Water Treatment Plant Problems Algae

Mitigating Risk through Proactive Inspection

Industry News, Infrastructure, Tutorials and Tips

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Water treatment facilities are extremely elaborate systems.  These systems are designed to take the most unimaginably filthy water and make it crystal clear and drinkable, with no mistakes perpetually.  The problem with this model is that when issues are discovered in the system and they need to be fixed, you cannot just turn off the taps for a few hours without causing major problems with the public who use the water.

This is a problem that the small Canadian city Regina’s water treatment plant at Buffalo Pound Lake has fallen into this past week.  High levels of algae in the water have slowed the filtration process to half the regular capacity (CTV Regina 2015).  The exact issue would be much easier to locate if the water treatment process were to shut down for a day, but that would leave thousands of people with no clean water and many businesses with no means of operation.   Now they must find the issue without disrupting the hurting cycle.

The solution is more of a “hindsight is 20/20” type of situation, but is very true to water treatment plants.  The planning process upon construction must include a specific manual for inspections, including where, when and how the inspections are carried out.  The inspections and initial construction must take into account the surrounding environment associated with the facility, not just the facility itself.  The algae blooms are more likely to prosper in water sources with an overabundance of sunlight and plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.  These conditions are not generally present in a stainless steel encased water treatment cycle (St. John’s River Water Management District 2015).

The monitoring does not stop at the direct water source that the treatment plant is pulling from; evaluations of the sources that feed the main source have to be taken into account.  Areas of concern for storm runoff, nearby agriculture, etc. are areas that if monitored properly for spikes in problem chemicals or marine growth, then preventative actions can be taken to protect the treatment process itself.

Easier said than done.  These things still happen, marine growth still finds its way into the tanks.  The next line of defense is regular inspection of these tanks, made easy by the Deep Trekker DTG2.  Test drive the mini ROV at AWWA’s ACE 2015 Conference June 8th to 10th in Anaheim, California.

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  • Callie Marie says:

    Thanks for the great information about water treatment facilities. There is one right by my house, so I was curious how they work. It is good to know that proactive inspections and constant monitoring all contribute to keeping the water safe for drinking.

  • Lily de Grey says:

    Thanks for sharing this article with us, Cody! I think it’s awesome that water treatment facilities have the capability to filter and sort through water—even when the water is filthy! I’m sure glad that we have systems like that; I’m not sure what I’d do without them. Do you know how long the water treatment process takes?

    • Cody Warner says:

      Hi Lily, Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes without our water treatment processes it would be a very different looking world. To answer your question there is no set time limit for the water to go from one end to the other. If you think of water as always having to be moving though and what comes in must go out, it takes only a matter of a few minutes or hours depending on the size of the system. This is definitely not a drawn out process!

  • Ashley Smith says:

    I never knew that algae could cause problems for the filtration system. It is interesting how they have to mitigate the issue without shutting down. Would it be possible to cover the water sources from the sun, so that the algae cannot grow?

    • Cody Warner says:

      Hi Ashley, thank you for your comment!

      It is possible to do this and you will often see covers over Waste water treatment plant intakes (though that is usually to hold in the odor). The problem with covering a reservoir and completely removing the algae population is the disruption in the mineral composition in the water, that could create an imbalance and difficulties on its own. Water is a tricky balance! Many components of the water treatment process are actually natural organics at work.

  • Mika Hayn says:

    Hi Ashley Smith, as far as i know algae in water will grow faster if it receive sun light.

  • Heather says:

    It’s unfortunate that the treatment plant in Regina had to navigate this issue after it was already too late. Inspections really are the stage in which these problems can be alleviated, but you also have to know what to look for to optimize preventative measures.

  • It’s interesting to learn more about water treatment facilities. It’s crazy to think that they can take in the filthiest water around and make it crystal clear. Are there ways to do that around the home, too, in probably a less impressive way?

  • Kishor says:

    Hey Cody, this was a truly informative article. It is good to know that we have such effective water treatment systems that help monitor and purify water. However, I do agree that regular check-up of these facilities must be given due importance as clearly seen from the problem it can cause.

  • This is really a big problem for every water treatment facility. Having such issues can put each people to danger. In my side, I have used some basic filtration over my tap water. For me, it is better to be safe than say sorry for having such a problem.

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