News Feature | June 12, 2017

Ultraviolet Light Means Efficiency, Cost Savings In Kansas

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Wastewater operators at a facility in Kansas recently found that the route to greater efficiency traveled through their disinfection system. Electricity costs at the plant have been cut in half following upgrades, officials say. 
Wichita’s Lower Arkansas River wastewater treatment plant “has seen significant cost savings since upgrading its ultraviolet disinfection system last year, its supervisor says. The plant is now able to treat more wastewater, which is then released into the Arkansas River,” KMUW reported
The plant upgraded from a medium ultraviolet treatment system to a high-intensity, low-pressure system last year, the report said. 
Jamie Belden, operation supervisor for the City of Wichita's sewage treatment division, explained the new system: “He said the ultraviolet light doesn’t kill bacteria, but it alters the DNA so bacteria can’t reproduce. He says the new system needs less maintenance, and workers are able to treat 80 million gallons of water per day instead of 60 million,” KMUW reported. 
Belden said: "By putting that system in, not only are we able to disinfect more wastewater, but over about a two-year period, we’ll recover our investment completely just in energy cost.”
Advocates of ultraviolet disinfection stress the advantages of reducing the use of chemicals, including chlorine, a disinfectant, and sulfur dioxide, which removes chlorine, according to MLive. Jackson, MI, for instance, approved a deal to use UV light disinfection at the plant last year, the report said. 
The city made a deal with Wade Trim to design the system for $210,000. 
The city expects power bills to go up but chemical costs to plummet, the report said. The city expects to save $100,000 on chemicals and to save money overall. The full project is expected to cost between $1.3 and $1.5 million. 
"The use of an ultraviolet disinfection system would eliminate the use of (chlorine and sulfur dioxide) in the process. I thought it was time for us to take a look at it and see if it's appropriate for our system,” said Todd Knepper, director of public works said, per the report. 
Chlorine is sometimes criticized for posing safety hazards, but many water industry professionals defend its use. The Water Quality and Health Council, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, points out that chlorine disinfection revolutionized drinking water treatment. The group notes that chlorine is a potent germicide and treats taste, odor, biological growth, and chemicals.