Wastewater treatment plants play vital roles in today’s communities. Without them, water could not be treated, cleaned, and reused, leading to critical shortages, increased pollution and environmental damage, and other negative outcomes. However, treatment plants must regularly test the water, determine what must be done to successfully treat it, and then verify safety for human use and consumption. Laboratory design and functionality are central to achieving those goals.

What Do Wastewater Plant Laboratories Do?

As mentioned, treatment plant laboratories are responsible for analyzing water samples before and after treatment. Based on the results of these analyses, decisions can be made about treatment methods, chemical levels, and more. All of these steps are important for water to be returned to the environment without dangerous contaminants.

What Contaminants Are in Wastewater?

Wastewater may contain any number of contaminants, ranging from farm fertilizer runoff to human waste. Some of the most common contaminants tested for in a wastewater laboratory include the following:

  • Oil
  • Grease
  • Human waste
  • Bacteria
  • Soap and other cleansers
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Trace metals, including lead and mercury

The wastewater treatment plant’s laboratory is responsible for testing all discharged water (after treatment) to ensure that it meets regulatory standards and is fit for use.

Additional Roles Wastewater Treatment Plants Serve

In addition to testing water before and after treatment, wastewater treatment plant laboratories also serve other roles. In some communities, they provide permitting, inspecting, and sampling for industrial and commercial entities in the area. In some cases, these labs generate additional revenue by collecting fees, monitoring costs, and even fines.

Elements of Wastewater Treatment Plant Lab Design

Because the laboratory is so important to wastewater treatment plant function and the ability to correctly treat contaminated water, the design is crucial.

Dynamic – Laboratories often require a dynamic design. That is, they must be able to change with minimal difficulty as new technologies emerge and new best practices come to the fore. Futureproof design helps limit costs, the time required to change the layout and add new equipment/furniture, and more. Ideally, storage will be located around the periphery of the laboratory, with the center of the space being designed with the fluidity of use in mind.

Area Designs – Wastewater treatment plant labs must include many purpose-designed areas, including microbiology, organics, and inorganics testing, general chemistry, nutrient analysis, and sample receipt areas. Each area will require specific furniture, fixtures, and equipment, as well as access to supplies and materials.

Ability to Test – Laboratories must be able to conduct a wide range of water quality and safety tests. Some of the most common tests include coliform testing, chemical oxygen demand (COD) testing, alkalinity testing, ammonia testing, hardness testing, dissolved solids testing, chlorine residual testing, and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) testing.

Storage – Wastewater treatment plant laboratories must have many types of storage. Materials must be stored close at hand, as most chemicals and testing tools. Equipment must also be stored safely away when not in use.

Providing the right storage requires purpose-designed casework manufactured from the right material. For instance, metal casework is a critical consideration, as inferior materials may succumb to chemical exposure or spills. Metal is also easily cleaned, lasts for decades with minimal care, and can be sanitized quite easily.

However, “out of the box” casework is rarely the right option for wastewater treatment plant laboratories. Instead, custom casework can be designed to match installation requirements, space allotment, usage needs, resistance to tools and chemicals, and other considerations that help maximize value and ROI while providing the best in terms of usability and durability.

Tables and Workbenches – Laboratory work is generally carried out on a table or workbench. Due to the caustic nature of the chemicals used in wastewater treatment plant laboratories, as well as the presence of biological materials and a wide range of potential toxins, these must be designed and manufactured from nonreactive material (a range of such materials exists) that can be easily cleaned and sanitized.

Workbench and table tops should be smooth and even, without cracks, crevices, dimples, or depressions left by mounting hardware (nuts, bolts, screws, etc.) where contaminants might be trapped and build up. The material should also be nonporous to prevent the absorption of spills.

Counter, Bench, and Table Top Materials

As mentioned, the material chosen for work surfaces – workbenches, tables, and counters – must meet very specific requirements. It must be nonporous. It must also be nonreactive. It must be smooth and seamless, without flaws that might collect liquids or contaminants. Several different materials can be used here, including epoxy resin, phenolic resin, and stainless steel. Each material offers a unique combination of benefits and performance considerations.

All three surface materials are nonreactive and easily cleaned and sanitized at the end of the day or in the event of a spill. They are also nonporous and will not harbor bacteria. However, stainless steel designs often have seams at bends and joins, whereas epoxy resin and phenolic resin tops are seamless, which prevents bacteria from building up in those crevices.

Additional Lab Design Considerations

Many other factors should be considered in the wastewater treatment plant lab design. For instance, will the lab need mounted casework that’s permanently hung on walls? Will drawers and cabinets be important for work/testing areas, or only for storage cabinets?

Plumbing is also a critical consideration. Piping and drainage must be provided to work areas, but it must be done in such a way that it doesn’t impede workflow or functionality. Will work areas require wall-mounted pegboard and pegs? Will edge rails be required to help prevent spills? Will benches and tables require casters to ensure easy movement?

Work with an Experienced Lab Designer

Experience matters when it comes to lab design. At Laboratory Design and Supply, we’ve spent almost 25 years working with clients in multiple industries to design custom laboratory furniture and accessories. With over 10,000 lab design products and freeform materials, we offer wastewater treatment plants the ability to create a high-performing laboratory based on their unique needs and requirements. Contact us today to receive a cost estimate within 72 hours.