Water treatment involves science, engineering, business, and art. The treatment may include mechanical, physical, biological, and chemical methods. As with any technology, science is the foundation, and engineering makes sure that the technology works as designed. The appearance and application of water is an art.
In terms of business, RGF Environmental, Water Energy Technologies, Aquasana Store, Vitech, Recalyx Industrial SDN BHD and PACE Chemicals ltd are some of many companies that offer various processes for water treatment. Millipore, a Fisher Scientific partner, offers many lines of products to produce ultrapure water, using a combination of active charcoal membranes, and reverse osmosis filter. Internet sites of these companies offer useful information regarding water.
An environmental scientist or consultant matches the service provider, modify if necessary, with the requirement.
Water in the Great Lakes Region is an organization dealing with the water resources. Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA) is a provincial Crown corporation in business to provide environmentally responsible and cost-efficient water and wastewater services. It currently operates more than 400 facilities for 200 municipalities. This web site provides information on water and water treatment.
In April 1993, 403,000 people in Milwaukee were ill as a result of cryptosporidium contaimination of water due to spring run off. This outbreak caused the more stringent regulations to be implemented in the public dringking water system. The measures were aimed at removing cryptosporidium.
In May 2000, due to torrential downpour surface water got into shallow wells in a small town Walkerton, Ontario, Canada. On May 17, some residents complained of fever, bloody diarrhea and vomiting. This was know as the Walkerton E. Coli Outbreak. Nearly half of the population of the town fell ill, and several people died due to the E. Coli O157:H7 infection. A public inquiry recommended many measures to prevent similar outbreaks. These measures were aimed at eliminating E. Coli.
Sewage is SCREENED to remove large solid chunks, which are disposed in LANDFILL SITE. It flows over to the SETTLEMENT TANK to let the fine particles to settle. The settlement is called the activated SLUDGE. The supernatant is then PERCOLATING FILTERED and/or AERATED. The water can be filtered again, and then disinfected (chlorinated in most cases). When there is no other complication, the water is returned to nature back to the ecological cycle.
The SLUDGE removed from the settlement is composed of living biological material. A portion of it may be returned to the AERATION TANK, but the raw SLUDGE is digested by both microorganism. Anaerobic (without oxygen) and aerobic (with air) bacteria digestions are used. At the digestion stage, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and methane gases are evolved. Volume of the digested sludge is reduced, and it is acceptable as a fertilizer supplement in farming.
A rather recent book, Chemistry of Water Treatment by S.D. Faust and O.M. Aly, 2nd Ed. (1998) [TD433 F38 1998], addresses the problem of quality natural and treated water.
The first three chapters discuss the criteria and standards for drinking water quality, organic compounds in waters, taste and order of water. Understandably, the standards change over the years. So are the standards of treated waters. Guidelines are available from government agencies such as Environment Canada which is equivalent to U.S. Public Health Service and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). We have talked about drinking water in Water Biology.
Next seven chapters deal with the removal of the following:
These items cover the chemistry, biology, and physics involved in the treatment of water. Some of these topics have been discussed in chemistry of water, physical properties of water, biology of water, and natural water. Introductions are going to be given to some selected topics below.
Application of activated charcoal for the removal of undesirable order and taste in drinking water has been recognized at the dawn of civilization. Using bone char and charred vegetation, gravel, and sand for the filtration of water for domestic application has been practised for thousands of years. Active research and production of activated charcoal was accelerated during the two world wars. The use of poison gas prompted the development of masks. They are still in use today.
Charcoal absorbs many substances, ranging from colored organic particulates to inorganic metal ions. Charcoal has been used to remove the colour of raw sugar from various sources.
Charcoal consists of microcrystallites of graphite. The particles are so small in charcoal that they were considered amorphous. The crystal structure of graphite consists of layers of hexagonal networks, stacked on top of each other. Today, making activated carbon is a new and widely varied industry. Other molecules attach themselves to the porous surface and dangling carbons in these microcrystallites.
Carbon containing substances are charred at less than 900 K to produce carbon in the manufacture of activated carbon. However, the carbon is activated at 1200 K using oxidizing agent to selectively oxidize portions of the char to produce pores in the material. Because of the special process to produce used, these materials with high surface to mass ratio, they are called activated carbon rather than activated charcoal. Factors affecting the absorption are particle size, surface area, pore structure, acidity (pH), temperature, and the nature of the material to be absorbed. Usually, adsorption (absorption) equilibria and rate of adsorption must be considered for effective applications.
Another method is to use high-molecular-weight material to attract or trap the particulates and settle down together. Such a process is called flocculation. Starch and multiply charged ions are often used.
Historically, dirty water is cleaned by treating with alum, Al2(SO4)3.12 H2O, and lime, Ca(OH)2. These electrolytes cause the pH of the water to change due to the following reactions:
Suspension of iron oxide particulates and humic organic matter in water gives water the yellow muddy appearance. Both iron oxide particulates and organic matter can be removed from coagulation and flocculation. The description given here is oversimplified, and many more techniques have been applied in the treatment of water. Coagulation is a major application of lime in the treatment of wastewater.
Other salts such as iron sulfates Fe2(SO4)3 and FeSO4, chromium sulfate Cr2(SO4)3, and some special polymers are also useful. Other ions such as sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and potassium also affect the coagulation process. So do temperature, pH, and concentration.
Disposal of coagulation sludge is a concern, however.
Sedimentation let the water sit around to let the floculated or coagulated particles to settle out. It works best with relatively dense particles (e.g. silt and minerals), while flotation works better for lighter particles (e.g. algae, color). A settling tank should be big enough so that it takes a long time (ideally 4 hours +) to get through. Inlets and outlets are designed so the water moves slowly in the tank. Long and narrow channels are installed to let the water to snake its way through the tank. The settled particles, sludge, must occasionally be removed from the tanks. The water is next ready to be filtered. Sedimentation is used in pre-treatment and wastewater treatment.
The process of removing the clogged portion of the filter bed by reversing the flow through the bed and washing out the solid is called back washing. During this process, the solid must be removed out of the system, but otherwise the filters must be either replaced or taken out of service to be cleaned.
Aqua-Rain manufacture water filters as shown here. This unit consists of four filters. Regarding the filtering system, its techinical info gave the following statement.
AquaSelect of Mississauga has a pitcher water filter system, and its cartridge contains hundreds of high efficiency activated carbon and ion exchange beads, its web site claims. Brita filters is very popular.
A gas or substance dissolved in water may further react with water. Such a reaction is called hydration. Ionic substance dissolve due to hydration, for example:
When a compartment containing a dilute solution is connected to another compartment containing a concentrated solution by a semipermeable membrane, water molecules move from the dilute solution to concentrated solution. This phenomenon is called osmosis. Pig bladders are natural semipermeable membranes. As the water molecules migrate through the semipermeable membrane, water level in the solution will increase until the (osmotic) pressure prevents a net migration of water molecules in one direction. A pressure equivalent to the height difference is called the osmotic pressure. The illustration given on the right is from the PurePro, one of the many companies that manufacture reverse osmosis water filter devices. Millipore also use this technique.
By applying pressure in the higher concentration solution, water molecules migrate from a high concentration solution to a low concentration solution. This method is called reverse osmosis water filter system. The concept of reverse osmosis is illustrated in the diagram here from PurePro.
In this technique, the membrane must be able to tolerate the high pressure, and prevent solute molecules to pass through. Regarding membranes, PurePro made the following statement:
First of all, for the process involved in a brewry, a proposal called Alcohol Fermentation to Produce Beer gives some details about the brewing process. Brewing equipment is available from CDC Inc.