Ask the Expert: A Conversation with Director of Technology, Mike Waite
By Ionex SG Communications Team
June 24, 2016
Our new “Ask the Expert” series kicks off with a conversation with Mike Waite. Mike invented the “near-zero waste” ion exchange technology that’s exciting our customers across California and in the UK. To say he’s passionate about his invention would be an understatement. Scroll down to hear what he has to say. And, as always, get in touch if we can tell you more.
What’s the profile of an average Ionex SG customer?
Our customers vary considerably. Some are small water companies, often operated by members of the local community with support from a local service engineer for general maintenance. Others are large water companies in the UK and California. For these customers we supply larger plant and work in partnership with engineering subcontractors to ensure the smooth installation of the plant. Small systems may serve a small town of 50 – 400 connections, whereas the larger plant can serve 10,000 connections or more.
What excites them most about the technology?
We’ve worked hard to overcome the problems traditionally associated with using ion exchange to purify water: our technology produces much less waste than other systems. What’s more, our intent to supply identical modular plants across the industry has enabled waste collections from several small sites to be combined in a single waste tanker, which actually makes treatment economically feasible for these small communities.
We strive to remove the pain of installing treatment plants, including dealing with regulators, managing plant operations through a combination of trained local operators with high-level support direct from ourselves, and managing the waste collection and final disposal at an approved facility.
Walk us through an average installation?
Every ion exchange plant begins with a simple pre-filter to protect the plant from any sand or silt that may be in the raw water coming into the plant. This is a simple filter mesh, working in the same way as a coffee filter to remove solids from the water to protect the ion exchange plant. After this, the water flows through the ion exchange plant where the contaminants, such as hexavalent chromium or nitrate, are removed.
These ion exchange plants operate in much the same way as domestic water softeners, but are designed to produce less than 1/20th of the volume of waste compared to water softeners (per unit volume treated). The clean water then has a tiny bit of chlorine dosed into it, which ensures it’s safe to drink by all ages. In fact, if you put tap water in a glass bottle in the fridge overnight – with the lid off, you will find it hard to taste the difference between tap water and bottled water!
We’ve achieved really low waste volume by a combination of significant process and mechanical improvements to the basic ion exchange plants. Of course, we continue to develop our systems to handle emerging contaminants of concern, such as uranium.
Mike Waite, Director of Technology
We’ve achieved this really low waste volume by a combination of significant process and mechanical improvements to the basic ion exchange plants. We’re not ‘resting on our laurels’ and we continue to develop our systems to handle emerging contaminants of concern, such as uranium, ensuring we remain the market leaders in terms of lowest achievable waste volumes and salt use.
Indeed, we’ve pioneered new process enhancements such as ‘Sulfate Return’, which directly reduces the waste volume from hexavalent chromium treatment by a factor of 4 compared to our nearest competitors, working with the regulators to approve these innovative steps both in the US and in the UK.
Tune in later for Part II of our conversation with Mike where he’ll share more on our innovative waste disposal infrastructure.