Breakthrough Tech to Remove Nitrates from Drinking Water

The IX-N™, the Ionex system uses a Strong Base Anion (SBA) resin to capture nitrates in a proprietary process that reduces waste-disposal volume and operational costs to one-tenth the cost of traditional ion exchange systems

At a recent event in California's Central Valley that drew prominent water industry stakeholders, Ionex SG LLC (Ionex) debuted its breakthrough technology to remove nitrates from drinking water. The UK-based company specializes in the research, design, build, and operation of systems that optimize ion exchange to treat water for nitrates and other contaminants.

Known as the IX-N™, the Ionex system uses a Strong Base Anion (SBA) resin to capture nitrates in a proprietary process that reduces waste-disposal volume and operational costs to one-tenth the cost of traditional ion exchange systems. The dramatic cost reduction eases the economics of nitrate MCL compliance. Furthermore, by treating damaged and potentially unusable water resources, the system offers important advantages to drought-affected communities.

The new tool was showcased in the Central Valley town of Springville (near Porterville) at Triple R Mutual Water Company, where Ionex announced the tool's commercial availability. Company officials also said that Ionex will offer pilot systems at no cost to nitrate-impacted communities in California. The pilot enables speedy access to essential water-quality data, providing a valuable tool for customers to assess performance and analyze lifecycle costs, using their own well water. The pilot has already helped customers transition to the full-scale system.

Jan McKinley, Head of Triple R Mutual Water Company and an Ionex customer, noted, "The Ionex team took time to understand our unique requirements and brought deep expertise and knowledge to the entire process. The treatment solution is comprehensive. It starts with free pilot testing, then an upgrade of our facility with Ionex's advanced ion-exchange system, and extends to waste-disposal management as well. Most importantly, it does the job of meeting our nitrate compliance requirement at a fraction of the cost of comparative systems we examined."

Ion exchange is recognized as the best available technology (BAT) to treat drinking water for nitrates. However, while known for its robust reliability, it can be extremely inefficient. Traditional ion exchange treatment systems have simple regeneration methods, which result in large volumes of brine. The brine, which requires responsible disposal to avoid increasing salt discharge to public sewers, can add to the already increasing salinity of the aquifers in California's Central Valley.

Solving the salt and brine waste problem required a radically different approach to resin loading (getting as much nitrate onto the resin as possible) and resin regeneration (removing the nitrate from the resin in the smallest volume achievable).

"That's the proprietary process breakthrough at the core of our IX-N technology," said Ionex Chief Executive Officer Phil Chandler. "Our re-engineering dramatically reduces brine residual volumes when compared to traditional ion exchange treatment systems, and that's where the cost savings start to multiply."

Ionex's automated regeneration process is the primary enabler of the reduced brine volume. It's also the system's key differentiator. The process consists of four steps: the first removes sulfates and bicarbonates; the second and third remove nitrates; the fourth is a final clean water rinse. Since sulfates and bicarbonates are more easily removed from the resin than the nitrates, the first rinse removes them while leaving the nitrates on the resin. The water from that first rinse, containing just sulfates and bicarbonates, can be safely returned to the treated water without impacting water quality. This process decreases brine residual volume from two percent of drinking water to 0.2 percent, dramatically reducing brine-disposal frequency and costs.

The Ionex system is already seeing steady adoption in England, where customers are compelled by the near-zero waste advantage and low costs. Chandler added, "We've worked diligently to understand the needs of communities fighting nitrate contamination in their water supplies. It's gratifying now to see multi-size California communities -- from 5gpm (gallon-per-minute) to 5000gpm -- showing serious interest in the system. Adequate clean drinking water is a growing global concern. We believe our technology has a key role to play in addressing that problem."

Source: PowerEngineeringInt

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