Each year, the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory’s wastewater treatment plant produces more than a hundred million gallons of treated wastewater effluent. This summer, in an effort to reduce its environmental impact, the laboratory christened a system that will allow it to treat and recycle its wastewater for use in its own cooling towers. This recycling system will allow the facility to reduce its wastewater discharge into the nearby Sandia Canyon, while also decreasing the facility’s potable water consumption by up to 32%.

The Sanitary Effluent Reclamation Facility (SERF-E) project was originally designed to help the laboratory meet Environmental Protection Agency limits on polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). It uses a four-step process in order to treat the water (as shown below):

  1. precipitation and flocculation (where pollutants are chemically treated so they can be removed from the wastewater)
  2. solids concentration
  3. solids removal and dewatering
  4. reverse osmosis.

In addition to cleaning up the wastewater, the facility will also allow for the reuse of approximately 120 million gallons of sanitary effluent per year. The recycled water will be circulated through the laboratory’s cooling towers to help cool the super-computers housed in the laboratory’s Strategic Computer Complex. The system is designed to be flexible, allowing the facility to continue to discharge some treated wastewater into the nearby Sandia Canyon Wetland in order to protect that area’s environment.

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Office of Public Affairs