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Water Treatment Plant - State of the Art 2008

Three water treatment innovations being discussed in industry literature include Immersed membranes, Ozone, and Biologically activated carbon (BAC).

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Water treatment is going high-tech, and outdated community water systems are being upgraded with new filtration, chemical and even biological strategies. Water quality is a high priority for municipal leaders, and industrial strength solutions are needed that will minimize pollutants, energy use and ensure healthy water supplies for both citizens and product manufacturing.

Three water treatment innovations being discussed in industry literature include Immersed membranes, Ozone, and Biologically activated carbon (BAC).

One example of innovative water treatment is taken from a state of the art facility in Canada. Because of water supply intake that is located relatively close to the outfall of one of the area’s wastewater treatment plants and recreational use in the area, water quality fluctuates.

In order to treat the inconsistencies in water quality, the expansion of the Lakeview Water Treatment Plant’s location along the shores of Lake Ontario was not only designed as the world’s largest immersed membrane UF plant, but also as the first large-scale water treatment plant to combine ozone and biologically activated carbon (BAC) pretreatment with immersed membranes. The treatment process starts by adding chlorine at the plant intake to control zebra mussels.

According to engineers from CH2M Hill, this solution provides consistently high drinking water quality, while also being treated in a small plant footprint at significant cost savings.

Immersed membrane UF

The water treatment industry is changing to meet changing science and changing community-mandated health strategies. Membranes are one new approach. Because the use of chemicals such as chlorine or fluoride may result in the production of harmful by-products and the generation of large quantities of treatment residuals (sludge).

According to Dr. Pierre Cote in Water & Wastewater, "The most common membrane water treatment process is reverse osmosis (RO), which is used for brackish or seawater desalination. However, other membrane processes, including microfiltration (MF) and ultrafiltration (UF), are rapidly developing due to increasingly stringent microbial and turbidity regulations; increased consumer awareness and expectations of drinking water quality; the reduction in the use of chemicals; and technological advances that have reduced the capital and operating cost of MF/UF systems.

"Immersed membranes differ from conventional membranes in that pressure vessels are not required. Instead, shell-less hollow fibers are immersed directly into an open tank, and a gentle suction is applied to draw clean water through the fibers.

"The suction approach has many advantages, including lower energy requirements, small plant footprints, low infrastructure development and upgrade costs and the ability to treat high-suspended solids with minimal fouling. It is particularly suited to large capacity applications where economies of scale enable the immersed membrane process to compete effectively with traditional water treatment processes."


Ozone is a colorless gas that has an odor similar to smell of the air after a major thunderstorm.

Ozone was first used in water treatment in the late 1800s and ozone is more widely used in Europe and Asia then the United States. Ozone is an unstable gas comprising of three oxygen atoms that can readily degrade back to oxygen. During this transition a free oxygen atom, or free radical is formed. The free oxygen radical is highly reactive and short lived, under normal conditions it will only survive for milliseconds.

According to the Environmental Quality Center, ozone has a greater disinfection effectiveness against bacteria and viruses compared to chlorination. In addition, the oxidizing properties can also reduce the concentration of iron, manganese, sulfur and reduce or eliminate taste and odor problems.

Advantages of using ozone in water treatment include not adding chemicals to the water and elimination of a wide variety of inorganic, organic and microbiological problems and taste and odor problems. Disadvantages include higher cost, lack of germicidal or disinfection residual, continuing by-product research that could be carcinogenic, and potential fire hazards and toxicity issues.

More information from Brian Oram, Professional Geologist (PG) and Laboratory Director at Wilkes University is available online at the Center for Environmental Quality's Earth Sciences website.

Biologically activated carbon (BAC)

"Granular activated carbon (GAC) has been used extensively for the removal of dissolved organics from drinking water. In the early seventies, it was reported that bacteria which proliferate in GAC filters may be responsible for a fraction of the net removal of organics in the filter. Following this discovery, pre-ozonation was found to significantly enhance the biological activity on GAC. The combination of ozonation and GAC is commonly referred to as the biological activated carbon (BAC) process, or biologically enhanced activated carbon process," according to Bertrand W. Dussert and Gary R. Van Stone. In Europe, the BAC process was implemented in many large water treatment plants in the '80s. This European way of thinking for production of high quality drinking water is spreading rapidly in other industrialized countries such as Japan, Canada, and Australia.

The US water industry has been reluctant to use microorganisms for drinking water treatment. However, biological treatment is expected to become more common over the next decade. Driving forces behind this change will be the increased use of ozone in response to the disinfectants-disinfection by-product (D-DBP) rule, and the increased concern over biological regrowth in the distribution system.

The authors suggest that pre-ozonation provides many benefits to the water treatment process including excellent disinfection without the formation of THMs or HAAs, microflocculation, color removal, iron and manganese removal, reduction of taste and odor, enhanced biological activity, etc.

Read more in-depth overview of BAC analysis by Dussert and Van Stone at Water Quality Products: The Biological Activated Carbon process for Water Purification."

Read more about the Lakeview Water Treatment Plant.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| water quality | water |


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