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Wastewater Systems and Laundry Operations (Part 1)

Changes, improvements in systems over past decade

CHICAGO — The past 10 years have seen an extensive expansion of water reuse treatment systems.

Water reuse systems have been applied to centralized and decentralized scales, and water has been reused for a wide range of activities, such as agricultural/land application, commercial/industrial processes, toilets, and even potable water. 

To keep costs down, industry is shifting focus toward reuse systems that are fully automated, have minimal operator requirements, require few chemicals and use semi-permanent filters.

And as wastewater treatment systems improve, laundry and linen services are making use of them to drive down costs and be more environmentally responsible.

Part 1 of this four-part series looks at changes and improvements in systems over the past decade.

CHANGES AND IMPROVEMENTS

Chad Folkerts, vice president of field operations and engineering at Norchem Corp., a chemical solutions/water technologies company based out of Los Angeles, says that over the past 10 years water recycling systems have become much more efficient, are utilizing remote access and machine intelligence for trouble shooting, and more automating of the process requires minimal interaction from an operator.

“Systems are now using a fraction of the energy required to recycle the same amount of water, which adds to the savings an operation will realize,” he shares. “With the increased efficiency comes a lower capital cost, which when combined with the savings, results in a much more attractive ROI for the customer. 

“Some operators may have looked at the technology five years ago and it did not make sense financially, but now with more efficient systems and lower capital cost for the same recycling capacity, the same operator may find the technology make great financial sense.”

Overall system designs have evolved to help maximize heat recovery and reduce water consumption by utilizing current plant infrastructure and washer designs, says Folkerts. Based on the design of a plant and the washers being utilized, he says Norchem has seen “fresh water” reductions on a conventional wash floor of up to 80%, with an 80% reduction in water heating cost.

Folkerts goes on to say that automation and machine intelligence continue to advance to help improve the efficiencies and ease of operation of the systems. 

“We have systems that require no operator interface,” he points out. “Once the system is started, it will filter and recycle wastewater, automatically clean when required, and then automatically start up when required based on wastewater levels throughout the system. 

“Our NorVision machine monitoring system allows operators to see everything happening throughout the system. Troubleshooting guides will pop up on the screen if an alarm is present to help walk them through, step-by-step, for any alarm. The system also acts as a CMS system notifying operators when it is time to perform preventative maintenance. The systems will also automatically send text messages or e-mail reports or alarms to key plant personnel when required.”

Bob Fesmire, president of Ellis Corp. in Itasca, Illinois, a manufacturer of washing technology with a wastewater division, says that in the past decade, wastewater systems in the laundry industry have shifted from traditional treatment for city compliance to a heavy focus on recycling water, which allows for heat capture and contaminant removal so that the most amount of water remains in the building for repurposing. 

“The drivers for this shift come as utility costs consistently rise and municipalities lower the levels for the contaminants they are willing to accept and treat,” he says. “Few end users have real estate available in their facility (do you ever see large, unused spaces in an industrial laundry?), so all new solutions are required to be as compact as they can.” 

In addition to this, Fesmire says that all treatment options need to be able handle variable contaminant loading in the waste and differences in compliance limits throughout the country.

“The mass exodus of skilled labor leaving the industry requires suppliers to make systems as easy to maintain and troubleshoot as possible through automation like Ellis’ Uptime Management System,” he adds.

Jason Sosebee, owner of Industrial Waste Water Services in Cleveland, Georgia, agrees that wastewater treatment systems are becoming more automated with less operator intervention required.

“Internet connectivity and data links are beginning to take hold allowing the viewing of system status inside and outside of the facility,” he says. “Treatment chemical programs are also changing with the major benefit being reduced sludge production from equipment such as dissolved air flotation systems (DAFS).”

“Wastewater systems have evolved over the past decade to address the growing concerns for the environment and rising water costs,” says Eisa Sawyer, marketing director for Kemco Systems, a water and energy technology company in Clearwater, Florida. “They are no longer looked at as necessary evils, but rather resource recovery centers, where recycling wastewater is very beneficial for the environment as well as a laundry’s bottom line.”

According to Sawyer, membrane systems, such as ceramic microfiltration and reverse osmosis, have improved on porosity and durability, providing a more versatile product that yields high recycle rates and energy savings in a multitude of laundry environments.

She says that physical/chemical treatment systems, such as DAF, have improved through the development of controls for chemical injection and dosage.

“These controls apply the correct amount of chemicals to the systems resulting in optimum water treatment quality and helping to control the cost of chemicals,” shares Sawyer.

Keith Ware, vice president of sales for equipment manufacturer Lavatec Laundry Technology in Beacon Falls, Connecticut, says software and controls on the systems have improved over the last 10 years.

In addition, he says understanding how chemistry, alkalinity and total dissolved solids affect quality and chemistry has improved, and units have also been improved on the amount of maintenance the recycle systems took in the past.

“Companies offering or promising too high of a recycle rate have shown that quality suffers,” Ware points out. “Many providers have realized there is no one single solution that works best, or for every type of laundry processing.”

Check back Thursday for Part 2 on how wastewater systems improve laundry operations.