Working with the social investment group FEMSA, the government of Chiapas, Mexico is introducing sustainable disinfection technology to 175 local water systems, in support of the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals partnership to reduce extreme poverty, hunger and disease. The new systems will be installed by MIOX Corp., a water treatment company that specializes in producing disinfection chemicals on site from salt, water and electricity rather than going the conventional route of trucking in supplies of chlorine.
By ditching chlorine shipments, the MIOX system significantly reduces the carbon footprint of transportation and fuel consumption. As for an overall improvement in sustainability, a few tweaks in the system could make an enormous difference.
The Problem with Chlorine
As graphically illustrated by the Graniteville chlorine disaster, chlorine is an extremely dangerous substance to transport and handle, and industries have been scrambling for safer alternatives in the face of stricter regulations. Even the ubiquitous chlorine user Clorox recently announced that it was phasing out rail transportation of chlorine in favor of trucking in a more manageable bleach product to its factories. Chemical price spikes and shortages are also motivating water treatment professionals to search for alternative water disinfection technologies such as ultraviolet light (including zero emission solar power) or kinetic “energy bombs.”
On-Site Disinfectant Production
MIOX’s solution is a technology that uses common raw materials to manufacture disinfectants on site, which avoids the vagaries of the manufactured commodities market. The company estimates that on site generation cuts down the carbon footprint of transportation by about 80%. It also significantly reduces carbon emissions associated with manufacturing and disposing of chlorine containers. The company’s proprietary technology generates two types of disinfectant, hypochlorite and an advanced mixed oxidant, using water, salt and electricity as raw ingredients.
About that Water, Salt and Electricity…
In terms of overall sustainability, the on site production of disinfecting chemicals is a partial solution. At least two elements are needed to complete the circle. One is a more energy efficient water reclamation process, which would help conserve scarce water supplies (new high efficiency technologies for desalinating seawater could also yield supplies of salt). Another element is a low or zero emission source of power, and new advances in low cost solar technology are bringing that closer to reality.