Utility Owes Aeration Savings to Improved DO Measurement

Operators of a north-central Florida water reclamation facility needed a new way to take in-tank DO measurements to maximize aeration efficiency and maintain 28% to 33% reduction in solids. The 7.5 mgd Main Street Water Reclamation Facility of the Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) in north-central Florida was built in 1930. The older, 100-hp surface aerators in its two aerobic digesters often were impeded during startup by solids concentration. Yet running the aerators constantly consumed massive amounts of power and might over-aerate and kill the microorganisms.

Operators needed in-tank DO measurements to maximize aeration efficiency and maintain 28% to 33% reduction in solids. Yet, the traditional membrane-type DO sensors they used required replacement about every two months. Between sensor replacements, operators were cleaning and recalibrating sensors once a week. Concern over accuracy precluded use of DO input to the plant SCADA system to automatically control aeration.

A new solution

In May 2003, the GRU began testing a Hach LDO Dissolved Oxygen Probe in one of these digesters. The probe applies a luminescence technique in which excited luminescent material in the probe sensor emits light as it relaxes at a rate proportional to oxygen concentration.

Performance of the probe pleasantly surprised the GRU staff: its readings consistently compared well to a handheld DO meter, and it relieved operators of maintenance chores required by the membrane-type sensors. A month later, the GRU installed a second LDO Probe in the second digester.

Soon after, the GRU installed similar LDO Probes in the three aeration basins at the Main Street Plant and two basins at its second 14.9 mgd Kanapaha Plant. There, aeration basin DO readings typically measured 2 to 2.5 parts per million or more. Operators found the probes were more accurate than the previously used membrane-type sensors—and that a set point of 1.2 ppm was adequate for proper aeration.

According to the GRU Director of Water Reclamation Facilities James Hope, the probes have presented no operational or maintenance issues in 21 months of service. Operators have been able to reduce the amount of power needed to maintain healthy microorganism populations. They also have enough confidence in DO measurements to send them to a PID control loop to run the aeration process around DO set points. With reduced maintenance and automated control, the GRU did not need to replace four operators who left the utility through attrition.

Hope reported that the GRU has saved labor previously spent in weekly sensor calibration, saved the cost of bimonthly membrane replacement, reduced operations salaries, and reduced electricity consumption thanks to automated control—all for a total annual savings better than $350,000.

Benefits continue

In 2004, the GRU installed a 1.5 mgd, 1,000-hp nitrification carrousel at the Kanapaha facility, accompanied by LDO Probes to control oxygenation. Total electric use for the expanded plant and the Main Street Plant in fiscal 2003-2004 came in better than $127,000 under budget.

Hope was quick to give credit to the LDO Probes, "the bottom line tells the story. Our improved DO monitoring program is key to our effective, efficient operation."

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