Florida Municipality Uses Low Energy Membranes to treat Low-Quality Well Water

Located in western Palm Beach County, the town of Belle Glade is often referred to as “The Gateway to the Everglades.

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Located in western Palm Beach County, the town of Belle Glade is often referred to as “The Gateway to the Everglades.” Despite its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, this area is known for having some of the worst quality ground water in south Florida.

While the residents of Belle Glade and its surrounding communities may be situated on Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake within the continental United States, residents have long endured discolored and poor quality water.

Without a water treatment plant currently in operation, there was concern in Belle Glade around impurities, such as pesticides and phosphates among other pollutants, in the water. Tired of poor water quality, area residents were desperate for water comparable to that available to residents on the eastern coast of Palm Beach County.

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Filmtec LE-400 membrane elements were installed in four trains of the 10 mgd facility due to their high active surface membrane area and improved salt rejection.
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County officials also knew that Lake Okeechobee could not be counted on as an adequate water supply, especially in drought conditions, for the western area of Palm Beach Country. To remedy this situation, the county decided to build a reverse osmosis facility in Belle Glade, using low energy elements to reduce energy costs and provide improved water quality.

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The membrane system has increased the total quantity of potable water produced in Palm Beach County to more than 100 MGD, with the water treatment facility operating around 80 percent recovery.
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“Regardless of whether or not they're located in a rural or urban area, all water utilities face issues related to water scarcity as a result of drought conditions and increasing demand as they see their populations grow over time,” said Mike Turbeville, chief operator, Lake Region Water Treatment Plant.

With local government support, Palm Beach County Utilities began drafting plans for a reverse osmosis water treatment plant capable of serving the communities of South Bay, Pahokee and Belle Glade. Pilot plants were then run to test the feasibility of treating deep well water as a new source of water. After a brief bidding period, Camp Dresser McKee was selected to work with general contractor, Poole and Kent, as well as original equipment manufacturer (OEM), Biwater-AEWT, on the new water treatment facility, named the Lake Region Water Treatment Plant, which would be located in Belle Glade.

In order to meet the rigorous specifications for the plant drafted by Camp Dresser McKee and the county, Dow Water Solutions' Filmtec™ LE-400 membrane elements were chosen for the new reverse osmosis facility. The elements operate at lower pressures and demand less energy than some competing technologies, while still delivering good quality water. The new elements also offer a high active surface membrane area and improved salt rejection.

“We are extremely satisfied with the performance of the Filmtec membrane technology,” said Turbeville. “And, we're pleased we were able to increase our output in such a cost-effective, energy-efficient way.”

The membranes were installed in four trains of the 10 mgd facility, increasing the total quantity of potable water produced by reverse osmosis in Palm Beach County to more than 100 mgd.

“During the construction phase and start-up, Dow Water Solutions worked closely with the county, general contractor and OEM for a coordinated effort,” said Harold Fravel, senior industry manager, Dow Water Solutions “This included training the necessary personnel on membrane technology, installation demands and start-up guidelines.”

As a result, the water quality for the residents of western Palm Beach County has reached near projected values for the municipality with the membrane elements performing as expected. Belle Glade's feed water contains around 3,500 ppm Total Dissolved Solids, and the permeate from the plant is falling below 200 ppm. Overall, the water treatment facility operates around 80 percent recovery with the concentrate being sent to deep injection wells for safe disposal.

As future water demand is recognized, and tighter water quality specifications and regulations are enforced, expansions to the Lake Region Water Treatment Plant in Belle Glade will be needed as Palm Beach County phases out its older lime softening plants.

A dedication ceremony took place at the water treatment plant in March 2009. During the event, mayors from South Bay, Pahokee and Belle Glade extolled the virtues of the quality water that area residents can now drink in their homes every day. --m

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