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Posted on: March 28, 2023

Helix Staff Saving Customers More Than $2 Million

A plant operator working on an ozone generator at Helix's water treatment plant.

The ozone disinfection system at Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant was installed in 2002 and, after 20 years of service, needed an upgrade. When the cost to outsource the project came to an estimated $3.5 million, the plant staff decided to do the work themselves. They recently completed the project for $1.1 million -- a 70% estimated cost savings.

What’s an Ozone Disinfection System?

Water treatment is a multi-step process. First, we remove the organic material suspended in the water. We then disinfect the water to remove or inactivate harmful microscopic organisms. Then we filter the water.

While chlorine is the most widely used disinfectant at conventional water treatment plants, at Helix, we use ozone as our primary disinfectant and only a small amount of chlorine to maintain the quality of our water while it makes its way through our water distribution system. Ozone inactivates a wide range of microorganisms, needs little contact time with the water, and it eliminates most of the odor and taste issues that people associate with some tap water.

We generate ozone at the treatment plant by applying high amounts of electricity to oxygen gas inside an ozone generator. The oxygen molecules (O2) split and regroup as ozone (O3). The ozone gas then bubbles up through the water to inactivate any microorganisms present. The ozone disinfection system includes the gas feed systems, generators, power supply units, and the associated instrumentation hardware and software that controls the system. 

An ozone generator and its power supply unit at Helix's water treatment plant.Photo: one of the three ozone generators at the R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant.

How We’re Managing the Upgrade

As part of staff’s approach to complete the upgrade in-house, they worked closely with the original manufacturer of our ozone system, who also supplied all the new hardware and electrical components required for the upgrade. Starting with a proof-of-concept pilot project two years ago, staff has incrementally implemented the new technology into each of its three ozone generators, all of which have been tested and commissioned.  In addition to the 70% estimated cost savings from the upgrade project, the improved efficiencies of the ozone generators will produce long term cost savings.

This year, staff completed the upgrade of the ozone generators and their power supply units. The final phase of the project is the replacement of the computer control system, which is slated for 2024.


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