Building a chemical dam

Paul Boughton

Brian Booth highlights how identifying the specific contaminants in a body of water is vital, influencing how many ppm of chemical is required to be effective. It is often a lot more than 1ppm!

You will often hear conspiracy theorists protest against the fact that there’s fluoride in our tap water. It’s believed, in certain circles, that traces of it can affect everything from your mood or your IQ. However, with a modest dosing of 1 part per million (ppm) in our water supply the idea of serious harm being caused seems a bit far-fetched.Especially when you consider that there was once as much as 1,000ppm of lead in the Mersey estuary and we survived that unscathed.

Understanding how many ppm of a chemical will have the desired (or even an undesired) effect is a fundamental requirement when it comes to water treatment. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to dosing a water cooling system with the best combination of treatment solutions. Successful dosing relies on absolute accuracy and an understanding of which chemicals are best for your systems needs and how they will work together. If you dose in the wrong amount or with the wrong combination the end result with either be ineffective or will harm your system.

The first step to getting dosing right is to identify precisely what the water needs to be treated for, as this will allow for the selection of the appropriate solution. For example, if there is calcium present in the water and treatment is required to combat scaling, a corrosion inhibitor would be of no use. Likewise, using an appropriate scale inhibitor in the wrong dose is an exercise in futility.

However, accurate measurement alone isn’t always enough. There is a variety of factors to take into consideration when determining concentration, from chemical half life to fluctuations in contaminant levels.

Successful water treatment to stop scaling can be likened to a dam. If you take the previous calcium example, the 300 ppm of calcium in the water is the stream that needs to be conditioned by the inhibitor – the ‘dam’. Using a threshold inhibitor it may be that 10ppm of active scale Inhibitor can hold back the 300ppm. If there were any increases in the calcium content, however, the stream would overflow the chemical dam or in this analogy, the unconditioned Calcium would be free to scale on hot surfaces. There are a number of causes for these types of increases, such as a bleed valve shutting on the system.

At NCH Europe we have developed crystal modifiers that work alongside threshold inhibitors to provide extra support in situations just like this. These modifiers do exactly what they say on the tin, they modify the molecular structure of calcium in a water system so that they pose less of a threat. Calcium molecules, for example, are modified in such a way that they are no longer able to interact with metal pipes to cause scaling. So, going back to the analogy, the ‘stream’ of unconditioned calcium overflowing the ‘dam’ is caught by the crystal modifiers and rendered unable to scale the hot surfaces.

Given the intricate and precise nature of effectively and proactively approaching water treatment, it’s important that your provider is able to offer ongoing support and expertise as well as revolutionary chemical solutions. We pride ourselves on our technical knowhow at NCH Europe, and we make sure that each of our clients receives the best bespoke treatment solution that remains effective. It’s safe to say that the 1ppm of fluoride in the tap water is not dulling any IQ’s in our team!

Brian Booth is VP of the Water Treatment Innovation Platform at Global energy, water and maintenance solutions provider NCH Europe.