containerised wastewater treatment plant for industrial sewage treatment

Above Ground Wastewater Treatment Plants

In this article we talk about above ground wastewater treatment plants. Such as what they are, when and how they developed, and their advantages by comparison to below ground treatment plant types.

Above Ground Wastewater Treatment – what does it mean?

Modern wastewater treatment developed around 1850. Outbreaks of deadly waterborne disease were rife in densely populated areas. When we eventually came to realize that our wastewater was the culprit we began to change our habits. So we started to bury our waste deep in chambers underground – out of sight, out of mind!

Following that, Frenchman John Mouras accidentally invented the first septic tank in 1800s. The basic design featured two concrete chambers into which domestic wastewater would flow and exit. Upon entering the first chamber through an inlet pipe, the solid waste would settle to the bottom to form sludge. After that, any remaining liquid waste would enter the second chamber before exiting through an outlet pipe to the ground.

The basic septic tank design remained much the same for the next century or so, but the process of treating the wastewater improved with advancements in technology. Treating wastewater basically involves improving its quality, so that it’s safer to discharge back to the environment. The higher the quality of the treated wastewater, the better for everyone! Have a look at this infographic by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency on domestic wastewater sludge management to understand more.

So as the term implies, “above ground wastewater treatment” means not sending wastewater to underground chambers for treatment, but to treatment plants on ground level instead.

Types of systems

An above ground wastewater treatment system does what it says on the tin – it treats wastewater above ground. Let’s take a look at two different types of above ground wastewater treatment plants.

Container Plants

Container plants are mobile wastewater treatment systems for above ground installation. They quite literally “contain” all the necessary systems to treat wastewater produced from domestic, commercial or industrial sites. Container plants come in various different sizes, with various types of wastewater treatment technology included appropriate for the particular type of treatment level necessary. Often, they will not require any major excavation work or existing infrastructure for installation. Have a look at our container plants for a better idea.

Concrete Systems

Another typical above ground wastewater treatment system is a concrete system. A concrete system can be installed above or below ground. When installed above ground, a concrete system can also be relocated if necessary. It carries out the same function as a container plant, without the container. The concrete chamber itself is the container, and there can be more than one to carry out the various treatment processes. Have a look at our concrete systems for a better idea.

Why go with above ground wastewater treatment?

Firstly, the most obvious reason is ease of installation. Apart from hooking up the system up to the inlet and outlet pipes, it’s plug and play. In addition, if moving or relocating a system is necessary it’s very easy to do.

Secondly, above ground systems are an economical alternative to expensive excavation or civil works needed to install below ground systems. For example, if a site is too wet or has shallow bed rock, installing an above ground system significantly reduces installation costs.

Finally, above ground systems are naturally, far more accessible than below ground systems. If they need emptying, servicing or an upgrade it’s quick and easy to do. If there’s a problem, diagnosing and fixing it isn’t an issue.


In short, above ground wastewater treatment systems are suitable for installation on any project type due to their versatility and flexibility. For domestic wastewater treatment applications, concrete systems can cater from 6 to 18 persons. On the other end of the spectrum, containerized treatment plants can cater for up to 20,000 persons.

You will typically find them in

  • Homes
  • Hotels
  • Schools
  • Nursing Homes
  • Factories
  • Construction Sites
  • Municipal wastewater treatment [permanent and temporary]
  • Mobile worker camps
  • Temporary industrial sites
  • Offshore Facilities
  • Military camps
  • Refugee camps

So that concludes our overview of above ground wastewater treatment systems. If you would like to know more or need a wastewater treatment system for your project, give our technical sales team a call – we’d be happy to help!

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