Water Treatment System Helps Bottling Plant Meet Demand for High Quality

July 1, 2005
A combination of innovative technology, a fleet of mobile trailers and a local service network is helping one of the nation’s largest bottled water companies meet the demands of its customers.

A combination of innovative technology, a fleet of mobile trailers and a local service network is helping one of the nation’s largest bottled water companies meet the demands of its customers.

That company owns many of the nation’s regional brands and also imports some brands of bottled water. It has numerous protected spring water sources, a few dozen production facilities and a fleet of over 2,000 trucks that source, bottle and deliver its products across the United States.

One production facility in the South was started up in March 2004, and draws its water from a spring surrounded by a large, undeveloped tract of land that the company owns to safeguard both the spring water and the natural beauty of the area.

This stainless steel, hot-water-sanitizable RO system is a key component of the bottling plant's water purification system.
Click here to enlarge image

Bottled water is typically filtered by reverse osmosis to remove all the minerals. A specially prepared mixture of minerals may then be added back to the water, which gives it a consistent taste. Although the water from the spring was of good quality, it contained a high level of total suspended solids (TSS) that could plug the RO membranes. Thus, the TSS had to be removed from the water before it was fed to the RO system.

The bottling plant would have purchased RO equipment anyway, but because the spring water contained a high level of TSS, the plant contracted with USFilter to provide a total system that would produce a final water quality that met their high standards.

The water treatment system consists of six, 100-gallons-per-minute (gpm) Memcor® continuous microfiltration (CMF) systems , which pre-treats two all-stainless steel, hot-water-sanitizable 240-gpm reverse osmosis (RO) systems. A similar 280-gpm RO system treats water from a separate source. Two 125-gpm custom-designed stainless steel softeners provide water for steam generation and the clean-in-place (CIP) operation.

Pre-treating the RO with CMF technology allows water with high TSS levels to be more economically processed into drinking water. Another advantage of CMF is that it uses non-chemical barrier technology to produce finished water turbidities of less than 0.1 NTU.

The plant needed to start producing bottled water immediately, without waiting until the permanent water treatment systems were installed. That’s why the company asked USFilter to provide six mobile temporary RO systems, capable of producing a total of 600-gpm of treated water. The systems were installed in the plant and remained on site for nine months, operating around the clock to keep the bottling plant up and running.

After the first bottles of water were produced on March 15, 2004, they were packaged, stacked on pallets and stored for two weeks while sample bottles were tested at an independent lab to ensure compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The lab tested the water’s pH, turbidity, ozone level and conductivity. The company’s quality control manager also tested sample bottles to make sure they complied with company standards. As of Dec. 15, 2004, the plant had produced 312 million bottles of water.

The permanent equipment has been operating well and keeping up with the plant’s demand; however, the company plans to buy an additional 250-gpm RO system to help meet future demand. There’s still one mobile system on site to provide extra capacity until the existing 280-gpm RO is on line. Once that happens, the plant will use two mobile systems for extra brine recovery RO capacity.

In keeping with its high standards and responsibility to the environment, the bottling company wanted to ensure the highest quality water for its different brands of bottled water. That’s why it contracted with USFilter to provide RO systems at eight additional sites in the U.S. and Canada. Two of the sites contain water with high TSS, and have CMF systems pre-treating the RO systems. The bottling company’s treatment specification also included a requirement for USP 23 Purified Water.


The Memcor continuous microfiltration (CMF) system removes TSS from the water before it is fed to the RO.
Click here to enlarge image

USFilter provided CMF systems to the sites that had high TSS levels, designed all the RO systems to meet the company’s specifications, met the timeline for delivery, used mobile equipment to help them meet the demand, and called on its local service branches for system start-up support. In all, they provided 13 CMF skids to three locations, 13 RO systems with a total product water capacity of 2,850 gpm, mobile systems at eight bottling plants, and local service contracts.

About the Author: William Mertes, vice president of marketing for USFilter, has been in the water treatment industry for 15 years, and at USFilter for 12 years. His areas of expertise include outsourcing industrial water treatment, emergency and mobile industrial water treatment, and reverse osmosis applications. Mertes holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from Northwestern University. Contact: [email protected].

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