Protecting Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plants From Floods

Industrial wastewater treatment plants play a crucial role in protecting people and the environment by treating contaminated water before it is discharged back into our water streams. As these facilities are often located in remote areas, however, they can often face the challenges of flooding (exacerbated during unpredictable weather events such as Storm Babet). Flooding can disrupt operations, cause environmental hazards, damage property and electronics, and ultimately lead to significant financial losses. This is why safeguarding measures are extremely important and why we build our LAT Unit to withstand weather and temperature extremes – see our advice below for the most effective ways to mitigate the issues caused by flooding and top tips for how to run your facilities optimally even in adverse weather conditions.

How does flooding occur at wastewater treatment plants?

When creating a risk mitigation strategy, it’s important to consider the types of flooding that may occur as well as the entry points at each of your sites/locations. This will help you estimate the potential severity of the flood as well as the flow of water and its wider impact, e.g. can untreated wastewater leak beyond the treatment plant? 

Flooding can occur due to any one (or combination of) the following: 

  • Sudden heavy rainfall and storm surges (e.g. storms, flash floods)
  • River flooding (e.g. if there are insufficient physical barriers at nearby rivers)
  • Coastal flooding (e.g. rising sea levels)
  • Failure of dams and reservoirs (e.g. if physical barriers break or water seeps over the barrier)
  • Equipment failure (e.g. the wastewater treatment plant itself leaks or experiences an unexpected overload of inflow water)
  • Structural or building failure (e.g. internal or external damage caused to your facilities has caused a knock-on effect on the wastewater treatment plant)
  • Inadequate drainage systems (e.g. poorly maintained drainage, blockages, or minimal capacity within drainage systems can result in accumulated water that doesn’t have the proper channels for diverting excess water) 

How we recommend mitigating the impacts of a potential flood

Careful planning and awareness of the local area’s existing infrastructure can be key to mitigating the impacts of flooding. This includes:

  • Conducting flood risk assessments to identify potential flood sources and vulnerabilities
  • Developing flood emergency response plans and ensuring these are communicated with staff
  • Elevating critical infrastructure above potential flood levels when installing new equipment
  • Installing flood barriers at doorways as well as across the site 
  • Installing flood pumping systems to remove potential floodwater from the site
  • Monitoring maintenance schedules for your equipment to ensure everything is in good working order and reducing the chance of failure (including regular cleaning to prevent blockages)

Practical examples:

1. Ensuring you have a comprehensive drainage system design

A well-designed (and regularly maintained) drainage system is fundamental to preventing flooding at your wastewater treatment plant. This includes strategically placed retention basins and effective stormwater management that can cope with large quantities of water. Features such as permeable surfaces, swales, and drainage ditches can also help divert excess water away from sensitive areas such as electrical components or waste collection, thus preventing power outages or contamination. These are all elements our on-site engineers will audit ahead of installing a LAT Unit at your location to ensure its compatibility with existing infrastructure. 

2. Installing sufficient flood barriers and defences

Installing flood barriers and defences around critical infrastructure around the plant can offer protection against rising water levels or heavy rain. Options include concrete flood walls, inflatable barriers, sandbags, or flood-proof doors and windows. It’s also important to ensure that defences are regularly inspected to ensure there is no damage that could reduce their effectiveness. We provide regular servicing and engineer callouts as required. Speak to our team for more info across your location(s).

3. Implementation of early warning systems

Implementing an early warning system that can provide real-time data on weather conditions, river levels, and plant inflow rates can be extremely beneficial to your business. Our modern wastewater treatment plants can be controlled and monitored remotely, so our LAT Unit’s standard setup includes warning systems and alerts that will come through straight to your team and ours. This allows our plant operators to make informed decisions, initiate flood preparedness plans, and help reduce the impact of flooding.

4. Having backup power systems

Flooding can disrupt power supplies, making it crucial to have backup power systems in place on-site. It’s also important to ensure these systems are elevated so they can be as protected as possible from water damage. As the LAT Unit is powered by waste heat from other on-site processes, this is an ideal backup method for more sustainable and self-sufficient backup power generation. 

5. Ensuring employees are well-trained and informed about emergency response plans

Having emergency response procedures is great, but they must be communicated to all staff ahead of an incident taking place! Flooding can happen suddenly, so developing clear protocols for flood events and conducting scheduled drills to ensure all employees are well-prepared to respond effectively can make a huge difference as well as help to relieve stress during a genuine emergency.

6. Maintaining collaboration with local authorities

In the case of an emergency, communication with your local authorities (and even nearby water and wastewater treatment businesses) can be key to addressing issues more quickly to keep the community safe. For example, municipal sewage backup problems can occur during floods, so coordinating efforts can prevent contamination and protect water supplies from hazardous substances. 

Contact The LAT Water Team

If you’re looking for a new industrial wastewater treatment provider with modern technology and around-the-clock support, contact our team on +44 (0)1635 635900 or by emailing info@latwater.com. Download our corporate brochure for more details about our sustainable wastewater treatment solutions and check out the rest of our blog for more insights into the work that we do.

Elias Elia
20th Oct 2023