Florida Rural Water Assistance Improves High Springs Disinfection and Chemical Safety

HIGH SPRINGS, Fla. – The chlorine disinfection process for the City of High Springs, Florida was becoming a problem – the method produced too many disinfection byproducts and the utility’s need for tons of chlorine gas was a safety concern.

“The water office is right next to a city park,” explained Rodney Hoffman, High Springs Water Operator and Utility Superintendent. “I prefer using the chlorine gas, but the fact that we were so close to the city park. We were concerned about safety.”

High Springs’s elevated disinfection byproducts were a result of the organic compounds in their water source –  a common issue for Florida water systems. These organic compounds are treated with chlorine, but those reactions leave byproducts that can be unhealthy if consumed in high quantities over a long period of time.

The utility needed assistance transitioning to a new treatment process, and the Florida Rural Water Association provided assistance to test the effectiveness of a new series of chemicals.

FRWA Circuit Rider Fred Handy and Drinking Water Trainer Jason Sparks helped outline a new process and ran the pilot study to determine if it was effective. The pilot study would move high Springs from gas chlorine to a to a combination of hydrogen peroxide and liquid chlorine. Hydrogen peroxide is considered a more potent oxidant than chlorine, but is dissipates more quickly. Liquid chlorine then must be added as a primary disinfectant.

“They did the jar tests to help get the right balance,” Hoffman said.

The Florida Rural Water Staff discovered the system had been using twice as much chlorine as necessary for the past ten years.

“Florida water utilities that have ground water sources impacted by surface water have to show 4-log virus removal or inactivation,” Handy explained, referring to a standard that requires removal of 99.99% of virus.

The contact time calculations for High Springs had been done incorrectly, leading to increased costs and contributing to the high disinfection byproducts.

“We were able to vastly decrease their chlorine use and lower their disinfection byproducts,” Handy said.

The pilot study was designed to run for three months. Success would be determined by the levels of byproducts in future tests and customers’ reaction to the taste and odor of their water.

“So far, it’s been great,” Hoffman said.

Testing showed a significant decrease in disinfection byproducts, including low levels in September when temperatures usually cause an increase in organics. Hoffman credits the assistance of FRWA.

“They’re awesome,” he said. “They’re a great outfit. I can get assistance 24-7.”

“Sometime as an operator, you feel all by yourself,” Hoffman added. “When you have numbers where you can call guys that have the same experience, more experience, it’s a great feeling.”