EU directives such as the Water Frame Work Directive, Drinking Water Directive and Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive are the main political drivers that have catalyzed strong opportunities for treatment techniques such as membrane bio-reactor (MBR), ozone water treatment and ultraviolet (UV).
Such directives counter balance the budget restrictions felt today by many governments in Europe with respect to infrastructure projects. While water treatment operators and customers would like to improve water quality, in some cases it takes government regulation to force the use of new technology.
An example of this is the push, noted in a previous posting, by the Swiss government to to control the presence of pharmaceuticals and other personal care products from contaminating the drinking water supply.
A Fresno dentist is using a pain-free technique called Ozone Dentistry with specially treated air and water. The FDA approved machine, an ozone generator, used by the dentist creates ozone from medical grade oxygen. The device also ozonates water which can be used on patients as a kind of “super rinse”. The ozone gas is loaded into a type of syringe but the needle is used only to deliver the gas to a tooth, it does not enter gums or tissue.
According to the Dentist, Dr. Netzley, when the ozone is applied to a cavity it completely sterilizes the tooth and “turns on” the natural reaction in the mouth to start making the tooth healthy again. Dr. Netzley says ozone works best for surface cavities and minor dental problems that are caught early.
It is not clear how widespread the practice of ozone dentistry is or its true efficacy, but medical uses for ozone continue to expand. Ozone is a powerful disinfectant, so the claim of sterilization seems reasonable.
Springfield Public Works (Missouri) is looking at making large-scale upgrades at sewage treatment facilities this year. The utility is seeking to replace old generators and a sewer line. Public Works has rolled out a proposal that asks the city to secure up to $13 million in special obligation bonds. Missouri DNR rated the ozone generator project the No. 1 “green project” in the state.
Ozone generators are extremely effective in disinfecting wastewater. In addition they potentially can remove pharmaceuticals and personal care products that can end up in drinking water by way of wastewater discharges. Ozone also helps to oxygenate the water before it is returned to rivers enhancing the overall health of the ecosystem.
Springfield Public Works wants to replace ozone generators at the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant. That would increase the facility’s capacity to disinfect from 65 million gallons a day to 100 million gallons a day. The generators are about 30 years old and replacement parts are expensive and difficult to come by. Despite the difficulties with replacement parts, the Springfield experience shows the longevity of well made ozone generators. If the city had the new generators, it would likely save $4 million in operating costs in the next 20 years.
As noted in numerous posts on this blog, there is increasing interest by the public and government in the presence of personal care products and pharmaceuticals in surface water, including those used for drinking water supplies. This concern stems from the potential of these contaminants from creating health effects in humans. Thus far, government studies have suggested that the levels of these contaminants is too low to cause health effects for people drinking the water. We do know that fish have been impacted by endocrine disrupting chemicals that results in gender changes in fish thought to be due to the presence of estrogen in the water. The question is if these levels continue to build, will they eventually produce human health effects.
At the recent International Ozone Association (IOA) meeting in Geneva Switzerland, J. L. Walther of the Swiss environmental authority explained that a new regulation is being proposed to require the treatment of secondary urban wastewater treatment effluents to remove up to 80% of these contaminants. It has not yet been made law and the process of getting the regulations in place are just starting, but it appears that the Swiss will be the first to get such a law passed.
Beyond regulations, municipalities are looking at both wastewater and drinking water treatment to see if they can reduce the presence of or remove existing compounds from water. Some have already looked at building systems that anticipate potential regulations down the road. An example if the Clark County Water Reclamation District (Las Vegas, NV), which is building an ozone tertiary treatment plant for this purpose.
At the above mentioned IOA meeting, numerous papers were presented on the application of ozone for this purpose. As in many applications, ozone has the advantage of doing several things at once, e.g. simultaneous disinfection and removal of pharmaceuticals. In addition, ozone has a short lived residual that returns to oxygen, an additional positive for the environment.
While regulation of pharmaceuticals in water may be many years off, the trend toward removing them from water is clearly in place today.
Saad Jasim will become the director of the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) Great Lakes regional office in Windsor. Saad is also assuming the chairmanship of the International Ozone Associations PAG in 2010. He was the director of water quality and production for the Windsor Utilities Commission until 2005 and was responsible for introducing ozone water treatment to Windsor in 2001.
The four-year appointment to the IJC office will give the drinking water expert a chance to use his experience in a broader context. The IJC, which was formed under a 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty between Canada and the United States, looks at both water quality and quantity. More than 30 million people receive their drinking water from the Great Lakes.
He starts his job in Windsor only days after ending his term as the first CEO of the Walkerton Clean Water Centre. It was established in 2004 to train drinking water system operators across the province. During his five-year term there, the centre grew to have 20 staff, trained more than 23,000 people and created a new 19,000-square-foot facility which officially opens in June.
Walkerton became a household name when its water supply was contaminated by E. coli in 2000 and seven people died.
Jasim suggested the idea of treating Windsor’s water with ozone a year before the Walkerton tragedy and it was implemented in 2001. He said ozone would have eliminated the deadly E. coli and many cities followed Windsor’s lead and adopted the ozone system.
There is growing concern about the presence of various personal care and pharmaceutical products in drinking water. Research has shown that ozone can be an effective measuring for lowering these levels. This appears to be the case for the city of Windsor Ontario. The amount of pharmaceuticals in the Detroit River and tap water produced from this source are judged to be extremely low and not a threat to human health according to the Canadian Ministry of Environment.
In research that goes back to 2008, water samples were taken for a year to look for 51 pharmaceutical compounds. 14 of them — pain killers such as ibuprofen and hormones from contraceptives such as birth control pills — were found in low levels in the Detroit River. The highest levels were found near the sewage treatment plant.
Windsor’s ozone water treatment process removed most of the pharmaceuticals from drinking water. this is consistent with research done by the Southern Nevada Water District. Based on that work, the sewage treatment facility for Las Vegas decided to use ozone to disinfect its wastewater prior to discharge to Lake Mead with the goal of reducing the presence of pharmaceutical compounds in the water.
Other cities besides Windsor and Las Vegas are looking at ozone for both drinking water protection and wastewater purification.