Thursday, February 19th, 2015, 12:00 am

Waste Water Treatment in Hospitals and Medical Facilities: Myths and Facts


The average hospital has 160 beds, most of which are in use all of the time. This presents a great deal of opportunities for the creation of waste water in multiple ways. In L.A. county, CA, for example, there is an average of 319 gpd of waste water produced per bed on a daily basis. As a result, there have been many myths about waste water treatment that distort the way one approaches water treatment within a hospital. This article will subvert a few of these myths by taking a look at the truth behind them.

Myth: The quality of hospital waste water doesn’t really matter, because the sewage waste water treatment system will filter out any contaminants.

Fact:According to the United States Geological Survey, only 60 percent of all suspended solids are removed from waste water by primary treatment. Since four out of every ten suspended solids in waste water continue on untreated, higher amounts of contaminants in hospital waste water will have significant impacts that the sewage waste water treatment system cannot prevent.

Myth: The only major concern for hospital waste water is microbial

Fact: Although microbial contaminants are easy considerations for contamination in hospital waste water, the problem does not stop there. There are many other harmful contaminants in hospital waste water that need to be accounted for. For example, mercury and other dangerous heavy metals are often suffused throughout hospital waste water on a daily basis; inorganic contaminants like these often end up in river sediment, significantly harming the life ecology therein.

Myth: Hospital waste water isn’t that much worse than the waste water generated by individual people.

Fact: Hospital waste water is exposed to a high concentration of antibiotics, medicines, hazardous microbes. These contaminants come from patient treatment solutions, as well as medical research the utilizes materials and chemicals not as common to most other sources of water waste. In fact, hospitals are the only sources of pathogens such as iodinated X-ray contrast media. This means that a hospital with untreated waste water is a much larger contributor of contaminants than most other sources.

Myth: Water supplied by the utility companies is good enough for all applications within a hospital.

Fact:A variety of contaminants, including heavy metals are present in all tap water. In the United States, for example, 42 out of 50 states have tap water that is contaminated by 141 unregulated contaminants that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not even established any safety records for. The only way for a hospital to get rid of them is with effective water treatment systems that target incoming water. In other words, much of the waste water used by hospitals is already contaminated before it is even used.

Myth: The contaminants in hospital waste water can be eliminated through the use of normal waste water treatment methods.

Fact:Many of the contaminants in hospital waste water are either resistant or completely immune to normal waste water treatment procedures. This means that even if a hospital takes steps beyond simply allowing the sewage treatment system to do its job, they can be completely ineffective if the right tools are not used for their unique conditions.

What can hospitals do to mitigate the effects of waste water that they generate?

The key for hospitals seeking to mitigate the effects of their waste water is an investment in green water treatment solutions. This includes water recycling, filtration and other waste water treatment systems that can both reduce the volume of hospital waste water contributed to the sewage system and mitigate the amount of contaminants contained therein.