Every Drop Counts

Plants aim to reduce consumption and increase recycling.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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Meanwhile, recycling non-contact cooling water is part of a strategy to improve energy and water use in fermentation processes at the firm's Augusta, Ga., site, which manufactures a range of animal health products.

Pfizer, New York City, also is targeting water reduction. For instance, the company initiated a water conservation and wastewater reduction program at one of its manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico, where discharge regulations are becoming stricter. The long-term goal is to reuse 100% of the wastewater or ensure any water discharged into the local wastewater collection system is of high quality.

The first attempt, which involved an RO system with minimal pretreatment, became an out-of-control expense due to membrane replacement frequency, maintenance cost and high electrical consumption. The system was installed with the aim of reusing some treated wastewater and reducing discharges by 50,000 gal/day. Previously, the wastewater generated by the facility had to be transported in tankers around the clock to a municipal waste treatment facility located about two hours away.

Eventually Pfizer called in Xylem, White Plains, N.Y. After analyzing the complete process, Xylem's engineers proposed a UF system followed by dual RO units.

Xylem installed a 50,000-gal/day UF system and a 30,000-gal/day RO train for redundancy of the process. The UF system takes care of suspended and colloidal matter and acts as a barrier to provide the required quality of water for the RO membranes.

From the UF system, the treated water goes to a 1,000-gal filtration tank from which a set of pumps sends the water to the RO system. The addition of pretreatment chemicals further enhances the conditioning of the feed water supply for the RO process.

The system has slashed wastewater to about 8,000 gal/day. Additionally, any RO permeate water not reused within the facility now exceeds discharge-quality regulations and simply can be disposed locally. Pfizer also is benefiting from lower treatment chemical requirements and reduced blowdown cycles due to high concentrations of contaminants in the facility's cooling towers.

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