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New Tech: Water Reuse at Power Plants through Vapor Catching

At Waterline Controls, we understand the challenges faced in industry when it comes to the responsible use of water, especially when there are millions or billions of gallons involved. That’s why we were happy to see the innovative solution created by MIT researchers that deals with the problems of water reuse involving thermoelectric plants.

The Problem

Fossil fuel thermoelectric plants, which produce about 90% of our power here in the US, consume billions gallons of water per day. These plants depend on water to provide the steam to drive the electricity-generating turbines and to keep the plant cool. According to USGS, 99% of that water is surface water and most of that is freshwater extracted from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Reuse of that water is vital, but can be very difficult.

An Innovative Approach to Water Reuse

MIT researchers Dr. Maher Damak and Dr. Kripa Varanasi have developed an innovative way to use the water consumed by thermoelectric power plants more responsibly, as published in Science Advances. Their focus is on the water that escapes through the cooling towers. Keep in mind that the cooling towers are an integral part of keeping plant temperatures under control.

How it Works

As water vapor leaves the massive cooling towers, a beam of ions (electronically charged particles) passes through the vapor cloud. These ions cause the water droplets within the vapor to become charged. Those droplets are then attracted to a metal mesh placed over the top of the cooling tower. The mesh traps the droplets. After the trapped droplets are collected, the water can be reused. The power plant can reuse the reclaimed water, or it can be a source of potable fresh water for coastal cities (many of which use seawater to cool their thermoelectric power plants).

How it is Different

This isn’t the first time that an attempt has been made to use a mesh to capture water exiting as vapor from the cooling towers. However, previous designs have been incredibly inefficient, capturing maybe 3% of the potential water vapor escaping. Strange as it may seem, the problem with these previous mesh designs was an aerodynamic one. The mesh acts as a flow barrier, and the water vapor flows around it. Damak and Varanasi’s solution, however, attracts the flow of vapor to the mesh by electrically charging the droplets, so they are drawn to the mesh, which has a small voltage applied to it. Also, the droplets are attracted to the wire itself, and not the holes.

Testing

A full-scale test version of the device will be installed on the cooling tower of MIT’s Central Utility Plant before fall of this year. It is easy to integrate into existing equipment and does not require any significant modifications. The purpose of this test is to “de-risk” the technology so that power companies, which tend to be quite conservative when it comes to new technology, will be more comfortable considering it.

Working With Water Responsibly

Here at Waterline Controls, we are committed to the responsible use of water, one of our most precious natural resources. Because of that, we remain committed to providing technology that supports water conservation. For example, our cooling tower water level sensors and controls prevent the loss of water by providing reliable solutions to the failure/overflowing of the float valves. Our controllers are designed for 99% reliability at a 15-year life cycle. They are modularly designed so that if one component fails, only that module needs to be replaced — not the entire unit. And our electronic sensor design uses just a small amount of power, is far more dependable than float switches, and will not degrade, foul, or plate. The characteristics make our controllers an environmentally friendly, reliable solution to water conservation problems.

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Custom Applicaiton Controller: Landfills and Extreme Heat

Not all of our customers are able to use an off-the-shelf solution. Three years ago, a landfill company came to us at Waterline Controls. They needed help in developing a control system that would be effective in the hostile environment of a landfill, and we were able to meet the challenge with the design of a custom control system.
Groundwater Pollution Issues Faced by Landfills
One of the major challenges faced by landfills is protecting the groundwater from pollution. The primary way that groundwater is polluted by landfills is through leachate, the liquid that drains from the landfill. Landfills have a plastic liner that protects the soil and groundwater from leachate. However, something has to be done with the leachate that percolates through the garbage.

Leachate Collection System

A leachate collection system is one of the main ways of dealing with leachate. Perforated pipes collect the leachate that collects in the landfill. These perforated pipes then drain into a leachate pipe that transfers the leachate to a collection pond. Some landfills ship the contents of the leachate pond off to be processed, while others process it themselves.
Typically, landfills use pumps with float switches to pump transfer the leachate to the collection pond. Depending on the size of the landfill, there may be hundreds of pumps deployed. These pumps are often solar powered and monitored remotely. Because of conditions in the landfill, the float switches typically used require removal and cleaning every few days. That makes the system difficult to maintain and expensive.

Sensor Issues Caused by Leachate

The leachate that percolates through the solid garbage is usually acidic. And the gases involved as the waste decomposes result in chemical reactions and high temperatures. These kinds of operating conditions are extremely hard on sensors, which is the main reason they have to be removed and cleaned so often. The liquids involved also tend to foam, which can seriously affect the accuracy of some types of sensors. The sensors used to control the pumps perform hundreds of thousands of cycles in just a few months, so accuracy and reliability are vital.

Waterline Controls Custom Solution

At Waterline Controls, we were able to develop a customized solution to meet this landfill’s leachate pumping needs. Our first area of focus was on the sensors. Our sensor probes are made of chemically-resistant stainless steel. That means the acidic content of the leachate won’t impair their performance. Also, the sensor design that we use is not sensitive to the effects of high temperatures. Our sensors work regardless of water quality. They will not plate, foul, or degrade, which eliminates the need for sensor maintenance and the expense associated with it. Foaming does not affect the accuracy, either. The Waterline Controls line of sensors are accurate to within ⅛”, have a 15-year life cycle, and operate at 99% reliability. This alone resulted in a significant improvement over their current solution. Once the sensors had been configured, we were able to customize one of our existing control systems to meet their needs. Our controllers have a modular design so that if a component should fail the entire unit does not need to be replaced. They are easy to install and integrate with existing systems and components.

Contact Us Today!

Whether you are looking for an off-the-shelf water level sensor or a complex water level control system, Waterline Controls is here to help you. We have over 20 years experience in the control systems industry and have designed custom solutions for many different applications. Contact us today!

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Cooling Towers & Water Conservation

At Waterline Controls we are always pleased to hear about progress being made in green technology and environmental conservation. That’s why we wanted to share the great news about Infinite Cooling’s first-place win at the Houston-based Rice Business Plan Competition. Their victory is a major win in one of our nation’s largest startup competitions. Infinite Cooling’s eco-friendly design was voted number one out of a total of 42 very competitive entries. Their innovative design would enable power plants to capture and reuse water that is usually lost through their cooling towers.

Combining Water Conservation and Power Generation

Infinite Cooling is an alum of MIT’s delta ν startup accelerator and was co-founded by Karim Khalil, Kripa Varanasi, and Maher Damak. Their mission, according to the Infinite Cooling website, is to “provide novel technology to enable water-sustainable thermoelectric power.” In layman’s language, they want to help power companies use less water while still producing the same amount of power. Their recent win at the Rice Business Plan Competition was based on the presentation of an innovative solution to water consumption at power plants: a way to capture the enormous water vapor plumes as they exit power plant cooling towers.
As the name implies, the purpose of a cooling tower is to provide evaporative cooling. Part of the water is evaporated to cool the rest of the water. As a result of the evaporation, water vapor escapes the towers in a massive plume, and the cooling water must be replenished to make up for this loss. That’s where Infinite Cooling and their state-of-the-art solution comes in.
Their dome-shaped device made out of what looks like a mesh material and is retrofitted onto existing cooling towers. The device uses electric fields to charge water and then use that charge to redirect the exiting water to a collector rather than allowing it to escape into the atmosphere. This allows a significant amount of water to be captured for reuse, thereby reducing the water consumption requirements of the power plant by 20% to 30% and can capture 100% of the vapor plume. The water savings from implementing this technology could prove crucial in areas prone to drought and water shortages, such as certain parts of California.

Conclusion

We know that our environmental resources are critical. Because of that we aim to provide technology that supports water conservation and greener alternatives to traditional water level control technology. For example, our cooling tower water level sensors and controls prevent the loss of water by providing reliable solutions to the failure/overflowing of the float valves. The electronic sensor design is far more dependable than the traditional mechanical float switches and will not plate, degrade, or foul. Our controllers have a modular design, so that if a component should fail the entire unit does not need to be replaced. In addition, WLC controllers are designed for a 15-year life cycle at 99% reliability. All of these features combined provide a green solution to your water level control needs.

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Water Level Controller Failure at Swan Lake

Water controller failures are all too common. Consider the incident in Dunbar Cave’s Swan Lake in Tennessee last December. The lake had just undergone a restoration project only three months before. Included in that project were repairs to the lake’s dam and spillway to allow the water levels to be raised. The pipe that controls those water levels failed, and the lake then drained itself. The incident at Swan Lake which was disappointing but not critical. However, many water controller failures result in serious problems. That’s why it is so important to invest in water controllers that are reliable.

Reliability is Key

If your application is critical to you, then you need the most reliable water controllers that you can find. Waterline Controls water level controls offer the kind of reliability that many of our customers have learned to depend on. In fact, our controllers are so well designed that they have a mere 1% failure rate even after 15 years.

What Makes Our Controllers Different

Waterline Controls designs water controllers to last. As part of our commitment to this goal, we developed a completely new electronic switch sensor with an emphasis on simplicity and reliability. Unlike other water controllers on the market today, our controllers have stainless steel sensor probes will not plate, foul, or deteriorate, regardless of water quality.That means no more sensor cleaning, no more replacing sensors, and no more worries about how water quality will impact your control system.
In addition, our controllers use solid-state electronics because of their durability and dependability. Another benefit of solid-state electronics lies in the extremely low voltages involved, which minimizes or eliminates the rusting, mineral fouling and deterioration of sensor probes. The water controllers also have an easy-to-use troubleshooting switch should any problems be encountered. Finally, we also aim to minimize the number of moving parts that are involved. The only moving parts in our water controllers are relays which can easily be tested and replaced.

How Our Controllers Work

Waterline Controls uses electronic sensors with an array of stainless steel probes that are able to simultaneously monitor multiple water levels at extremely high levels of accuracy. This array of sensors is connected to a controller that uses the sensor data to measure water levels and activate relays accordingly via integrated firmware. As mentioned earlier, the voltages used are extremely small because of the solid-state electronics. This not only aids in preventing fouling of the water but reduces power requirements. In addition, the water controllers are easy to connect to existing building automation systems.

Check Out Waterline Controls

If you are tired of replacing your water controllers, take a look at Waterline Controls. Our completely modular control sensors have an average life of 15 years and come with a 5-year limited warranty. Our customers have been using our controllers for water holding tanks, sumps, lift stations, cooling towers, and many other applications. It’s time to say goodbye to legacy controllers that use mechanical floats, conductive sensors, or ultrasound sensors and start saving time and money with a reliable design from Waterline Controls.

FPT50 Controller
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FPT 50T – Fire Service Water Tank Level Control w/ High & Low Alarms, 40F Temperature

FPT50T – Fire Service Water Tank Level Control w/ High & Low Alarm, 40F Temperature

Complete Kit Includes:

NEMA4x Control Panel
Sensor w/ 50 ft. Cable
Sensor Mounting Assembly

Features

  • Dry contacts to BMS for measuring Fill “ON” time
  • Low Water Alarm
  • High Water Alarm
  • Temperature 40F Indication (per NFPA requirements)
  • Fault conditions
  • Operates 110VAC Solenoid Valve
  • 110VAC 95db Audible Alarm w/ Silencer Switch Installed in the Panel

Description

The system is automatically controlled within an operating range (this range can be set by custom ordered probes or cutting the current probes to length in the field). The system also monitors for a high water level condition and a low water level condition.
These conditions have three outputs each which are:

  1. Close a set of dry contacts for the BMS
  2. Operate a relay rated at 30AMPS / 250VAC
  3. Turn on an LED to indicate the sensor has tripped

The Fill dry contacts can be used as a comparative to develop a baseline benchmark of water usage for the system.

Custom Sensors lengths available upon request.

*If you are a Reseller, Sales Organization, Distributor, Contractor or an OEM we want to talk with you to determine an SPA price program for your organization so please call us at 1(888) 905-1892 or contact us now.

Commercial Cooling Tower Water Level Control
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Additional Measure Continue to be Looked at to Combat Legionnaires’ Disease

Additional Measure Continue to be Looked at to Combat Legionnaires’ Disease

Under typical operating conditions, cooling towers can propagate Legionella. Combining chillers and plastic surface cooling towers with added anti-microbial options can significantly reduce the infection risk.

NSF P453: Cooling Towers – Treatment, Operation, and Maintenance to Prevent Legionellosis

This protocol outlines proper maintenance and safety practices associated with evaporative cooling systems. It’s a simple plan with specific means and procedures to manage risks of Legionnaires’ disease. Also addressed are several health concerns associated with commercial buildings and health care facilities. NSF P453 gives the rest of the U.S. rules similar to the New York City and state regulations for cooling towers.


Disneyland, the ‘happiest place on earth’ was required to shut down two water-cooling towers after some visitors to the Anaheim, Calif., theme park contracted Legionnaires’ disease.

12 cases were discovered ‘about’ three weeks ago by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Disneyland was informed of the cases Oct. 27. After testing found two cooling towers had high levels of Legionella bacteria, the towers were taken out of service and disinfected. They were put back in operation Nov. 5 but, but were shut down again 2 days later. At this point, tests will be required to confirm they are free from contamination, according to the park and the county health agency, before they will be put back in service.


The New York City Department of Health, while investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the middle of October that infected 15 people, took samples from 55 cooling towers in the area of the reported outbreak. Preliminary results determined that 10 cooling towers contained Legionella DNA. The Department has issued orders to increase or change the biocide used to the kill bacteria.

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Austin, Texas Cooling Tower Registration and Update Deadline Nearing

Austin, Texas Cooling Tower Registration and Update Deadline Nearing

The 2015 Uniform Mechanical Code and 2015 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) for the city of Austin, Texas includes a deadline of December 31, 2017 for registration of all Cooling Towers in the city. There are several specific rules that require upgrades to most older towers.

Section 1126.0 of the city’s UPC requires all properties with cooling towers to register them with Austin Water.

The City ordinance requirements include:

  1. Make-up and Blow-Down meters.
  2. Conductivity Controller.
  3. Drift Eliminators with a drift rate of not more than 0.005% of the tower circulating rate.
  4. Cold water basin high level alarm.
  5. Must operate at a minimum of 5 cycles of concentration.

The City ordinance requires that cooling towers must have a cold water basin high level/overflow alarm. For cooling towers of 100 tons or more, the make-up and overflow meters, and the over flow alarm shall be connected to the building’s Central energy Management System or Utility Monitoring Dashboard.

WLC 6000 SeriesWhat this means is that all towers need a modern system with alarms and sensors that can connect to a BMS. Waterline Controls model WLC-6000 Cooling Tower Water Level Controller is our most popular model for providing a high level alarm, make-up water control, low alarm and a low water level cutout.

Waterline Controls has the system to retrofit and get you compliant fast. Our Stainless Steel Electronic sensors and solid state software driven controllers offer the connectivity, accuracy and reliability you need. With a multi-wire connection for you BMS or Building Automation, we have you covered.

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Cooling Towers Continue To Take Blame

Cooling Towers Continue To Take Unfounded Blame For Legionella Outbreaks

On September 21st, 2017, online News outlet QNS, in a story on a recent outbreak, couldn’t resist adding, in an offhand way, in a report on a Legionnaires Disease infection:

“Parker Towers does not have a cooling tower, which is usually where Legionalla (sic) thrives.”
Even though the CDC says cooling towers are not the major source for outbreaks.

According to ACHRNEWS.com :

It’s important to keep in mind that out of all cases of LD, 4 percent are outbreaks and 96 percent are individual, sporadic cases. Of the outbreaks, the CDC says about 20 percent are associated with cooling towers and 56 percent are associated with the drinking water supply,” said Considine. “Out of all the cases of LD, that means cooling towers comprise maybe 1-2 percent of all incidents

One reason for many of the outbreaks may be related to our current infrastructure. While a cooling tower may be where the bacteria can grow, it is the water source that may be contaminated that introduces the bacteria. Failing water systems have added a new component to the war against Legionnaires Disease.

Startribune.com in Minnesota recently reported:

State, county and city public health officials are trying to isolate the source of the bacteria in the plumbing system of SilverCreek on Main, which provides memory care, assisted living and independent living services.

While cooling towers continue to take a bad rap for disease outbreaks, the simple fact that the incoming water now has a better chance of being contaminated only means HVAC system operators and building managers must be even more vigilant.

tctimes.com, in Michigan’s Tri-County area reported:

The city of Fenton has been informed by the Genesee County Health Department that a care facility located in the city has tested presumptive positive for the Legionella bacteria in a resident room and an adjacent area, Markland said.

We have been told by the Health Department that this is an isolated incident, in only a part of a facility and is not related to the city’s water system,” Markland (Fenton City Manager) said. “Our records show that the chlorination introduced at the city’s water plant and in the distribution system is high enough to prevent any contamination of the city’s water system.

According to the Alliance to Prevent Legionnaires’ Disease, reducing Legionella in the public water supply would go a long way toward addressing the risk. Another major problem with Legionella is that it’s resistant to chlorine. A combination of chemicals and cleaning is usually employed to eliminate the bacteria. A free toolkit is available from the CDC: Developing a Water Management Program to Reduce Legionella Growth and Spread in Buildings to help understand the complexities involved.

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Water Conservation and Cooling Tower News

Water Conservation and Cooling Tower News

Conservation

The Alliance for Water Efficiency recently reported that 30 years of water conservation has reduced the amount of water usage by almost 60 gallons per resident in Tucson, Arizona. The water efficiency project followed conservation savings in 2 Arizona cities, Tucson and Gilbert. In the last 20 years, Gilbert was reported to have reduced water usage by 30% from conservation alone. The cost for Gilbert’s water and wastewater system hookup is 45 percent lower today, due to conservation savings and reduced need for infrastructure improvements over the period. Cities across the nation and California in particular, which has had great success and a 25% reduction in use recently, are looking to find similar ways to reduce use and costs.

Water quality is becoming an issue in many rural areas in California and Tucson also. Cleanup of contamination of water in the area around Tucson Airport is currently ongoing. A recent report has revealed that the arsenic levels in the drinking water at some schools in the San Joaquin Valley in Califrnia are in question. The Rural Community Assistance Corporation reported that some public water systems in the San Joaquin Valley area have levels that exceed maximum federal safety levels by as much as 300%. An open house session was held in July with Tucson Water officials and the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss water quality issues.

Legionnaires‘ Disease

73 cases, constituting a 143% increase over the last 2 years, of Legionnaires’ disease has been reportedly found in Metro Detroit during June and July of this year. Michigan health officials have not yet identified a common source of the infection. The CDC has reported that a genetic has found link between the nearby Flint Michigan water system and the infections of Flynt residents Back in 2014-2015, which killed 12 people.

Eight cases of infections from the legionellosis bacteria were detected in the Three Rivers region of Quebec last month. The source of the bacteria has still not been located. Public water fountains have been temporarily closed while the source is looked for. All main city water systems have been checked and found to be free of contamination. Local fears are high as many remember 14 deaths and more than 180 infections during a massive outbreak in Quebec City five years ago.

2 Cases Of Legionnaires’ Disease were reported at a Building in Queens, NY in the last few days. The city instituted mandatory cooling tower inspections 2 years ago but other sources are suspected, as the building does not have a cooling tower. One tenant remains hospitalized but is listed as recovering, while the other was discharged.

A spa at a Gold’s Gym in Kennewick, Wa., was the suspected source of two recent infections and currently the spa is closed for inspection.

Nine cases have been confirmed in the last outbreak between May 15 and June 26 at The Guesthouse Hotel at Graceland and there has now been a lawsuit filed against Elvis Presley Enterprises alleging “through the normal use of The Guest House at Graceland’s water system” that they were exposed to the legionellosis bacteria. The plaintiff spent over a week in intensive care. “Moving forward, the establishment will implement their preventive water maintenance plan monthly instead of quarterly for the next six months as well as continue routine sampling on the aquatics facilities”, according to Shelby County Health Department public information officer Elizabeth Hart. As of July 19, the Shelby County Health Department authorized The Guest House at Graceland to reopen the aquatics facilities.

CDC Corrects Paper on Legionnaire’s Disease – After a critical examination of a report by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the CDC has revised its report about the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System outbreaks that sickened 22 veterans, killing six, in 2012 and 2013. The conclusions of a 2013 report from the VA’s Inspector General found that “the outbreak was due to poor management generally and poor maintenance of the copper-silver system specifically, not that the copper-silver system itself had failed.”

Cooling TowersGuardian Water Treatment of the UK has recently announced a Legionella Awareness Course (http://www.gwtltd.com/water-treatment/training/legionella-training-for-cooling-towers/) for cooling tower operators in the UK. Course are listed as: Week 1: Overview of ACoP L8, including HSG274 Part 1 and site specific training on testing and inspection. Week 2: Operation theory, site specific testing and inspection. Week 3: Brief recap of test procedure and final competence sign off.

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Legionnaires' Disease Rates Rise as Outbreak Reports Continue

Legionnaires’ Disease Rates Rise from
Cooling Tower Contaminations

Outbreak Reports Continue

Legionnaires Disease

According to the CDC and in spite of years of research, the scientific community remains in the dark as to the cause (but not necessarily the source) of the rising rate of infections from the Legionella bacteria in the Unites States today. Between the years of 2000 and 2015 the estimated number of cases has increased almost 450% reaching the level of approximately 6,000 cases reported by 2015.

Lenox Hill, NY – In a two week period back in June, there were several cases of Legionnaire’s Disease in and around Manhattan NY’s Lenox Hill neighborhood. One elderly person with “significant underlying health conditions” died and 8 people were hospitalized temporarily.

With the usual suspect of a cooling tower, investigations soon identified 116 systems within half a kilometer and testing began.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene quickly found 42 had traces of Legionella DNA, 24 of which had quite low levels. Ongoing testing is being conducted to match the DNA with the individual infections to determine which of the identified cooling tower system or systems were responsible for the outbreak.

Legionnaires’ Disease on the Rise

Memphis, TN – Elvis Presley’s Famous Graceland VACation destination was rocked with an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease the first week of July this year. By the end of the week 6 cases were confirmed. It has been estimated that those cases were initially contacted between May 15 and June 26. The Shelby County Health Department has recommended anyone with symptoms who visited the park during those dates should contact them immediately. The aquatic facilities at the hotel were closed for examination. So far, those who have been infected all stayed at the Guest House at Graceland between those dates.

W.Va. – Recently the Department of Health & Human Resources has reported an increase in the number of cases suspected of being Legionnaires’ Disease during the months of May and June this year.

Looking for Solutions

One major problem with Legionella is that it’s resistant to chlorine. Cleaning and maintaining a safe cooling tower is not as easy as it might seem. A DNA test to confirm the source takes time. One benefit there is that all cooling towers in a given area are investigated which frequently finds more contaminations than infections and helps reinforce the reality that there is more lurking there than we know. Diligence seems to be a major factor in limiting the outbreaks and local jurisdictions are starting to look into regular cooling tower inspections and mandated cleaning procedures as a layer of bureaucracy they feel is needed to help combat infections.

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