While it isn't usually considered the most obvious vector for microbial contamination, process water (which is any water used in industrial processes such as cooling, manufacturing, forming, or washing) can easily become infected with dangerous bacteria. Contaminations can carry onto processed objects and industrial equipment, risking infections amongst your employees, customers, or livestock. You're much more likely to notice an infection from industrial equipment that powers direct contact water appliances such as spa pools. Here's how you can prevent bacterial contamination of process water in three easy steps.
1) Identify The Infection Source
If you have employees suffering from bacterial infection the symptoms should be obvious. Diarrhoea, vomiting, fevers, and low energy are common signs of a transferable, waterborne microbial infection. Even if only one employee shows signs of illness, you should shut off and check all the process systems they've used or been near as soon as possible. Wear gloves, overalls, and a face mask to do so.
In most cases, the source of the infection should be relatively close to any contaminated equipment. Permanent mains water intakes in the UK are usually safe to use and are pre-treated for dangerous bacteria. It's very likely in Britain that you're going to be looking for local cross-contamination. However, it may be well hidden. Cracks in underground wastewater plumbing lines and agricultural groundwater infection via livestock effluence are the most common culprits. Common contaminating bacteria such as E. Coli, salmonella, and giardia rely on human and animal faeces to continue their life cycles.
The bacteria are expelled from the host back towards incubating water, to spread further. Any water system that is drawing in untreated sewage or water cross-contaminated with faeces (via either groundwater, sewage intake from an aquifer, or leaks) is a likely candidate.
Some bacteria, such as Legionella, can live harmlessly in untreated freshwater and then reproduce much more effectively and dangerously once taken into a closed or stagnant system. Check any cooling or storage tanks carefully for signs of ageing water, as they can act as incubators for a larger infection. If your facility draws directly from a river or lake, you may also want to consider what's recently flowed through that waterway.
If you can't find the source of the infection and narrow down the type of bacteria from medical guides, it's time to consider lab testing your water. Laboratories can use advanced methods such as fluorescent highlighting to perform a thorough bacterial analysis of a select body of water. You'll need to collect and send away a sample of the process water that you suspect is infected.
2) Treat The Water
Any infected system should be shut down and professionally scrubbed of all bacteria by a specialist company. Most industrial systems can be cleaned and salvaged, once you've isolated them from the source of the infection. This may require extensive groundwork or the installation of a local filter system, but it's rare that you'll have to scrap your existing interior pipework and machinery. Most waterborne bacteria have a limited capacity to keep reproducing, once isolated then boiled or bleached.
Killing the bacteria will usually require the application of a suitable high-grade detergent (such as chlorine) to the interior water and physical exterior of the industrial system. Additionally, professional companies will heat the inside of pipes and the water intake to above 70° centigrade (if possible) and undertake manual cleaning and disinfection of any transmission and storage equipment used in your industrial system. Aerosolised ozone (or O3) is often used by cleaning companies to professionally disinfect exterior surfaces that have come into contact with contaminated water. This process will fully sterilise your equipment, ready for another batch of fresh water.
There are some other common methods used to cleanse large pools of infected water that can't be wasted. Intense UV light is used to kill some types of bacteria in still bodies of water. You may have to drain or bleed your process lines and any storage tanks. Again, make sure that appropriate and sturdy protective equipment (such as gloves and respirators) is worn at all times by any workers.
3) Prevent Further Contamination
How you choose to prevent further contamination will be down to the system you use and the locale you're operating in. Repairing or replacing any cracked sewer, wastewater, and intake lines is one effective strategy to stop further outbreaks. This can prove expensive, however, and may require works licences from the government.
If the water isn't used elsewhere for drinking or bathing and won't interfere with what you're manufacturing, you may consider using higher levels of detergent in your process water. Placing electrostatic filters on water intakes can help trap viruses and parasites. If you can't avoid drawing on fresh water from untreated sources (such as in remote factories and farms) for processes, you may want to consider installing purification machinery such as a sand filter or reverse osmosis system.
These devices perform the same process of coagulation, flocculation, filtration, and disinfection that a full-scale public treatment plant does on a local scale. You'll also need a local cooling tank if your process water is meant to be used cold.
Invest in a high quality water treatment plant to improve water quality and avoid the risk of microbiological contamination. Speak to an engineer today by calling 01993 892211.
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