Imagine you just walked into one of the water treatment plants in America, because you keep asking yourself how is water cleaned in America. The first thing that you see is where the water comes into the plant, which is where it is screened. The water has to be screened, because it contains things that need to be removed like rocks, wood, dead animals, and anything else that has fallen into the water.
Another thing you will observe is the pumping process. This is where the water treatment plant uses the force of gravity for the sewage to move from your home into the water treatment plant. Since gravity is the primary force behind this part of the process, water treatment plants are typically located where the ground is lower.
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There are parts of the country that it is not possible to place the water treatment on lower ground, so you will see the water being pumped up into aeration tanks. After the water has been pumped up, then gravity can be used to move the waste water through all the other process that the water goes through in the treatment plant.
You will now see the sewage being shaken around, and exposed to the air during the aeration process. When the water is shaken around during aeration, the dissolved gases that smell like rotten eggs, which actually are hydrogen sulfide will be released from the water. Next you will notice the water enter into a series of parallel, long concrete tanks, which are divided into a couple of sections. The first section you see, is where you will see air being pumped through the water.
The reason you see air being pumped into the water, when you are trying to answer your question of how is water cleaned, is because the oxygen in the water is used up by the decaying organic matter and needs to be replaced. The stuff in the water like sand, coffee grounds, and any other dense particles will be forced out of the water by the bubbling oxygen, while the organic matter is suspended. Next you will observe the dense stuff being forced out of the water, and being pumped into tanks where it is moved to landfills.
Now you will see the water go into the sedimentation tanks where the organic matter, or sewage called sludge, settles to the bottom of the water and is then pumped out of the sedimentation tanks. While the sludge is going to the bottom of the tanks, there is lighter waste, like oil, soap, grease, plastics, along with other light stuff that floats to the top of the water. You will notice rakes that move slowly over the surface to skim the scum off.
Some cities in the United States filter their sewage by removing the solid, and gravity flow the liquid sewage through sand. When they filter the sewage this way, it helps to remove some of the bacteria, color and odors, plus most of the solid stuff that was in the water.
Next, when learning how to clean water, you will observe one of the most dangerous things that happens, which is the water goes into the chlorine tank. This is where you will see the deadly chemical chlorine added to the water, which kills the bacteria. Some cities try to neutralize the chlorine by adding other chemicals. To get more information, plus an in depth explanation on how to make clean water from dirty water, visit the U.S. Geological Survey website. They have lots of information that can answer many questions you may have about how to make clean water.