The De Nora blog: Water Made Easy

Case Study: Optimizing Arsenic Treatment System Yields Significant Cost Savings

Jul 14, 2020 3:00:00 PM / by De Nora


According to the company’s website, American Water (AW) has been maintaining high-water-quality standards, dependable service, and finding ways to do it better since 1986. The country’s largest investor-owned water and wastewater utility company, AW serves the needs of 16 million customers in more than 1,600 communities across the United States. Arizona American Water, a wholly-owned subsidiary of America Water, is the largest investor-owned utility in Arizona, serving a population of approximately 350,000 in northwest Phoenix. 

When this Surprise, AZ company committed to meeting the January 2006 federal arsenic MCL of 10 ppb, those responsible for choosing the arsenic removal technology stayed true to the parent company’s culture. They selected and piloted two, distinctly-different technologies and then worked to optimize each through stringent testing and evaluation.

Arsenic is common throughout Arizona, and many water and wastewater utilities have installed a variety of arsenic removal technologies, including reverse osmosis, coagulation filtration, ion exchange and adsorption. Arizona American Water decided to pilot one coagulation filtration system and five adsorption systems to treat arsenic levels ranging from 12 to 82 µg/L. The adsorption system selected was the SORB 33® fixed-bed arsenic treatment system and Bayoxide® E33 arsenic removal media from De Nora Water Technologies.

The arsenic treatment system’s design criteria

With a combined capacity of 27.1 mgd, the six Arizona American Water water treatment facilities serve a significant portion of the utility’s customer base. To minimize the rate impact on customers, the company selected the two treatment technologies based on the lowest capital, operating and maintenance requirements. With an arsenic treatment goal of <8 µg/L, the design criteria for the systems included:

  • Pre-oxidation to be used at all facilities
  • Silica, phosphate, manganese and vanadium are present in the water supplies and must be monitored for interference with the arsenic removal
  • pH must be adjusted as necessary
  • Incorporating blending vs. 100 percent source flows to maximize system efficiency
  • The adsorption system would incorporate a lead/lag design

To maximize each system’s performance, Arizona American Water implemented a sampling schedule that included a biweekly sampling of treated and combined water and quarterly sampling for regulatory requirements. Dosage and bypass sampling results would also be used to optimize system operations.

Arizona American Water’s waste management strategy for the coagulation filtration system was to maintain a consistent concentration of discharge into its sewer system and to optimize solids handling processes through polymer dosing and mixing. For the SORB system, backwash water would be recycled when possible, and fines due to backwash effluent discharge would be minimized by increasing settling time.

At the adsorptive treatment plants, which became operational in February and March 2006, capacity ranged from 3.1-mgd in Agua Fria Water Plant five, where arsenic levels measured from 6 to 82 µg/L, to 8.0-mgd in Sun City West Water Plant two, where arsenic levels were found to be 6 to 25 µg/L. 

Blending was required at some of the plants to accommodate high levels of fluoride and/or nitrates; however, arsenic levels in the 6.8-mgd Agua Fria Water Plant two’s source water were low enough that 100 percent bypass flows were possible.

The adsorptive process

The SORB™ system employs a simple “pump and treat” process that flows pressurized well or spring water through a fixed-bed pressure vessel containing the iron oxide media where the arsenic removal occurs. Bayoxide is a granular ferric oxide media, and arsenic has a high affinity for iron oxide-based minerals, adsorbing quickly to the surface of the media. This makes granular iron oxide media, such as Bayoxide, excellent for arsenic removal.

Other contaminants common to groundwater also have a high affinity for iron-based minerals. This creates competition among ions, resulting in less arsenic being adsorbed per volume of treated water. Bayoxide® E33 is specifically designed to adsorb arsenic while reducing competition with other ions, thus improving the arsenic-adsorbing potential of the media. These characteristics enable systems using the dry, crystalline granular media to achieve long operating cycles, reduce pressure drops and improve the operational cost. The media does not need to be replaced for six months to two years, and the spent media is sent to a non-hazardous landfill.

Evaluating the arsenic treatment systems

As Arizona American Water staff witnessed the completion of their monthly/quarterly milestones with the coagulation filtration and adsorption systems, they were impressed with the differences between the two systems. The operation of the coagulation filtration system was more labor-intensive than the adsorption systems, requiring more chemicals, more on-site instrumentation monitoring and significantly more maintenance time each day.

As staff became more familiar with the coagulation filtration system, they identified several operational improvements that could be made, including maintaining a more consistent concentration of sludge and preventing the sludge from “caking” in the collection system. These were accomplished by continuously running the recycle pumps rather than operating them in standard duty. Also, the staff increased the frequency of cleaning the clarifiers to semiannually.

“By contrast, adsorption is a pretty simple process that was easily adopted by the staff,” said Jeremiah Mecham, operations superintendent for Arizona American Water. “And that’s what we expected based upon the system’s reputation and the experience of others.”

Among the enhancements recommended for the adsorption systems was the installation of high-pressure relief valves to replace rupture discs for pressure relief. 

“Two of our sites are below grade, and a ruptured disc would allow water to continue to flow from the vessels, potentially flooding the treatment area,” said Mecham. “In addition, we installed piping to carry any water that was released by the pressure relief valves outside the treatment containment area, further preventing possible flooding.”

Process optimization, primarily by bypassing more of the water while still achieving arsenic levels of <8 µg/L, increased media bed volume performance over the performance guarantee by up to 43 percent at the Agua Fria Plant one and up to 160 percent at Agua Fria Plant five. This led to a reduction in the cost per treated bed volume by 30 percent at Agua Fria Plant one and 62 percent at Agua Fria Plant five. As a result, we achieved a savings of more than $1m by extending the life of the Bayoxide granular iron media through our process optimization.

“Complying with the new arsenic MCL in the Agua Fria District was made relatively simple through the implementation of the SORB systems,” Mecham said. “The systems have exceeded our expectations by enabling us to provide clean, safe, EPA-compliant water to our customers at a reasonable cost to Arizona American Water — and ultimately to ratepayers.”

Source: Optimizing Arsenic Treatment System Yields Significant Cost Savings, Arsenic Removal – Case Study, 2015

Still Wondering About Your Arsenic Treatment Cost Savings?

To learn more, read our full SORBTM  case study.  Click below for more information.

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Tags: arsenic, wastewater treatment, coagulation filtration, SORB, Arizona American Water, American Water, Surprize AZ, Bayoxide

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