Abstract

Wastewater treatment facilities are continually challenged to meet both environmental regulations and reduce running costs (particularly energy and staffing costs). Improving the efficiency of operational monitoring at wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) requires the development and implementation of appropriate performance metrics; particularly those that are easily measured, strongly correlate to WWTP performance, and can be easily automated, with a minimal amount of maintenance or intervention by human operators. Turbidity is the measure of the relative clarity of a fluid. It is an expression of the optical property that causes light to be scattered and absorbed by fine particles in suspension (rather than transmitted with no change in direction or flux level through a fluid sample). In wastewater treatment, turbidity is often used as an indicator of effluent quality, rather than an absolute performance metric, although correlations have been found between turbidity and suspended solids. Existing laboratory-based methods to measure turbidity for WWTPs, while relatively simple, require human intervention and are labour intensive. Automated systems for on-site measuring of wastewater effluent turbidity are not commonly used, while those present are largely based on submerged sensors that require regular cleaning and calibration due to fouling from particulate matter in fluids. This paper presents a novel, automated system for estimating fluid turbidity. Effluent samples are imaged such that the light absorption characteristic is highlighted as a function of fluid depth, and computer vision processing techniques are used to quantify this characteristic. Results from the proposed system were compared with results from established laboratory-based methods and were found to be comparable. Tests were conducted using both synthetic dairy wastewater and effluent from multiple WWTPs, both municipal and industrial. This system has an advantage over current methods as it provides a multipoint analysis that can be easily repeated for large volumes of wastewater effluent. Although the system was specifically designed and tested for wastewater treatment applications, it could have applications such as in drinking water treatment, and in other areas where fluid turbidity is an important measurement.

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