American Water Receives Patent for Wastewater Treatment Process

By Joseph Mandour on September 29, 2011

water-glass-of-164x164 Orange County – American Water Works Company was recently issued U.S. Patent No. 8,012,352 for “Optimized Nutrient Removal from Wastewater.” The largest public water utility company in the United States, American Water employs over 8,000 people and services more than 16 million Americans in 32 states. American Water is confident that the new patented process will decrease the high energy costs of wastewater treatment and make the process more environmentally sustainable.

A process may receive patent protection if it is novel, non-obvious, and useful. The novelty requirement mandates that the patented process must be entirely new or an improvement to an existing process. The process must also be non-obvious, or not otherwise in use or existence in the prior art. Finally, the process must serve some utilitarian function or perform some useful task.

In this case, the American Water patent greatly improves the wastewater treatment process allowing for sustainable and inexpensive sewage treatment. Throughout the United States, wastewater treatment facilities are required to remove access nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from wastewater. High levels of these nutrients can cause rapid and excessive algae growth once the wastewater is returned to the environment. Nitrogen and phosphorous rich soil also encourages the growth of weeds.
Currently, the nutrient removal process is expensive and complicated. In many cases, wastewater treatment facilities must supplement the treatment process by adding carbon. American Water’s new patented process allows for the sustainable removal of these nutrients without the addition of carbon.

In addition, the new process does not rely on dissolved oxygen which leads to high energy costs. Typical treatment processes utilize dissolved oxygen to create “biological floc” that removes organic material from the wastewater. Decreasing reliance on dissolved oxygen will lead to significantly lower energy costs in the treatment process.
While the majority of treated wastewater in the United States is returned to the environment or used as water for irrigation, there is a growing international market for potable reclaimed water. Singapore’s innovative NEWater is reclaimed water that is purified through reverse osmosis, microfiltration, and ultraviolet technology, creating potable water. NEWater has consistently exceeded World Health Organizations standards for acceptable drinking water.

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Posted in: Patent Registration