Industry and Freshwater – part two

Published December 11th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Case 2. Water Management at a Paper Mill - UPM - Kymmene - FINLAND 

The previous case dealt with a new pulping mill using a chemi-thermomechanical process.  

 

This case deals with an older mill turning chemical (sulphite) pulp into thermomechanical pulp and integrated paper. The Jنmsنnkoski mill has more than one hundred years experience in making high quality paper.  

 

The mill takes its water from the Kankarisvesi lake in central Finland. The water flows from peat bogs and is contaminated with decaying biological matter.  

 

Although the incoming water quality is judged satisfactory by Finnish government standards, it must be pre-treated to meet the mill’s demanding production standards. 

 

Discharge water from the mill flows into the Jنmsن river which is a major tributary to Lake Pنijنnne, the second largest lake in Finland and a major source of drinking water for the Helsinki metropolitan area.  

 

In 1980 it was determined that water quality in the upper reaches of the Lake was poor or barely passable. There was no immediate threat to the drinking water supply, but this condition could not be allowed to expand or even continue. 

 

In 1981, the feedstock for the paper mill was changed from chemical to thermomechanical pulp. This enabled the mill to reduce its water consumption by 75 percent.  

 

Then the mill began investing in processes for the efficient removal of suspended solids and a biological wastewater treatment facility.  

 

Despite the mill expanding to become the largest in Finland, water consumption declined dramatically. In 1995 the mill used 93 percent less water for each ton of paper produced compared with 1980 levels.  

 

Simultaneously, the quality of the water effluents improved significantly – 96 percent reduction in suspended solids for each ton produced; 99.5 percent reduction in BOD (biological oxygen demand), and 95 percent reduction in phosphorous. These technical results are displayed vividly in Figure 2.1 below which displays improved water quality in Lake Pنijنnne.  

 

By 1996 all segments previously classified poor or only passable had been completely upgraded. The vast majority of the lake now has water designated as excellent or good. Only one small segment has water regarded as "only" satisfactory. UPM-Kymmene has demonstrated that good water management can make a difference. 

 

Lessons Learned 

It is possible to produce quality paper profitably and still protect downstream water quality.  

Good water management can reduce water use per unit of product and reduce pollution to very low levels.  

Lake water quality can respond rapidly when pollution levels are reduced.  

Case 3. Danfoss A/S - Managing an Underground Aquifer -  

DENMARK 

 

Danfoss, a manufacturer of hermetic compressors, pumps, valves, motors and other electrical control units has a major manufacturing facility located on a small island, Als in the Baltic Sea.  

 

In 1983 the company was routinely withdrawing 2 million cubic meters of fresh water from the sole aquifer supplying the entire island which is home to 50 000 residents. This was well within the limit of 3 million cubic meters authorized by local officials. 

 

In 1983, Danfoss discovered a crack in a settling tank in its wastewater treatment system. The company was concerned that polluted water might permeate down into the fresh water supply.  

 

The company repaired the leak immediately but began an extensive investigation of the groundwater and the aquifer.  

 

The good news was that the leak had not polluted the aquifer; the bad news was that the level of the aquifer had dropped dangerously low. So low in fact that the danger of salt water intrusion had become a real possibility.  

 

Danfoss management recognized that they were the major fresh water user on the entire island and as such they had a responsibility to the 50 000 private citizens who used this common resource. 

 

The company initiated a series of water savings programs and completely revised their wastewater treatment system.  

 

All pipes were placed above ground so even the smallest leak could be detected immediately. In 1989 the local authorities reduced the permissible water extraction rate for Danfoss down to 2 million cubic meters.  

 

Danfoss, however, had already reduced their use rate to below 1 million cubic meters. 

 

Despite increasing production levels, Danfoss continued to find ways to reduce water consumption even further. By 1994, Danfoss had reduced its water consumption to 0.4 million cubic meters, a reduction of over 80 percent compared with 1983 levels.  

 

During this same period the level of the aquifer rose by 1.7 meters and the threat of salt water intrusion virtually disappeared.  

 

The substantial improved freshwater reserves indicates a consumption level that can be sustained indefinitely. Fresh water supply was assured both for the company, its 7 000 employees and their 50 000 neighbours on the island of Als. 

 

Initiatives to Reduce Fresh Water Consumption: 

the company’s top management gave priority attention to the water situation - including supply, quality, consumption, and reuse  

top management developed a sustainable water policy  

management sought to motivate and involve all employees in good household practices for water  

reviewed all technical installations and processes using fresh water  

modernized the control systems making it possible to save water and reduce effluents  

assured quality of recirculation cooling water to enhance cooperation between technical personnel using water and company environmental specialists. 

 

Lessons Learned: Companies can continue to expand production and remain profitable while reducing fresh water consumption. 

 

Reducing fresh water consumption involves basic housekeeping, management attention, technology innovation and commitment from all employees. 

 

This company reduced water consumption by 80 percent. 

Case 4. Ladish Malting Co. - Linking Industrial Activity to Natural Systems - US: As its name implies, Ladish Malting, a subsidiary of Cargill, located in Spiritwood, North Dakota, USA processes grain into malt, a key ingredient in beer and other alcoholic beverages.  

 

This facility uses 1.5 million gallons of water each day in its processes and then discharges most of this water back into nature. However, this water first requires treatment. 

 

Managers were interested in low cost ways to clean up this discharge water. Local employees, working in partnership with local farmers, Ducks Unlimited (an organization dedicated to protecting wildfowl), the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Boy Scouts and 4-H clubs (an American farm youth organization), developed a unique approach.  

 

The idea was to create a wetlands project to benefit waterfowl and other migratory birds using the Central Flyway, a main route connecting Canada through the heartland of the US to warmer climes in the South. 

 

Properly managed, wetlands can serve as natural cleansing agents for water contaminated with excess biological material.  

 

Dumped into rivers, these wastewaters use up oxygen and pose a threat to fish. Trickled into wetlands they yield their biological nutrients to the plants occupying the natural system.  

 

The water flows slowly through the wetland being cleaned naturally and then enters a five-acre (2.1 hectares) aerated lagoon for final cleansing.  

 

The clean water is stored in special holding areas with non-porous clay bottoms and concrete berms. Finally this water provides irrigation for 2400 acres (1000 hectares) of nearby farm land. 

 

It is a classic win-win situation. The company reduces its costs, wildlife gain enhanced habitat, and local farmers obtain low cost irrigation water.  

 

The same fresh water is used three times for industrial, environmental and agricultural purposes.  

 

Cargill has announced that they intend to use this model at other plant sites. It is a useful concept for symbiosis between food processing industries, natural habitat enhancement and agricultural uses. 

 

Lessons Learned: 

When wastewater contains only biological materials, natural or man-made wetlands can provide effective pollution removal in ways that are good for the environment and inexpensive. 

 

There are interesting opportunities to reuse some industrial wastewaters for irrigation purposes.  

 

Cooperation among governments, non-governmental organizations and Industry can provide mutual benefits for all.  

 

Case 5. Water Management in a Desert Mining Operation - Rِssing Uranium Ltd - NAMIBIA 

Minerals, like copper, silver, gold or uranium, are valuable but often difficult to find in commercial quantities. Water is a crucial ingredient in the separation processes by which minerals are extracted from the bulk ore. Then the wet residues must be moved to safe disposal sites. In this case, Rِssing, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, is conducting uranium mining operations in the Namib Desert, an area of low and erratic rainfalls, extreme temperatures with cold nights and hot days and strong seasonal winds. 

 

Rِssing had two sources of water: 

1. Fresh water from NAMWATER, the public water supplier who pumps water from underground aquifers of the Omaruru and Kuiseb Rivers. It is important to note that NAMWATER also supplies drinking water to the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund less than 70 kilometres west of the mine site.  

 

2. Brackish water from the Khan River immediately adjacent to the mine site. 

 

In 1980 the company used more fresh water than Swakopmund and Walvis Bay combined (over 10 million cubic meters per year). By 1996 the company had reduced its consumption to 2.6 million litres, less than that used by either coastal city.  

 

This case describes how Rِssing achieved this goal through improved water management and tailings disposal methods. 

 

The company could conserve fresh water on the input side by restricting the use of this high quality water for domestic purposes and limited plant operations while maximizing the use of brackish water or recycled water for all other purposes.  

 

One specific example was the total replacement of fresh water used in the rodmill by water recycled from the dam. 

On the output side, the company had to address two main losses: 

1. Entertainment – the process by which water is trapped in the disposal tailings - historical experience indicated that approximately 150 litres of water are lost for every ton of ore milled. 

2. Evaporation - in the hyperarid climate of the Namib Desert water from the pond and tailings impoundment area was lost rapidly - every hectare of wetted area could result in a daily loss of up to 72 cubic meters – that’s 72 000 litres. 

Management was convinced that evaporation was the primary target. In the original tailings deposition configuration there was an evaporation pond of 150 hectares at the centre and 1000 hectares of wetted area around the pond.  

 

In 1985 the tailings deposition system was reorganized to reduce the impoundment area to 760 hectares (a 24 percent decrease in surface area) and the pond to 60 hectares (a 60 percent decrease). Evaporation rates decreased and more water was available for re-use. 

 

Then in 1988, the company introduced an improved system in which the impoundment area was divided into small deposition segments called paddocks.  

 

The liquid from each 40 hectare paddock was drained by a penstock system and excess water shipped to the pond from where it could be recycled to other processes.  

 

In 1995 the penstock was upgraded with special decanting pump systems and the pond was eliminated. This increased the recyling rate further with the water going directly back into operations.  

 

The results were startling: evaporation dropped by 87.5 percent below 1988 levels (0.29 m3/metric ton in 1988; 0.036 m3/metric ton in 1995)use of fresh water dropped by over 50 percent below 1988 levels (0.55 m3/metric ton in 1980; 0.27 m3/metric ton in 1995) fresh water saved is conservatively estimated at 71 million cubic meters between 1981 and 1995. 

 

The paddock system and the decanting also reduced seepage levels. The company also constructed several cut-off trenches to capture any seepage and recycle it back into operations. Monitoring wells were drilled to record any flows back into the Khan River.  

 

The decanting system lowered company costs since the number of pumps was reduced from 60 down to 20.  

 

Over 15 years, the company invested Nambia$53.7 million with cumulative operating costs of Nambia$117.8 million over the same time frame.  

 

The company estimates resulting benefits, primarily from reduced water charges, recapture of uranium and acids, and reduced use of pumps, at Nambia$185.4 million –more than enough to cover all capital charges and operating costs.  

Lessons Learned. 

 

Modification of the waste tailings system and recycling water claimed from this operation enabled the company to reduce its fresh water consumption by over 50 percent - ensuring that its operations would be sustainable over the lifetime of the mine. 

 

The company program made more fresh water available for urban needs and future economic development in the coastal region of Namibia. 

 

The company investments saved over 71 million cubic litres of scarce fresh water between 1981 and 1995. 

 

The investment and operating costs were totally offset by benefits accruing to the company. 

 

General Conclusions and Recommendations: The 21st Century might well be characterized by increasing competition for finite fresh water resources. Continuing today’s unsustainable practices will tend to increase the number and the severity of future droughts and shortages.  

 

No one sector of society can, acting on its own, eliminate this problem. Industry, which is not the main user of water, has financial, technical and management resources to meet most of its own needs.  

 

However, all sectors need to cooperate if society is to avert or minimize adverse effects associated with emerging fresh water shortages.  

 

The elements of a comprehensive water strategy are rather straight forward and apply to all parties They include: 

conservation and wise use of the resource base  

recycling and reuse whenever feasible and economic 

waste treatment to facilitate recycle and reuse options 

water basin and water catchment management to allocate scarce resources most effectively management of underground water and aquifer systems phasing out of inappropriate subsidies which encourage unwise use of scarce water resources. 

 

The sample case studies presented indicate that industry has already begun to manage industrial water use more effectively. Improved waste water treatment facilitates recycle and reuse within companies and by other downstream users.  

 

One future task is to continue raising awareness within the business community and encourage others to take action now. The UNEP - WBCSD report, now being prepared, is one vehicle for disseminating important messages about wise use of fresh water.  

 

A second task, one shared by industry and UNEP, is disseminating more information about Eco-Efficiency and Cleaner Production in general and specifically with fresh water use in mind.  

 

A related task is fostering the idea of "eco-efficiency", an idea developed and advocated by WBCSD, which implies doing more with less and finding "win-win" situations that are good for both profits and the environment. Both ICC and WBCSD continue to support actively these important initiatives. 

 

But as this paper makes clear, agricultural is the great user, waster and polluter of water. However, the issue of economic pricing of water, both in agriculture and domestic use, remains primarily a government and public policy issue.  

 

Subsidies should be phased out since they encourage waste and prevent better management of finite fresh water resources.  

 

The 1992 Dublin Principle was clear and correct, – "Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good." 

 

The Comprehensive Assessment of Freshwater Resources for the World, prepared for the Commission for Sustainable Development in 1997 stated, - "Water is an economic good. 

 

Its economic values should be given due attention when appropriating scarce water resources among competing uses, without infringing on the basic rights of water service for all people at affordable prices." 

 

ICC and the WBCSD support these statements and urge governments to get on with the task of implementing these sound concepts.  

Originally published on - 30 January 1998. 

Source: icc-wbo. org  

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