WEFTEC: 10 Technologies That Could Change The Industry
So many products, so little time.
That’s the impression I came away with after canvassing the tradeshow floor for three days in New Orleans earlier this month. There were nearly 1,000 exhibitors on hand at the 85th annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC), in addition to countless technical sessions, panel discussions, lectures, demonstrations, and so much more — enough to make anyone’s head spin.
It’s a good kind of dizzy, however, when you are overwhelmed by new technology and smart ideas at every turn. I couldn’t visit every booth (no mere mortal could), but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. From the many technologies I did survey, here are the 10 most noteworthy.
The Sewer Line Rapid Assessment Tool (SL-RAT)
We lead off our list with a trifecta of winners, each honored with a 2012 Innovative Technology Award at WEFTEC’s inaugural Innovation Showcase.
The SL-RAT earns distinction because it uses an intelligent and pragmatic design to address timely and serious concerns — pipe condition assessment and municipal budgets constraints. The diagnostic system, developed jointly by InfoSense and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities (CMU), consists of a mobile transmitter and receiver that are placed over manholes 100 feet apart. Through acoustics, the system instantly determines the presence and extent of a blockage in the sewer pipeline. The great advantage is the time and money saved on needless pipe cleaning; a CMU study found that 50% or more of pipe cleanings were performed unnecessarily.
The JCS Model 4100 Automatic Liquid Vacuum Doser
JCS Industries, Inc.
Proving that innovation doesn’t need to be radical, but instead can be an improvement on an existing idea, JCS was honored at WEFTEC for its Model 4100 Automatic Liquid Vacuum Doser. JCS identified problems with chemical dosing — air binding, feedrate fall off, and calibration errors among them — and set out to solve them with the 4100. The doser self-regulates and self-adjusts to overcome air bubbles and other issues, thus ensuring consistent flow of treatment chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite, sodium bisulfate, aluminum sulfate, and acids. The traditional rotameter was replaced with an electronic flow sensor to improve accuracy, and leaks were reduced by limiting the number of seals to two. SCADA-compatibility also makes the system easy to use, allowing for feedrates to be monitored and adjusted from the plant’s control room.
Wastewater Compliance Systems, Inc.
WEFTEC joined Popular Science, NPR, Discovery News, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in endorsing the Bio-Dome system from Wastewater Compliance Systems (WCS), deeming it a 2012 Innovative Technology Award winner. Designed for wastewater lagoons, the fixed-film, nutrient removal system has been lauded for its low capital and operational costs. WCS calculated that eight existing Bio-Dome installations saved the facilities a combined $11 million — versus the alternative of building a treatment plant.
The introduction of the Bio-Dome is timely in that stricter regulations on ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphorus have recently been levied by the EPA, which identified the technology in its 2011 design manual for wastewater lagoons. The Bio-Dome’s plastic shell houses polypropylene balls dosed with air bubbles from below, promoting the growth of biofilm and bacteria that remove nutrients. The solution is even effective in cold environments — a known trouble spot for many competing technologies.
The PEARL Process
Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc.
A larger-scale solution to nutrient removal is also creating quite a buzz in the industry, and though capital costs of the PEARL Process may be higher, the process actually generates revenue for the municipality by creating a commercial-grade fertilizer as a byproduct. Through public-private partnerships, most recently with Gwinnett County, GA, Ostara estimates total payback of capital expenditures to take 5 to 7 years.
The PEARL process removes up to 90% of phosphorus and 20% of ammonia from the industrial and municipal wastewater streams, harvesting it into an environmentally safe, slow-release fertilizer called Crystal Green. The scalable, closed-loop system stands to gain more traction as rising phosphorus levels become an increasing concern.
Integrated Wastewater Disinfection
Pasteurization Technology Group
Speaking of cutting-edge treatment technologies, how about pasteurization for disinfection? As novel as that approach is, the Pasteurization Technology Group (PTG) also claims to be the first and only company in the world to combine eco-friendly wastewater disinfection with renewable energy generation. The patented system uses natural gas combined with digester gas (biogas) to generate renewable, turbine energy. The turbine heat is used to disinfect the wastewater stream, which is then cooled by transferring the heat to incoming water. In a pilot project conducted by the City of Ventura, CA, this continual reuse of energy was estimated to cut electricity bills in half, from $900,000 to $450,000 per year. Furthermore, because the process replaces chlorine-based disinfection, the city expects to save an additional $250,000 per year on chemical costs. PTG reports a similar cost advantage over UV disinfection systems, also based on electricity and equipment savings.
The combined heat and power (CHP) system is 90% efficient, according to the company, and achieves disinfection by raising the temperature of the wastewater just three degrees — not to the typical 110 degrees — thereby lowering the energy requirement by over 97%. The technology has been certified under California’s Title 22 water reuse standards, vetted by Carollo Engineers, and was recently included in the 2012 Artemis Project Top 50 Water Tech Listing.
Radial Deionization (RDI)
Atlantis Technologies, Inc.
As with the above technology, “low cost and chemical free” is the mantra for Atlantis Technologies, but its focus is desalination — particularly in the oil and gas industry. Due largely to the shale gas (fracking) boom, the wastewater treatment market in oil and gas is growing at 14% per year, on pace for $1.6 billion in five years, according to CEO Pat Curran. Inside the Innovation Pavilion, Curran introduced me to radial deionization (RDI), which he said cleans salty wastewater at up to 75% less cost than reverse osmosis (RO) and brine collectors. The modular, scalable system can handle total dissolved solids (TDS) from fracking water and RO reject, as well as low-solubility species such as silica and sulfate found in Canadian oil sands processing.
The advanced technology of RDI, which uses super capacitors developed from military funding, allows for 95% of the process water to be recovered, and does so with minimal energy output – a long-held sticking point for desalination.
Upstream Ultraviolet Water Purification System
UV Pure Technologies
Likewise, UV manufacturers are very keen on reining in energy costs. UV Pure addresses the issue by introducing elliptical reflectors into the reaction vessels of its Upstream systems, maximizing efficiency while reducing energy output. The reflective technology, dubbed Crossfire, also eliminates UV “shadowing” by engulfing the entire vessel with UV, with intensity 1.4 times greater than conventional systems. Whereas conventional “light in a pipe” systems require 75% to 90% UV transmittance (UVT) to deliver the prescribed dose, Upstream units can treat water with UVT as low as 50%.
Safety and ease of use are hallmarks of the Upstream series, which features an automatic wiper arm that eliminates manual cleaning, quartz fouling, and the risk of breakage. Dual UV sensors continuously monitor UV dose, lamp intensity, and net UVT, and a convenient display counts down the 9,000 hours of available lamp life.
Not for huge municipalities, the systems are instead designed for potable and reuse applications with flow rates of less than 1 MGD, whether municipal, industrial, or commercial. The units are NSF/ANSI 55 Class A-certified, capable of bringing E. coli, bacteria, cysts like cryptosporidium and giardia, legionella, and most viruses to 99.99% reduction.
Slimline Propeller Pumps
Flygt — A Xylem Brand
A broader solution for municipalities looking to save money comes from Flygt, a Xylem brand. During a recent visit to a wastewater treatment plant, the superintendent told me there was no circumstance where he would willingly switch from Flygt pumps. While that is one man's opinion, there’s no doubt that Flygt is committed to fine-tuning its pump technology, as evidenced by the new series announced at WEFTEC.
The Slimline propeller series, as the name suggests, offers a slimmer profile than its predecessors, resulting in a 15% smaller footprint. According to Bob Dabkowski, a wastewater specialist for Xylem, construction is the biggest capital cost for plants, and operations and maintenance is the biggest overall cost. The Slimline’s smaller size, then, combined with high-efficiency N-technology, state-of-the-art hydraulics, and a self-cleaning design, can greatly reduce a municipality’s expenses. Suitable for both clean water and wastewater, the pumps are available in 16”, 20”, 22”, and 24” sizes.
FMC Environmental Solutions
As some municipalities look to move away from chlorine — for environmental or safety reasons, or simply to avoid disinfection byproducts (DBPs) — there is a clamoring for alternative options to control pathogens and other microbial organisms present in wastewater. One such option was presented to me at WEFTEC by FMC Environmental Solutions, which produces VigorOx WWTII. The proprietary blend is environmentally benign and, according to the company, more effective against fecal coliform than gaseous chlorine or bleach. Engineered to meet existing and upcoming regulations, the EPA-approved solution has applications for primary, secondary, and tertiary effluent treatment; combined sewer overflow; reuse streams; cooling water; and enhancement of UV systems.
The unique chemistry of VigorOx WWTII — peracetic acid, acetic acid (vinegar), hydrogen peroxide, and water — works at lower dosage rates and shorter contact times compared to chlorine solutions, and has a more stable shelf life (12 months). In practice, it has proven to be cost-effective, saving on operational costs and chemical usage. The system consists of chemical pumps, a pump controller, an injection system, a chemical containment system, and residual analyzers, but capital costs are kept low because it can be deployed in existing contact chambers.
THM-100 Online Trihalomethane Monitor
Aqua Metrology Systems
Despite the rise of alternative treatments, chlorination is still the predominant form of disinfection in the United States. With that there is also widespread concern about the production of harmful disinfection byproducts, especially with the implementation of the EPA’s Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule (DBPR). Trihalomethanes, or THMs, are DBPs that are associated with cancer, and the risk-averse, conservative approach to destroying THMs (and staying in compliance) often leads to overtreatment, which in turn increases operational expenses.
To remedy this, Aqua Metrology Systems (AMS) developed the THM-100, an online trihalomethane monitor that is continuous, completely automated, and has been shown to outperform laboratory analysis. While lab results can take up to 10 days, the THM-100 instantly identifies changes in THM levels, allowing for swift remediation and production cost savings.
According to Rudy Mui, COO of AMS, bringing the THM monitoring process “under control” via the THM-100 allows a municipality to reduce its source blending, coagulants, flocculants, disinfection agents, activated carbon, energy, and other related consumables. The system is self-calibrating, SCADA-compatible, and operates up to three months without intervention — a good example of “work smarter, not harder.”
A smarter way of doing things is, in fact, the common theme for all 10 of the entries on this page. These innovations, and many like them found throughout WEFTEC, are attributable to both technological advancement and the challenges of the day. The world (and certainly the EPA) is demanding cleaner water, and much more of it, yet municipal budgets get ever-tighter. The path forward is smart, efficient, sustainable solutions, and WEFTEC 2012 proved that there are many companies ready to pave the way.