U.S. Water News Online
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- Los Alamos National Laboratory expects
to save nearly 21 million gallons of water a year -- about the amount
used by 100 households -- with a facility that treats effluent so it
can be used in cooling towers.
The Department of Energy lab, which uses 400 million gallons of
water a year, came under criticism for missing chances to save water
The lab's $4.5 million Sanitary Effluent Reclamation Facility,
which opened recently, removes silica so effluent from the lab's
domestic wastewater treatment plant can be used in cooling towers for
a supercomputing complex.
The lab said a third of its water is used in such towers to keep
equipment at the best operating temperature.
Reclamation technology is well established, but usually is used to
remove salt from seawater to make it drinkable.
USFilter Corp. ran a demonstration program at the nuclear weapons
lab in 2000 to see whether the process could remove silica from
water. It proved useful, and USFilter built the plant.
Silica coats the fins of cooling towers, lowering their
Lab spokeswoman Kathy DeLucas said northern New Mexico has one of
the worst problems in the country with dissolved silica, which is
found in quartz, sand and flint and occurs naturally in areas that
had high volcanic activity.
The reclamation facility removes enough silica so the water can be
Once silica is removed and filtered off as sludge, reclaimed water
can be used in the computing center's cooling towers. Only 2 percent
of the treated water evaporates or ends up as sludge.
The water can be recycled up to four times. After that, it's
discharged into Sandia Canyon.
The new facility takes only two people to operate. It can be
expanded, and the lab said expansions to other areas could save an
additional 20 million gallons annually.
A report from the DOE's Inspector General said Los Alamos lab
wasted water and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars needlessly in
2003 because it didn't have funds to replace leaky faucets or design
filters that would have saved water.
The report said the lab could have saved 41 million gallons and
$500,000 with filters to improve cooling tower efficiency, but that
the lab didn't have $60,000 to design the filters. The report said it
also didn't replace leaking faucets and install low-flow shower heads
that year because the projects weren't funded. The $4,000 in faucets
and showerheads would have saved about $380,220.
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