Alternative Treatment Protects the Environment from Hundreds of Thousands of Gallons of Chemically Contaminated Water


When one thinks of an environmentally friendly company, a steel processing plant does not typically come to mind. However, Stripco Inc. of Mishawaka, Ind., a manufacturer of production-ready, cold-rolled steel coils, is an exception. In August of 1995, Stripco made a wise decision that also proved to be cost-effective and environmentally-friendly when they installed a magnetic water treatment system in the place of chemicals to control lime/scale and corrosion on one of their cooling towers. A few months later they installed another magnetic system on a second cooling tower.

When calcium, magnesium and other water-borne minerals are exposed to heat, pressure, friction and other physical changes within water-using equipment, they precipitate out of solution and form layers of calcium carbonate (commonly known as lime/scale) on the heat transfer surfaces. According to the United States Bureau of Standards, just 1/2" of this mineral scale build-up can increase energy costs by as much as 70%, as it creates a great insulating barrier between the heat transfer surface and the water. Another common concern in water-using equipment is corrosion; especially in situations where the water is aggressive due to low pH, excessive free oxygen content and under or over chemical treatment.

For years, chemicals have been the traditional and conventional method used to control these problems in heat-transfer equipment. However, magnetic water conditioners employ a physical approach to fight this battle. The particular conditioner Stripco chose is specially designed with alternating, reversing-polarity bar magnets which have multiple poles and fields.removed through blow-down or bleed-off.

When the magnetic water conditioner is used in conjunction with centrifugal separation and filtration equipment, bleed requirements are totally eliminated.

Prior to Stripco's opening in 1994, Steve Mihojevich, director of engineering, recommended that his newly appointed project engineer, Richard Smith, check into magnetic water treatment (MWT). Having had prior experience with MWT, Mihojevich felt confident in choosing this physical treatment method over chemical treatment. Smith, on the other hand, had never used anything other than chemicals and was somewhat apprehensive. However, the thought of the ease and savings this process might offer them over traditional water treatment helped him to be more open to trying something new and different.

Smith said his acceptance of MWT was not easily won, taking him about five years to totally believe in the treatment.tenance and the environmental aspect of them.  He mentioned that some of the men in the plant think the ease of their water treatment system is "the norm"; but Smith knows what "the norm" (chemical water treatment) is all about, and is thankful he doesn't have to deal with it any longer.   

Over the past decade, by choosing a chemical-free treatment, along with ultraviolet equipment for biological control, Stripco has eliminated hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemically contaminated water from going to waste and into the environment. They have also saved tens of thousands of dollars in the operation and maintenance of their cooling tower systems by reducing, if not entirely eliminating, expenses in the following, which are usual and customary when chemical treatment is applied.

When asked to compare his water treatment systems to chemical treatment, Smith emphasized the low maintenance and operating cost of the magnetic water conditioners. The only work Stripco performs on their conditioners is monitoring the conductivity of the cooling tower water in order to determine if they need to adjust the bleed rate. The bleed rate is approximately 25% less than when treating with chemicals, as the system's unique treatment process effectively controls mineral scale deposition in cooling systems with cycles of concentration as much as 5-10 times greater than what is required for chemically treated systems to effectively do the same job. "It pretty much runs on its own and we do not have to worry about it," Smith said.

Surprisingly, even after hundreds of thousands of successful magnetic water treatment installations worldwide, there is still some controversy about MWT.y controlled and monitored study sponsored by ASHRAE Research which showed exceptional results for lime scale control.  As more and more people become aware of and apply this technology, they will not only save dollars, but will also help to save the environment.

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