Water purification steps FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
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Water that is distributed in cities or communities is treated extensively. Specific water purification steps are taken, in order to make the water meet current water standards.
1 Physical water purification
Filtration through screens is usually done at the beginning of the water purification process. The shape of the screens depends on the particles that have to be removed.
Sand filtration is a frequently used, very robust method to remove suspended solids from water. The filter medium consists of a multiple layer of sand with a variety in size and specific gravity. When water flows through the filter, the suspended solids precipitate in the sand layers as residue and the water, which is reduced in suspended solids, flows out of the filter. When the filters are loaded with particles the flow-direction is reversed, in order to regenerate it. Smaller suspended solids have the ability to pass through a sand filter, so that secondary filtration is often required.
Cross flow membrane filtration removes both salts and dissolved organic matter, using a permeable membrane that only permeates the contaminants. The remaining concentrate flows along across the membrane and out of the system and the permeate is removed as it flows along the other side of the membrane.
Cartridge filtration units consist of fibres. They generally operate most effectively and economically on applications having contamination levels of less than 100 ppm. For heavier contamination applications, cartridges are normally used as final polishing filters.
There are various situations in which chemicals are added, for instance to prevent the formation of certain reaction products. Below, a few of these additions are summed up:
Clarification is a multi-step process to remove suspended solids. First, coagulants are added. Coagulants reduce the charges of ions, so that they will accumulate into larger particles called flocs. The flocs then settle by gravity in settling tanks or are removed as the water flows through a gravity filter. Particles larger than 25 microns are effectively removed by clarification. Water that is treated through clarification may still contain some suspended solids and therefore needs further treatment.
Deionisation is commonly processed through ion exchange. Ion exchange systems consist of a tank with small beds of synthetic resin, which is treated to selectively absorb certain cations or anions and replace them by counter-ions. The process of ion exchange lasts, until all available spaces are filled up with ions. The ion-exchanging device than has to be regenerated by suitable chemicals.
Disinfection is one of the most important steps in the purification of water from cities and communities. It serves the purpose of killing the present undesired microrganisms in the water; therefore disinfectants are often referred to as biocides. There are a variety of techniques available to disinfect fluids and surfaces, such as: ozone disinfection, chlorine disinfection and UV disinfection.
Chlorine has a downside: it can react to chloramines and chlorinated hydrocarbons, which are dangerous carcinogens. To prevent this problem chlorine dioxide can be applied. Chlorine dioxide is an effective biocide at concentrations as low as
Ozone has been used for disinfection of drinking water in the municipal water industry in Europe for over a hundred years and is used by a large number of water companies, where ozone generator capacities up to the range of a hundred kilograms per hour are common. When ozone faces odours, bacteria or viruses, the extra atom of oxygen destroys them completely by oxidation. During this process the extra atom of oxygen is destroyed and there are no odours, bacteria or extra atoms left. Ozone is not only an effective disinfectant, it is also particularly safe to use.
UV-radiation is also used for disinfection nowadays. When exposed to sunlight, germs are killed and bacteria and fungi are prevented from spreading. This natural disinfection process can be utilised most effectively by applying UV radiation in a controlled way.
Distillation is the collection of water vapour, after boiling the wastewater. With a properly designed system removal of organic and inorganic contaminants and biological impurities can be obtained, because most contaminants do not vaporize. Water will than pass to the condensate and the contaminants will remain in the evaporation unit.
Electro dialysis is a technique that employs an electrical current and special membranes, which are semi permeable to ions, based on their charge. Membranes that permeate cations and membranes that permeate anions are placed alternately, with flow channels between them, and electrodes are placed on each side of the membranes. The electrodes draw their counter ions through the membranes, so that these are removed from the water.
Municipal water is often pH-adjusted, in order to prevent corrosion from pipes and to prevent dissolution of lead into water supplies. The pH is brought up or down through addition of hydrogen chloride, in case of a basic liquid, or natrium hydroxide, in case of an acidic liquid. The pH will be converted to approximately 7 to 7.5, after addition of certain concentrations of these substances.
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