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Water Treatment Innovations uplifts prospects for water security

By Mike Baños

Seven Seas Waterpark & Resort Showcase

Believe it or not, one of the country’s largest water parks has not changed its waters for the past three years, yet has managed to maintain water quality which meets mandated standards for safe drinking water.

Better yet, they are looking to further elevate their self-imposed grades with the introduction of further innovations in their water and waste water treatment processes which are fully adoptable by the Provincial Integrated Water Security Plans of Northern Mindanao’s local government units.

Engr. Elpidio M. Paras, President & CEO, UC-1 Corporation

This was disclosed by Engr. Elpidio M. Paras, chairman and president of UC-1 Corporation which owns and operates the six-hectare Seven Seas Waterpark and Resort in Opol, Misamis Oriental, during the recently concluded Northern Mindanao Integrated Water Security Summit held at this venue.

Mr. Paras is the President of Promote Normin Foundation and Co-Chair of the Regional Development Council for Region 10 (RDC-10) Infrastructure & Utilities Committee (InfraCom), one of the summit’s prime movers.

“When we set up this establishment five years ago, we were able to adopt best practices of waterparks we visited abroad to make it one of the best there is,” Mr. Paras said. “Even before we were required for compliance by DENR, we had already been putting in technology to ensure compliance with the strict global standards for water safety of the waterpark industry.”

The waterpark treats its water on a 24-hour basis which enables it to reduce, reuse and recycle it without any discharge to the environment except for its backwash and evaporation loss.

Water Challenge

Initially, the park used sand filters to process every six hours the waters mainly from its Dual Wave Pool and Lazy River which have a combined volume of 3.3 million liters or 3, 300 cubic meters.

Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) controls systems convert AC into DC electricity enabling motors to soft start and adjust RPMs, helping save up to 30% in power costs. (photo by John Malolot)

However, it had to build a 66 meter (200 feet) deep well some 500 meters from the shoreline after the limited water supply from the Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD) was swallowed up by the increasing population of Bgy. Barra.

Since the brackish water from the deep well was less than ideal due to salinity and detected coliform count, slight tint and turbidity, the resort had to install sand filters and chlorinate for preliminary filtration of bigger suspended solids.

The raw water was pumped up to two 5,000 liter water tanks for storage and distribution initially to two lines: one for in house treated potable water for the kitchens, washrooms and drinking fountains; and another for raw untreated water distributed to various pools and buildings for utility and various toilet facilities.

However, this process proved too costly for the resort’s potable water needs, and Mr. Paras admits they would rather buy bulk treated water which meets the standards from a supplier in Opol than do it themselves.

Even the pool water sourced from the deep well required more preliminary treatment since it did not meet standards for turbidity. This initial processing was done in a settling tank built from a 40-ft container van where dispersed solids were allowed to settle by chemical process and the sediment was removed by a filter pump using diatomaceous earth, chlorine and muriatic acid to balance the pH.

This pre-treated water is then distributed to the machine rooms for another round of filtration via several sand filters. All pools within the park have separate machine rooms with huge sand filtration systems (1,800 liters) and chemical injection pumps.

Water Quality Issues

But this system proved too costly to maintain since the pumps had to be operated 24/7 resulting in an average monthly electric bill of P1.6-M for operating the resort’s 50 pumps. Even the preliminary process of pre-treatment of raw deep well water added labor, electricity and chemical costs.

Aside from the expensive power bill, the frequent backwashing (every other day) of the sand filters resulted in significant water loss and the increased use of chemicals to sanitize and clean the pool waters.

Algae would form when chlorine levels were not maintained, along with pool sedimentation and water turbidity.

Waste Water Treatment System

Worse, the sand filters frequently broke down due to high pressure generated by pumps resulting in delamination and leaking of fiberglass vessels.

“Since we are now totally dependent on our brackish well water, our operating costs increased,” Mr. Paras observed.

Innovative solutions

To address this myriad of issues, the resort installed a ‘proof-of-concept’ solution with a Regenerative Media filter using Perlite Media capable of filtering solids up to 1 micron in size, compared to the 5-10 microns for sand filters. Fully natural, lightweight and chemically inert, perlite filter media offers a high performance, yet cost effective, method for the removal of microbes, bacteria, and suspended solids.

“The Perlite filter we installed as a proof of concept for improving the water quality of the Lazy River has been working for almost eight (8) months now with minimal maintenance, decreased water wasted by backwashing by 75%, lowered power usage by 10-20%, and more significantly, reduced chemicals used by 50% (for solid/liquid chlorine & muriatic acid), aside from decreasing the space previously occupied by our sand filters,” Mr. Paras said.

“It is very efficient in the use of water and we are the first waterpark in the country to use it as our primary filtration unit. It is also fully automated with programmable logic controllers (PLC) compared to the sand filters which require a lot of manual labor,” he added. “Another bonus is the lesser sedimentation, requiring less vacuuming and clean up, further reducing our labor costs.”

By installing inverter variable frequency drives on each of the resort’s 50 motors, they are now able to adjust the pressure using computers which resulted in an almost 50 percent savings over their previous electric bill.

A state-of-the-art Ozonizer system has also been installed along with a UV Ultraviolet system which has improved water quality, eliminated viral and bacterial contaminants, resulting in clearer water and reducing dependence on chlorine and muriatic acid to balance the PH of the pool water.

Ozonizer

“We expect to replace most of the sand filters in the Wave pool and Kiddie Pool using Perlite Media filtration systems and install more UV treatment in our piping system,” Mr. Paras said.

“With this, the resort expects to reduce the usage of deep well water and use its potable water supply when available, for the kitchen and cooking needs of its commissary and restaurants. More importantly, our guests can now enjoy cleaner, clearer and safer pool water for a happy, stress-free experience.”

Waste Water Treatment System

Aside from the Perlite/UV and Ozonizer System to address its water quality issues, the resort is now using an MBBR (Moving Bed BioReactor) Sewage Treatment in two locations inside the waterpark.

MBBR plastic media is used in the sewage tanks to oxygenate the septage which is pumped from different septic tanks within the park. Each sewage treatment plant (STP) building uses a 2HP Roots Blower to blow air through dissipators at the bottom of the mixing tank.

This induces bacterial action in the tanks by injecting beneficial bacteria which when oxygenated, processes the waste, after which the solids are collected in a series of tanks before the treated effluent exits to the drain.

“We are now able to comply with the standards required by EMB despite our big biological load,” Mr. Paras admits. “In almost six years of our existence, we have not received a single complaint about the quality of our pool water which you can now literally drink because of the way with which we process it.”

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