The Role of Technological Solutions
Larry Schimmoller/ Dave Peters
(started at the middle)
Larry: So those states are eligible for funding, unfortunately the State of Mississipi are not although I know there has been a couple of bills introduced in the Congress recently actually, in this past several weeks that are focused on water reclamation and provide extra funding for water reuse and water reclamation, don’t know a lot of the details on that but a quick google search will give a result on that.
Peter: One thing we haven’t talked about is the notion when it comes to reusing reclaimed potable water, where are we on the notion of public acceptance? Are we passed the ik factor?
Larry: That’s a great question. We can talk about that for hours probably. I would say, no. We’ve come a long way for sure. You know, people get this….the media often…some special interest group will create this stigmatized images of toilet tap and people drinking at the toilet, toilets connected by plumbing right to the faucet and people drinking, these funny cartoons they establish but people get stigmatized images and terminology, like you said the ik factor, in their minds, it’s hard to move away from that. So, there has been a lot of research actually focused on public acceptance recently in the water reuse research foundation at the Center of Virginia has been providing funding for a lot of that…it is looking at, how can we better convince the public that this is indeed is safe bacause a lot of these projects have been implemented in a very safe manner. So, it’s a lot about education, we’ve implemented a lot of visitor centers for instance on our water reuse projects for example the Singapore New Water Project, you may have heard of those. A series of advanced water reclamation plants in Singapore that recycle water for potable purposes and industrial purposes, we have them design a visitor center and that teaches the public, it is a very interactive visitor center that teaches the public about the water cycle and the safety of water reuse and it’s been so popular that in fact the government has created a postage stamp to honor the visitor center. So very successful, actually tourist attraction out there as well. Public education outreach are hugely important and then engaging local experts, the public seems to trust local doctors, health professionals and also college professors, university professors that are locally based. So if you can talk to them about water reuse and have them help communicate the message out to the public. Orange County Water District did this very successfully on the Groundwater Replenishment Project that first case study I was talking about and they did an amazing outreach program that help talk to the public about water reuse, they are very pro active and upfront about what they are doing to educate the public. These are some good examples of how you can be successful with potable reuse but certainly there has been some bad failures too when people have not actively engaged the public with public outreach and education. So it is an excellent question and probably is the most important factor in water reuse projects. It’s hard for me to say that because I’m an engineer, I like the technical and engineering aspects of these projects but the community involvement is frankly the most important factor on these projects, something that shouldn’t be minimized or delayed.
Peter: The big one that I was aware last year here in the US was in Wichitta Falls in Texas and I haven’t heard a lot since then, I don’t know if you are familiar but that project seems to be proceeding I think.
Larry: Well, Wichitta Falls has a temporary permit for potable reuse and they implemented actually a direct potable reuse so it was a pipe to pipe connection from the waste water plants to an advanced water purification plant that included microfiltration, reverse osmosis and UV disinfection and then right into the water distribution system. They had a temporary permit, I think they’ve finished with that temporary permit and they’ve received some rain so I think they are acutally now investigating, implementing and in direct potable reuse project so where the waters are reintroduced in the environment and not directly connected. I think that’s not positive, I think that’s the approach that they are taking down there.
Peter: Interesting. We’ve got a little bit of time left, there’s another question from a participant, I think it is being typed in as we speak but it has to do with egg irrigation and and whether there are any limitations or EPA standards that make that a problem regarding food safety questions.
Larry: Good question. There are no federal regulations related to water reuse, there are only guidelines. Each state is responsible for developing their own water reuse regulations and they vary from state to state significantly and some states in fact do not have water reuse regulations but a lot of them, a lot of research has been done in this topic in California and other locations. California does have some very detailed regulations on the applications for water reuse on agriculture, food products, they have different levels of treatment that are required, different water goals depending on the type of food product. In fact, if it is a product that we eat raw then the regulations are a little bit different than the products that are not eaten raw. So, very safe. A lot of these requirements focus on no passages in the water and advanced levels of treatment including tertiary filtration and high level disinfection being applied to the crops. It has been practiced since the 1960s and even earlier in many locations. A very safe practice provided the following somebody’s regulations that so many states have in place.
Peter: I just got a message here, I guess we have five more minutes going overtime they are telling us so conversations must be going well, that’s good. Again, for participants, this is a breakout session with Larry Schimmoller of CH2M, we’re talking about Technology, Water Reuse, Water Reclamation, I guess one question I have is just to get back to the theme of the day here, Lessons from California, who should be learning from whom here, is California ahead of the game or the Singapore is at the world way out infront?
Larry: I think, California is ahead of the game. They have done a lot of great things in California, a lot of great research and some of their projects are amazing and that they have implemented in California frankly. I think one of the things that could be learned from other locations that California could learn is to look at alternative treatment technologies. Right now for safe potable reuse, they require reverse osmosis treatment. So there is an opportunity, there are some difficulties in using reverse osmosis treatment when you move in the inland location. So you move away in the coast, it becomes much harder to implement reverse osmosis because you are generating RO brine, the waste that RO generates are extremely dispose of. This applies to many locations as you move in in Arizona and Colorado, Minessotta, wherever you are at an inland location and you don’t have an ocean nearby can be very challenging to dispose of this high solidity concentrate waste. So that’s something…even California they moved far away from the coast in developing this project, they can learn from other locations accross the states, accross the world on different apporoaches that are non RO based that may focus more on granule activated carbon type treatment that I mention as an example. There are other examples, a direct potable use project that I think someone mentioned earlier on the talk, down in Namibia, South Africa has been operating since 1960s. There are certainly different ways that can approach the issue that ca be investigated
Peter: Here is a question from one of the participants: “Do bio remediation and other living system approaches have barriers to market considering the process culture of waste and agricultural water treatment?
Larry: Not quite sure what we’re getting at. Yeah, not following that entirely, I’m sorry. Maybe if the participant wants to kind of expand on that a little bit, maybe that would be helpful. I was struck by something you said when you started about potable use as opposed to non- potable use, that surprise me, that that’s the direction people are going in.
Peter: Yeah, it surprised a lot of the community in fact the water reuse industry. The issue is for non potable demands are often seasonal, so irrigation of parks, golf courses and so forth, often times you are only irrigating in the warmer summer months and you have to build all these infrastructure, you build your advance treatment plant, you build your pipelines, your pump stations, your storage tanks and you can only use them for potentially half the year so you invest a lot of money and don’t get the full realization of your investment so your water, so your water yield, the amount ouf water that you can provide to your system goes down. The potable reuse, you build all that infrastructure to a higher degree of treatment, you can use that year round because you’re just introducing that to the water supply, to the drinking water system. It provides much higher yields and you don’t need to build a distribution system because the distribution system is already in place. So you can imagine California, highly urbanized, highly developed trying to build a separate distribution system network in a highly urbanized environment is extremely expensive and very disruptive to the public. So you can imagine in certain scenarios the trend towards potable reuse makes a lot of sense. That’s not to say that non potable reuse does not make sense in certain scenarios I mentioned cooling water application power plants. If you have a cooling water or a power plant that requires significant cooling water, that makes a lot of sense if somewhat located near the waste water treatment plant.
Peter: Okay, thank you. Thank you Larry. So, on your last comment, we are not going to be seeing purple pipes all over the country apparently.
Larry: That’s right, we might see some but not everywhere.
Peter: Well, thank you very much Larry Schimmoller, I’m going to turn it back to… Ben is calling people back. Thanks to all who participated in this breakout session. Here you go, Ben.