Solid chemical water treatment ensures customers stay cool (and healthy) even when school’s out
By Bobbi King
Einstein once said, “What does a fish know about the water in which he swims his entire life?” The same can be paraphrased of most aspects of our lives, including the air which we breathe. Each day we send our children to school and go off to work, not giving a second thought about the air quality of the buildings in which we spend most of our time.
We trust others with our health and the health of our children and loved ones. We hope the school is doing its best to maintain a clean, germ-free environment, wiping and disinfecting everything in the path of the common cold and viral infections. We trust that our workplace is clean, comfortable and free of safety hazards.
Maintenance teams work around the clock to provide the safe environment we expect. Janitorial crews work diligently to disinfect the surface areas which our children are in contact, and shine the workspaces we share with our customers each day.
But what about the air we breathe? Besides the desks, doorknobs, floors, and tables that are common sources for bacterial and viral infections, facilities managers and building superintendants are also concerned about the sources of serious airborne illnesses, including Legionnaires disease.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates Legionnaires hospitalises 8,000 to 18,000 each year. The CDC’s website explains, “The Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, large plumbing systems, or parts of the air-conditioning systems of large buildings. They do not seem to grow in car or window air-conditioners.”
The site goes on to explain, “People get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in a mist or vapour (small droplets of water in the air) that has been contaminated with the bacteria.”
Because of the ever-increasing cost of energy, cooling towers are one of the most widely used, cost efficient means of controlling the climate in large buildings. Properly functioning cooling tower systems save the property management–or in the case of a school, the taxpayer– a lot of money. Water is readily available and comparatively inexpensive.
There are many factors that contribute to the proper operation of the system. Quality of the water used to operate the system being of the utmost importance. If the water used to operate the system is pure, the cooling tower will provide several years worry-free of service.
Unfortunately, pure water does not exist in nature, and impurities can vary widely at each location. Water must be treated to remove the contaminants that can threaten the operation of a cooling tower. Scale and corrosion both form in cooling towers as a result of such contaminates. Both can foul the operation of a cooling system, lessening the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of the system, and possibly creating the opportune condition for microbiological bacteria to form.
Luckily, this is not a responsibility that facilities managers have to handle alone. Often, facilities management personnel work with water treatment experts to monitor and treat cooling tower water sources within their premises.
Water treatment professionals test the water on-site and develop on-going treatment plans specific to the conditions at the facility to prolong the life of the cooling system and maintain the air and water quality standards patrons expect.
Chad Brown, Vice President, Water Treatment Services Company (WTS), Alexander, Arkansas, is a 10-year veteran of the water treatment industry. “Our customers all have the same goal: A reliable cooling system that provides a healthy, comfortable environment for patrons and years of cost-effective operation. Customers contact us during at many different stages. Architects will contact us to design water treatment systems to be incorporated into the design of new buildings, facilities managers contact us to help maintain existing cooling tower water treatment systems, and sometimes, unfortunately, we’re called in after a system has lost efficiency or has completely failed,” Brown explained. (Scale formation in fouled systems is treatable and most times even reversible, with the assistance of an HVAC contractor, but repairing and treating the problem after-the-fact can prove to be a costly endeavour for the facility. Brown estimates that descaling, and repairing a system can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the system and the severity of the scaling.)
The Fort Bend School Independent School District (FBIS), Sugar Land, Texas, was introduced to WTS by a satisfied customer’s referral. “Our first experience with the district was at Dulles High School. The mechanical services contractor responsible for FBIS contacted me on the recommendation of a colleague, and said that the situation was ‘pretty bad out there.’ They literally had water pouring out of the cooling tower fill onto the ground, because there was so much scale in the fill.”
Upon arrival, WTS confirmed: things were bad at Dulles High School. “With that amount of scale, it was clear the water treatment chemistry was not correct, and the system efficiency was suffering,” Brown explained. “Scale acts as insulation between the water, and the metal of the basin which cools the water; the system was working harder than it should to cool the water because there was no contact between the two.”
Besides the loss of system efficiency and the flooding caused by the scale build-up, there was a safety concern: The school was utilising a traditional liquid chemical programme that included 55-gallon drums of hazardous treatment chemicals. Each drum weighed nearly 500 pounds. For the people whose job it is to maintain the system, the programme posed both chemical exposure, and ergonomic health threats.
“The Fort Bend Mechanical Contractors indicated that they needed a water treatment system that would perform. They needed a system that was safe for the people who maintained it by reducing employee’s exposure to safety hazards, and that also reversed existing damage, and inhibited new scale formation. After our initial investigation and series of water tests, we determined a solid chemistry programme would be the most effective solution. We installed Hydro Systems’ solid chemical dissolver systems, teamed with AP Tech chemistry,” Brown said.
Cincinnati, Ohio, based Hydro Systems Co., is the world’s largest independent manufacturer of proportioning, dosing, and dispensing systems for concentrated chemicals. Through its Water Treatment division, Hydro Systems has been providing solid chemical feed systems for the commercial dish machine industry for years and has taken the lead in developing a versatile line of dispensing products for use with both solid and liquid water-treatment chemicals in the toughest of applications. Using this expertise and experience, Hydro has developed a series of water treatment products designed to ensure efficient, safe, and reliable operation of the equipment at many stages of the cooling-tower water treatment process.
AP Tech Group, also based in Cincinnati, Ohio, manufactures water treatment chemicals for cooling tower and boiler system applications. “Hydro Systems’ solid chemical feeders eliminate the personal risk associated with handling the large drums of chemical.
Solid chemical chemistry contains less active chemical when dissolved. Also, the solid chemical containers weigh an average of nine to ten pounds, and can be easily handled by one person, which alleviated many of the safety concerns FBIS had with their previous programme,” Brown explained.
“The turn-around at FBIS was instantly noticeable. They went from large drums of chemicals to small, wall-mounted dissolvers, and light-weight, easily managed chemical containers. Water was no longer pouring onto the floor.” Brown went on to explain, “In our industry, a cooling tower water temperature drop of 2-3 degrees in the first month would be considered a success. Within two weeks of implementing the new treatment programme at Dulles, the approach water temperature dropped six degrees! Lower water temperatures mean increased efficiency – the system doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the water.”
Brown note that since the programme switch, WTS has continually monitored the Dulles High School cooling tower, and the results are outstanding. He indicated that the testing has shown the approach water temperature falling even farther, and predicts it will settle around 12 to 15 degrees lower, which will equate to a 12 to 15% reduction in energy required to operate the cooling system.
Looking ahead, Brown is anticipating a long-standing relationship among all involved parties, “The school district has made plans with WTS to switch the remaining 50 cooling towers throughout the district to the solid chemistry water treatment programme in 2011. We plan to use the Hydro Systems solid chemical dissolvers in those buildings, as well. They work, and work well. They did exactly what we needed them to do.”
There is a lot riding on the quality air in all public buildings, and the quality of water used to cool the building. It’s not an issue WTS takes lightly, as Chad explained, “We take the burden off our customers. We test the water, determine the proper treatment regimen, deliver the chemical, and monitor conditions for changes.”
The absence of scale and corrosion means the absence of opportunity for troublesome microbiological contaminants, such as Legionella, to form. At the Fort Bend Independent School District, these absences will certainly be excused.
Category: Industrial Water