Disinfecting Pipeline with Ozone: Saving Water, Money, and Time

Disinfecting Pipeline with Ozone: Saving Water, Money, and Time
A five-year research and development (R&D) study establishes ozone as a faster and more sustainable disinfection than traditional chlorine methods.

Following a Pseudomonas bacteria event in 2013, Denver Water, Clearwater Tech (CWT) and CDM Smith collab­o­rated on a five-year study to explore using ozone gas as a disin­fec­tion alternative to chlorine-based methods. The team found using ozone gas is a safe and effective way to drastically reduce the time and water during most disin­fec­tion tasks. Since ozone is a much strong oxidant than chlorine, it has a strong disin­fec­tion capability and can kill even the most persistent bacteria. “It takes some pretty tenacious bacteria to survive 24 hours of exposure to super-chlorinated water, but they couldn’t survive 20 minutes of the ozone gas,” says CDM Smith discipline leader Christopher R. Schulz, PE.

Beginning in 2015, pilot, demon­stra­tion, and full-scale scale studies were performed to test the prac­ti­cal­ity and effec­tive­ness of the ozone gas disin­fec­tion process. In early 2017, the team designed a 15-foot trailer containing ozone generation equipment and a removable ozone off-gas cart for full-scale field testing. In May 2018, Denver Water contracted Five-R Trucks to begin building the skeleton trailer at Clearwater Tech’s factory in California. While the trailer was being built, the R&D team pilot tested the impact of ozone gases on pipe and gasket materials Denver Water uses for their distri­b­u­tion system pipelines. The gasket testing was performed again once the trailer was delivered in the fall of 2018. Full-scale field testing with the trailer ramped up in April 2019 and consisted of a side-by-side comparison of a chlorine-based power washing method. 

"The full-scale field side-by-side comparison study completed in 2019 showed promising results with respect to increased passing rates during warmer months when temper­a­tures in the distri­b­u­tion system rise above 15°C," says CDM Smith Envi­ron­men­tal Engineer, Jill Vandegrift. "Ongoing studies through 2020 and 2021 will yield more information regarding the seasonal applic­a­bil­ity of the ozone gas method when other Denver Water methods may struggle to maintain desired passing rates."

ozone study timeline
Jillian Vandegrift Jillian Vandegrift
This R&D effort allowed us to equip Denver Water with solutions to improve inef­fi­cien­cies and increase produc­tiv­ity, while also conserving water and saving money.

So how does the ozone gas system work? The trailer system pictured below contains oxygen concen­tra­tors, ozone generators, a regen­er­a­tive air blower for ozone dilution and pres­sur­iza­tion, and a mobile ozone destruct cart. Inside the trailer, gaseous ozone is generated and fed into a regen­er­a­tive air blower to create a 500-2,000 parts per million (ppm) gaseous ozone stream. The pressurized stream is then injected into the water distri­b­u­tion main and held for about 30 minutes. The ozone concen­tra­tion and disin­fec­tion time required to achieve passing results depends on the gasket materials, pipe size and level of infection. Before the gases are discharged to the atmosphere, the destruct cart converts the ozone to oxygen with manganese dioxide. 

The study made strides towards incor­po­rat­ing the ozone gas method as part of Denver Water’s official arsenal of water main disin­fec­tion methods. Benefits of ozone gas-based methods include water conser­va­tion, time savings, and elimination of chemical transport. Alternative to chlorine based methods, the ozone gas method does not use water during the main disin­fec­tion step of the whole process. When considering that Denver Water  must be publicly transparent with customers, any effort to serve as envi­ron­men­tal stewards and conserve water can bolster confidence and trust in the utility.  Since ozone gases have a wide range of appli­ca­tions, Denver Water is also considering using similar methods to disinfect storage reservoirs and large trans­mis­sion mains. 

Ozone disinfection diagram

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