How our laws fail to truly protect our environment

I work as water treatment engineer, and my job consists of consulting on wastewater treatment for the industry. Part of my activity is to visit wastewater plants from all sorts of industrial activities. It’s not a charming activity, it does not smell good but it’s a daily reality check. I get to see not only how everything is produced, but the trail of waste it leaves.

I recently visited a bird’s slaughterhouse, and the smell, the blood and the silence was intoxicating. I could feel the cold presence of death. Being able to see only the remains of the morning activities, I was surrounded by feathers and the blood, that had no market value and were just the last non disposable evidence of the morning’s slaughter.

Everyday thousands of birds are killed on that slaughterhouse to fulfill the shelves of our supermarkets, in a very efficient and sterilize process. However there is a large amount of water that is used to wash the remains and transport the feathers to the wastewater plant of the slaughterhouse, and that has to be treated. The organic waste will be carried to be decomposed, and the wastewater partially cleaned to be used again or later discharged. And that is where my team cames in: we look at the process and decide what and how can be treated to be reused and how to treat the remaining water so it can be discharged either on the water resources or another wastewater facility.

Although there are laws and guidelines as to the amount of each contaminant that can be present upon discharge, the treatment many of this industry’s choose to apply is not optimized to have the least impact on the environment, but to have minimum cost instead. This creates a business, that feeds upon selling cheap solutions, that work only for a short time, instead of a long lasting one that would spare the environment on the long run. Of course this is a business solution only because our law fails to protect the environment. I can reduced the amount of a substance in a wastewater discharge just by diluting it, but that wouldn’t be the most environmentally friendly solution, would it?

The control of the wastewater discharge should be well designed, based not only on the water characterization analysis results, but the wastewater treatment it self. The wastewater treatment should be designed to have the least environmental impact, the most water/waste reuse and to last . It’s not rocket science, it’s pretty logical, so why are we always so stupid when applying what we know?

Wastewater lagoon from a Slaughterhouser
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