This article, which explores methods for selecting a water management program supplier, is the final part of a series on water management basics and technologies.

The previous articles in this series have outlined some basic strategies for proper cooling water treatment. However, for facilities that prefer to outsource this operation, the actual chemistry of the program is in the hands of the supplier. It is important to select a knowledgeable supplier that can provide the appropriate control systems and chemistry tailored to the facility's cooling systems and specific makeup water quality.

The supplier should be in the water management business and should routinely deal with industrial manufacturing plants. Many distributors and HVAC contractors supply products such as floor cleaners, solvents, oils, HVAC equipment/maintenance or water softeners and would be happy to sell a few drums of cooling water treatment “Brand X” to anyone. However, these firms often have a limited product line, no expertise in actual water treatment chemistry, little or no control system experience, and no analytical laboratory support for resolving cooling water treatment problems.

It is important to note that all water treatment chemicals are not the same. A product that will provide excellent results with hard, alkaline water can cause high corrosion rates and early system failure if it is used with soft, low-alkalinity water. The specific chemistry and product formulation used in any cooling water system should be selected under the supervision of an experienced water treatment chemist. The Association of Water Technologies' (AWT) Certified Water Technologist (CWT) program, which was established in 1996 and is open to anyone in the water treatment industry, is a reputable means of establishing the needed expertise in this field.

Environmental Regulations and Water Conservation for Industrial Waters

Expertise in environmental regulations and water conservation also is becoming a major consideration in selecting a water management program supplier. The supplier should understand the environmental impact of the specific chemistry to be used and should be able to provide any information needed by the regulatory authorities.

For example, molybdate was first introduced to the water treatment industry as a low-environmental-impact product, but several regulatory agencies have since banned its use due to accumulation in publicly owned treatment works (POTW) treatment sludges. The water treatment program supplier should be familiar with the nontoxic colorants that are available to replace the use of molybdate as a tracer for use in cooling water systems, as well as with the organic and inorganic products that can be used to replace molybdate as a corrosion inhibitor.

Container disposal is another common environmental problem. Some suppliers promote the use of returnable bulk containers, but the increased cost of bulk containers compared to standard drums can result in higher product delivery costs. Bulk containers also have the potential to cause more environmental damage through spills; it stand to reason that the loss of 200 to 350 gal from a bulk container is several times more harmful than a loss of 55 gal from a drum. In addition, SARA reporting limits, which are based on the amount of material spilled, are more likely to be triggered by bulk spills than by drum spills. The supplier should accept the return of all empty product containers, from 5-gal pails to bulk containers, to permit the facility to select the most economical packaging and eliminate any container disposal problems.

The supplier also should have in-depth knowledge of blowdown reduction and zero-discharge technologies to optimize water conservation. Experience is the best way to ensure quality work in this new and rapidly evolving part of the water treatment field.

Health and Safety Concerns

Many cooling water treatment chemicals are classified as toxic or hazardous by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For example, biocides are all basically toxic, hazardous materials and must be handled carefully.

Several water treatment firms have formulated non-hazardous alternatives for cooling towers to address the health and safety problems associated with handling and use of toxic chemicals. The use of such “safe” products is the simplest way to avoid potential chemical accidents.

Other Considerations

Local Service. The availability of an experienced, knowledgeable local service representative can also be important to the success of a water treatment program. The representative should have both a technical background and experience in industrial cooling water treatment.

Counterfeit Chemistry. While many reputable companies exist, other firms sell ineffective or inappropriate technologies, or market their technologies as all-encompassing cures. The best protection against the use of fraudulent or inappropriately applied technology is to ask for, and check out, some well-informed, reliable references.

Reliable Cooling. Poor cooling water treatment and control can increase facility costs by damaging expensive equipment or the facility itself, or by increasing water, sewage and energy costs. Understanding the basics of cooling water treatment and selecting a knowledgeable, experienced supplier will increase the probability of achieving reliable equipment cooling with the maximum heat transfer efficiency at the lowest possible cost. PCE

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