4 (? 1 mg L? 1). Dissolved CH4 concentration correlated negatively with daily sewage flow rate (i.e. inversely proportional to sewer hydraulic residence time), with daily CH4 mass loads on average some two-fold greater under low flow (dry weather) conditions. Along with sewage hydraulic residence time, sewer sediments are thought to interact with sewage flow rate and are considered to play a key role in gravity sewer CH4 production. A per capita load of 78 g CH4 person? 1 y? 1 is offered for gravity sewered wastewater entering WWTPs, with a corresponding emission estimate of up to 62 g CH4 person? 1 y? 1, assuming 80% water-to-air transfer of inflowing CH4 in WWTPs with combined preliminary–primary plus secondary treatment. Results here support the emerging consensus view that hydraulic operation (i.e. gravity versus pressurised, sewage flow rate) is a key factor in determining sewer CH4 production, with gravity sewer segments likely to play a dominant role in total CH4 production potential for large metropolitan sewer networks. Further work is warranted to assess the scale and temporal dynamics of CH4 production in gravity sewers elsewhere, with more work needed to adequately capture and assess the scale of diffuse sewer network CH4 emissions from sprawling urban settlements globally.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Domestic and industrial wastewater
Urban water sector
Municipal gravity sewers