Sierra Club of Illinois hosts panel discussion on PFAS with Rob Bilott, John Scott, other water advocates

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.

A recording of the conversation is now available.

Caseyville Wastewater Treatment Plant saves energy, money with ISTC assessment and Ameren Illinois incentives

The Caseyville Township Water Reclamation Facility recently received a free facility assessment through Illinois EPA’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Assessment Program. The program is a partnership between Illinois EPA, ISTC, and the University of Illinois’ Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC).

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.

Read the full Ameren Illinois case study detailing the upgrades.

ISTC researchers develop improved method for microplastics analysis

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 work is detailed in ISTC’s new research report, Development and Demonstration of a Superior Method for Microplastics Analysis: Improved Size Detection Limits, Greater Density Limits, and More Informative Reporting.

Carbon capture collaborations lead clean energy drive

ISTC and ISWS Director Kevin OBrien with University of Illinois System President Timothy Killeen at City, Water, Light, and Power in Springfield, Illinois.
ISTC and ISWS Director Kevin OBrien with University of Illinois System President Timothy Killeen at City, Water, Light, and Power in Springfield, Illinois.

By Tiffany Jolley

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.

PRI is collaborating with three Illinois power plants (Prairie State Generating CompanyCity Water Light, and Power, and the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant) to implement sophisticated technologies that remove carbon from air emissions (carbon capture).

Three PRI surveys, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), and Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), along with partners Kiewit Engineering GroupMitsubishi Heavy Industries America, and Sargent & Lundy, are working to complete a front-end engineering design (FEED) study for the retrofit of the Prairie State Generating Company in Marissa, Illinois.

The goal is to design a system to capture more than 90 percent of carbon emissions at the facility and incorporate additional carbon offset strategies to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions. The FEED study is made possible through a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy that is administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and $3.75 million from Prairie State Generating Company.

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 effort has the potential to be the foundation for more easily accessible and attainable carbon capture systems at other facilities around the world, depending on the outcome of a $45 million DOE grant with a $20 million match from the state of Illinois. The DOE received nearly 30 proposals from power plants across the country for the grant, which is now narrowed down to five final candidates – CWLP being one.

If selected, ISTC would embark on the construction of a CO2 separation unit at CWLP’s 200 megawatt Dallman Unit 4 using state-of-the-art air emission control technology as early as May 2021.

Abbott Power Plant currently hosts two DOE-funded carbon-capture research projects. In the first, ISTC is working with Linde to test three technologies for reducing aerosol particle concentrations in flue gas. This work is intended to help make solvent-based carbon capture technology more economical at commercial scales.

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.

This post originally appeared on the Prairie Research Institute blog.

CWLP could become world’s largest carbon capture research station

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.

How to safely flush plumbing systems and re-open facilities after shut-down

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.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has a general guidance document for returning these systems to regular use. In Attachment B (Section II, Step 2. b), IDPH recommends setting the water heater to at least 120 degrees F prior to flushing the domestic hot water plumbing.

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.

Use the IDPH guidance in conjunction with your facility’s Legionella Water Management Program (WMP). If none exists, we recommend writing a remediation and/or recommissioning plan, then later developing a full WMP. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a free training program on how to write a WMP and a toolkit to assist in developing a WMP.

Additional recommendations

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.

For more information

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.

Expert viewpoint: Could Legionnaires’ bacteria lurk in idled buildings?

Editor’s note:  To contact Jeremy Overmann, email joverman@illinois.edu.