Chemical usage and savings at the Austin Water Utility drinking water treatment plants
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The goal of this research was to maintain excellent water quality at reduced chemical operations cost. Chemical usage data at the Austin water treatment plants were examined by identifying trends and investigating suspected inefficiencies. The investigation consisted in jar test experiments, plant-scale experiments, and equilibrium modeling. Lime and ferric sulfate were suspected to be added inefficiently with respect to cost while the other treatment chemicals were assessed to be added efficiently. Lime was investigated in greater depth than ferric sulfate because ferric sulfate was better characterized in its effect on finished water quality within the range of interest. The goal of lime addition is to remove hardness from the water by a process called lime softening. Hardness removal decreases corrosion in transmission lines and prevents deposition of unwanted solids in household appliances. Additionally, lime softening aids in particle removal and disinfection-by-product precursor reduction. The efficiency of lime addition was evaluated based on settled water pH and causticity goals, which serve as the operating parameters for the water treatment plants. The most efficient lime softening occurs when multiple softening goals are simultaneously achieved. First, the dissolved calcium concentration must achieve a minimum. Second, the dissolved magnesium concentration must be reduced by at least 10 mg/L as CaCO₃. Third, total alkalinity must be preserved at its maximum concentration while also achieving excellent hardness removal. Fourth, natural organic matter (NOM), which serves as a precursor for disinfection-by-products, must be removed sufficiently to achieve DBP reduction goals. Finally, the turbidity in the effluent from the settling basin must be below 2.0 NTU. Through the chemical investigation of lime based on existing scientific literature, computer modeling, jar test experiments, and full-scale testing, it was determined that the optimal condition operating condition for lime softening was a settled water pH range from 10.0 - 10.1.