On Monday, October 5, the Sierra Club of Illinois hosted a conversation about PFAS with Rob Bilott, an attorney, advocate, and author whose story inspired the film Dark Waters; ISTC senior chemist John Scott; Fred Andes, a Chicago attorney whose practice focuses on water issues; Cheryl Sommer, vice-President of United Congregations Metro-East.
ISTC conducted the assessment in July 2019 and identified several ways to reduce energy use, including upgrading to LED lighting and installing variable frequency drives on blower motors. The plant used Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program incentives to help fund the upgrades.
Altogether, the lighting and motor upgrades will reduce the township’s energy use by more than 2.3 million kilowatt-hours every year and deliver six-figure savings in annual energy costs.
Since the emergence of mass-produced plastics in the 1940s, the global appetite for these materials has rapidly increased. Estimates of cumulative plastic waste generated are as much as 6.3 billion metric tons. Less than 10% of this material is recycled, while nearly 80% is sent to landfills or released into the natural environment. Because of this, microplastics are now ubiquitous in the environment. Their presence has been detected in surface waters, groundwater sources such as Karst waters, sediments, wildlife, and even consumer products.
The major drawback with current microplastic sample preparation and counting is that researchers use different methods. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was the first to publish a standard method to measure these materials. However, it only addressed large plastic debris in surface water and beach samples. Furthermore, it can only isolate and account for materials with a density less than 1.2 g/cm3. Many microplastics, including polyvinyl chloride, polyesters, and fluoropolymers, have a density greater than 1.3 g/cm3 and are unaccounted for in preparation by NOAA’s method.
When the researchers analysed samples from the Lake Muskegon and Missouri surface waters, they discovered that they would have missed the most abundant microplastics, those less than 300 µm, if they had processed them using the standard NOAA method. Their new method achieves a lower size detection limit and greater microplastic density limit.
The researchers also designed an innovative reporting method that uses detailed size measurements of the microplastic in the sample. This new approach for data reporting allows researchers to estimate the mass of microplastics present. This measurement is important because although particle sizes can change in a sample, the overall mass remains the same.
Following development, the researchers demonstrated the method with surface waters collected from three locations and fish larvae samples archived by the Illinois Natural History Survey.
The Prairie Research Institute is leading a drive toward a clean-energy future. This is the first installment of our ongoing series surrounding PRI’s state-of-the-art clean energy research. Part one introduces projects happening across PRI that implement innovative CO2 reduction strategies, an essential step toward reducing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases at an industrial scale.
ISTC also is overseeing a large pilot test of the performance, safety, and environmental compliance of a carbon capture technology developed by Linde Gas North America and BASF at City Water, Light, and Power in Springfield, Illinois.
The aim of this project is to design, construct, and operate a 10 megawatt (MWe) carbon capture system at one of CWLP’s coal-fired generators. The project team has successfully completed the planning and evaluation of this technology at the plant. The design phase that is now in progress will produce a shovel-ready plan for construction.
The second project, led by ISGS in a joint effort with ISTC and Trimeric Corporation, is working to advance the early development of a CO2 absorption technology at 40 kilowatt (kWe) following successful proof-of-concept and lab-scale development research.
This technology uses a novel biphasic CO2 absorption process that involves applying a proprietary solvent developed by ISGS researchers for post-combustion CO2 capture, an approach that could dramatically improve energy efficiency, lower the equipment cost and footprint, and maintain operational simplicity.
ISTC’s John Scott was interviewed by Zack Fishman of Medill Reports, an online news service of Northwestern University, for an article about the increase of single-use plastic waste during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Springfield Journal- Register recently ran a story about ISTC’s carbon capture project at City Water, Power, and Light’s Dallman unit 4.
The project was also highlighted by Public Power Magazine, a publication of the American Public Power Association.
The DOE-funded project is currently in the design phase. The phase three proposal, which will fund construction, is due in January. If DOE selects ISTC’s Phase Three proposal, construction would probably begin next May or June, kicking off the five-year project.
by Jeremy Overmann, Chemist & Water Treatment Specialist ISTC Institutional Water Treatment services group
The domestic plumbing systems in any building or part of a building that has been shut down or has experienced reduced use due to COVID-19 policies are at risk for causing disease and death due to the effects of increased water age, including corrosion and growth of bacteria. Before re-opening any such building, take steps to minimize these risks and include consultation with a licensed plumber.
We recommend a higher temperature of at least 142 degrees F as this will kill Legionella bacteria in the heater within 30 minutes. However, do not use water at this temperature for flushing if the building’s drain waste vent (DWV) materials and/or plumbing system components cannot handle this higher temperature.
WARNING: 142 degree F water can cause third degree burns in seconds. Note that Legionella bacteria can continue to grow at temperatures up to 122 degrees F.
The Environmental Science Policy and Research Institute has written a useful guidance document, Reducing Risk to Staff Flushing Buildings, which offers best practices for flushing building water systems in a way that keeps facility staff safe.
Drinking Fountains: If these were shut off and/or not used for a period of time, they should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions before being used again for drinking.
Chlorine levels: The Illinois EPA requires a minimum of 0.5 parts per million Free Chlorine or 1.0 parts per million Total chlorine (also called Combined chlorine) in drinking water, unless a facility has been given an exemption (this is rare, but applies in some cases to facilities supplied with clean well water).
After re-opening, we recommend maintaining 142 degrees F or higher in all domestic water heaters and storage tanks, and 124 degrees F or higher in all recirculating domestic hot water systems for the purpose of reducing the risk of Legionnaire’s Disease. Note that delivered water at fixtures must meet local and state plumbing codes for maximum safe temperature to prevent scalding. The best way to achieve Legionella risk reduction and anti-scalding is to maintain high temperature in tanks and recirculating systems and employ thermostatic mixing valves just prior to point of use fixtures.
Finally, we recommend documenting all actions you take to prepare facilities for re-opening.
About the Institutional Water Treatment services group
The Institutional Water Treatment (IWT) services group, a unit of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois, provides unbiased, professional water treatment advice to facilities equipped with industrial water systems including cooling towers, chillers, boilers, etc. If you need assistance with addressing system start-up due to COVID-19 or other related services, including legionella monitoring, please contact Jeremy Overmann or Mike Springman.
Editor’s note: Many businesses are closed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and some building managers have shut off water and air conditioning to conserve resources. Unfortunately, warmth and lack of clean water flow can contribute to the growth of potentially dangerous microbes, including the bacteria that contribute to Legionnaires’ disease. Illinois Sustainable Technology Center chemist and industrial water treatment specialist Jeremy Overmann spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the problem and potential solutions.
What are the potential sources of tainted water in an unoccupied building?
When a building is unoccupied, water stagnates in the building’s plumbing systems and the disinfectant (chlorination) dissipates. Bacteria can then multiply and form biofilms on the internal surfaces. Without regular use of water, the temperature in these systems may rise or fall into the range in which Legionella bacteria can grow. As a result, the hot and cold tap water systems – including storage tanks, ice machines, drinking fountains and water softeners – can become unsafe. Other potential sources of Legionella include sprinkler systems, decorative fountains, hot tubs, eyewash stations, safety showers, humidifiers and idle cooling towers.
How might these sources expose or infect returning workers?
If water containing Legionella is released from any of these systems in a manner that produces aerosol, mist or droplets, these can be inhaled and cause a serious, sometimes fatal pneumonia. Another route of exposure, though less likely, is aspirating contaminated water into the lungs while drinking. The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are the same as some of those from COVID-19 and could result in a misdiagnosis. Legionella does not cause harm when ingested, however other pathogenic bacteria might be present, which can cause infection by this route and even by skin contact.
What can building managers do now to minimize or eliminate the threat?
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has written a standard that establishes minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for buildings with complex water systems. Standard 188-2018 directs building managers to assemble a water management team and write a water management program for the facility. If the facility has a WMP, managers should review it and meet remotely with the water management team.
The WMP should include protocols for maintaining safe water systems in unoccupied buildings. If none exist, the team might be able to develop them. Generally, hot and cold plumbing systems – including water softeners, equipment, storage tanks and all fixtures – need to be thoroughly flushed a minimum of once per week to remove stagnant water and replace it with water containing an adequate level of chlorination.
A water softener may be regenerated as an alternative to flushing. Drinking fountains should either be flushed regularly or shut off completely from the water supply. If they are shut off, the fountains must be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions before being used again for drinking.
Ice machines should be disconnected from the water supply and stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Decorative fountains and hot tubs should be turned off, drained and stored dry. The same goes for humidifiers and cooling towers, if they are not needed. If still needed for cooling, the tower water circulating pump should be kept on continuously, water should be continually bled from the tower, and adequate biocides should be applied regularly to maintain control of biological growth.
What should water system operators do if they have already left their facilities idle for weeks?
Operators should consult the facility’s water management program, as it should contain protocols for start-up of water systems after shut-down or a period of nonuse. The water systems will likely need to be flushed, cleaned, disinfected and recommissioned. After being remediated, they should be tested to verify the safety of the water and the presence of adequate disinfectant.
Who can facility managers call on for advice, inspection or treatment of their tainted systems?
I recommend hiring a reputable water management consultant with experience remediating these types of systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a guidance document containing relevant information for building water systems that is available on its website.