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Nick Iraca

Process Description

Basic Public Drinking Water Treatment Process


Almost all water sources are susceptible
to
contamination and therefore require
treatment before the water is considered safe
for consumption. Unless you have a private
well, most of your drinking water will go
through a treatment process in a water
treatment plant before it reaches your
household. The water treatment process
removes contaminants, odors, viruses, and
other harmful substances through a multistep
process involving screening, coagulation,
flocculation, sedimentation, filtration,
disinfection, fluoridation, and pH control.
Millions of gallons of water go through these
steps every day in order to provide safe
drinking water for public consumption. The
(Southern Australia Water,
treatment process may be different from one
location to another, but the basic principles throughout the process are the
same.
Removing Coarse Particulates - Screening, Coagulation,
Flocculation, Sedimentation
First, the process starts with a screening. Water is pumped from a
source such as a reservoir or local stream/river to the treatment facility.
When the water reaches the facility, it goes through a screen, which is made
to capture large particles. Sticks, rocks, leaves, and other large debris are
caught in the screen and removed so they dont cause problems in later
steps. Most of the large debris is sent to a landfill while the water continues
on to the next step in the process coagulation.
During the coagulation step, chemicals with a positive charge such
as ferric sulfate and polyelectrolyte are added
to the water. These positively charged
chemicals are mixed rapidly with the water
and neutralize the negative charge of dirt and
other materials in the water causing the
particles to bind together, or coagulate, into
larger particles.

Next in the flocculation step, large paddles gently mix the water. This
causes the clumped particles in the coagulation step to agglomerate into
even larger particles. This allows the particles to settle faster and collect at
the bottom of the basin in the next step sedimentation. The water from
the flocculation step is sent into a large
sedimentation basin where it is very calm,
(Koshland Science Museum, 2007)
causing the heavier debris to collect at the
bottom where it can be removed. The clarified water is then pumped out of
the basin and into another area for filtration.
Water Purification and Hygiene - Filtration, Disinfection,
Fluoridation, pH Control
Filtration, or absorption, is where the
water moves through a multilayered barrier
of sand, gravel, and other similar materials.
In this step the water still has an odor as well
as high turbidity, or cloudy appearance. By
running the water through the sand and
gravel layers it removes smaller suspended
matter such as microorganisms, silt, algae,
iron and other particles. The filters are
maintained and cleaned daily in order to
maximize effectiveness in purifying the
water. This step leaves the water with a more
clear appearance and pleasant smell.

(Koshland Science Museum, 2007)

After the water is passed through the


filtration barriers, it is treated with more
chemicals in a disinfection stage. The main
chemical used in this stage is chlorine, since it is
the most effective and economical disinfectant.
Chlorine can be added to the water as a liquid or
gas, depending on the location. This helps kill any leftover bacteria,
parasites, or viruses that werent removed in the previous steps. In some
locations, other disinfectants are added to the water after the chlorination
stage. These disinfectants include ultraviolet radiation or ozone gas both
added to flowing water by injection. UV radiation and ozone gas further kill
any bacteria or viruses not yet removed.
Once the water has been disinfected it is ready to be treated with
fluoride. In this step, the water is still traveling slowly through pipes,
allowing fluorosilicic acid to be added as a dry powder or a solution. The
fluoride is added in small doses and is important in helping minimize tooth
decay when it is later consumed.

In the final step, pH control, water is treated with the last set of
chemicals to adjust the pH of the water to be more basic. The main additive
in this stage is lime, with some locations also using soda ash both having
the same effects. The lime (calcium oxide) is dissolved in the water by
polyphosphate, making it less acidic. Since the water is less acidic, it
minimizes corrosion of the pipes when the water has to travel great
distances before it is used. Without controlling the pH, lead and other
materials from the pipes may get into the water while it is being distributed.
Finally, the water is sent to storage tanks where it is ready to be distributed
and used by the community.