5 Things operators ignore, then look to blame on their water treater.
Quality water treatment is a critical function of any facility’s success. There is a strong relationship that exists between plant operators and their water treatment partner. Both sides need to fulfill specific roles to keep a facility’s water system running at peak performance. When something goes wrong it can be easy to point fingers and look to place blame. History has shown the water treatment program is always first in line! In reality, a majority of causes relating to apparent water treatment-related problems are caused by mechanical or human error and not the treatment program itself. Below are a few examples where things that have gone wrong at the plant level resulting in the water treater becoming the easy scapegoat:
- Problem: Scale build up in your boiler system
Cause: Salt/Brine system out of salt
It is not uncommon for a customer to be caught off guard and have the salt in their softener run low, resulting in hard water. Would you operate your car without oil? People check the oil in cars on a regular basis. A salt/brine check for the pretreatment system is an easy visual check that needs to be monitored regularly. It is important to make this part of your Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to ensure regular rounds and checks are made by facility personnel. Keeping a log next to the brine tank! Assigning the task to monitor usage, refill the brine tank and keep a log is the key to success.
- Problem: Mild scale buildup on the cooling tower fill or coils
Cause: Poor flow, wet/dry, improper shutdown procedures
This “scale” is likely a combination of the high mineral content of the system and the intermittent wet/dry operations of the system. Here are the most common causes and fixes to avoiding this type of scale:
- Poor Flow: Check the spray pattern of the water flow on the distribution deck or spray nozzles in the tower. Make sure each tower is being supplied with the proper amount of flow by adjusting the balancing valves or how many pumps are running.
- Wet/dry conditions: A system that turns on and off consistently will lead to scale. In addition, if the system is not designed properly, you could be short on flow causing scale buildup where the flow is very low and the water dries leaving minerals behind. Another cause is the fans running too high when water flow is not maximized first.
- Improper shutdown: reducing conductivity prior to shutting a system down for annual inspection, service, or for the season, will reduce chances of residue on the surfaces. Reducing conductivity setpoint to by at least 75% prior to shutdown will help eliminate this scale/mineral build-up.
- Problem: Ran out of Chemical
Cause: Poor inventory management
Yes, many water treaters help customers with the chemical inventory/management for systems. Some systems have monitoring devices in place, while others rely on human observation. Relying only on human observation can be challenging. Implementing level sensor technology and remote communication can help minimize low chemistry levels by having constant monitoring for each chemical in use. With monitoring in place, the sales rep will receive an alarm when chemistry is low so they can place an order and schedule a refill. Having a healthy balance between technology and physical checks can greatly reduce the chances of product running low. It truly takes a team. Allow enough time for orders. For the most part, all chemicals are in stock and can arrive onsite within 5-7 days after placing an order. However, raw material shortages, waiting for a PO, weather, and trucking can all cause delays with shipments. Eliminate these concerns by placing your orders early. After all, systems tend to fail when under pressure and being rushed.
- Problem: The chemistry is not right in my system
Cause: Operator training or not enough onsite testing
Water treatment is both an “art and science”. Regular testing of the system’s water is needed to confirm everything is in range. This is the “science” behind the water chemistry. How to make the right adjustments and how the system is going to respond is the “art”. No system is identical. There are many similarities, but how a specific system responds is different from facility to facility. It is important for operators to pull samples and test their system and reach out to their water treater partner if anything is out of range.
- Problem: Chemical costs are increasing
The key is to focus on the overall cost of running your plant and making sure your chemical program is saving you money and not costing you money! Chemical pricing is a huge moving target and a reality that customers and water treaters find equally challenging. There are many issues that affect the supply chain that are driving up the cost of chemicals, including labor shortages, excise taxes on raw products, and transportation costs. Finding ways to be more sustainable and reduce usage can help. Operational efficiencies can play a huge part of the overall program cost. Actively managing it can help reduce costs. As they say, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Implementing a great balance between metering technology, system management, remote communication, and understanding how to leverage these systems is a beneficial for a cost effective and efficient chemical program. The direct costs of your chemicals should be a small fraction of the impact they can have on your plant! Both positive and negative.
Do you have questions about managing your system?
Watetech of America can help with many aspects of the water treatment. From energy savings to equipment improvements. To learn how Watertech can make it easier to monitor and maintain your system, reach out for a Site Survey and one of our technical engineers will be in touch.
Tom Koeppen Jr., PE Senior Territory Manager, Watertech of America, Inc.
Tom holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from UW-Platteville and is a licensed Professional Engineer. He has over 30 years of experience including water, wastewater, and environmental compliance. He has been with Watertech over 14 years helping customers manage their systems.