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Ozone is a unique and highly reactive molecule—a powerful natural sanitizer. Discovered in 1783 by Martinus Van Marum, ozone was considered a “chemical curiosity” for decades, until the scientific efforts of Christian Friedrich Schönbein helped define the elusive chemical. Part of the reason for ozone’s mystery was because scientists couldn’t easily identify ozone’s chemical structure or application. With the limited technology at hand, generating and monitoring ozone for research was a challenging proposition.
Today, as experiments and knowledge continue to advance, the parameters and materials with which ozone can be utilized (including stainless steel, titanium, ceramics, and materials such as Teflon and Kynar) are widely available.
The use of ozone technology began in industries such as drinking water and wastewater treatment, where municipalities and utilities tend to have the motivation and/or resources to invest in technology that improves public health. As the deleterious effects of chemical use became apparent in the 20th century, alternative water treatments such as ozone were critically evaluated, proven worthy in the lab and field, and subsequently implemented around the world.
Scientists and industrial leaders who studied and used ozone propounded its value and results, accumulating experiment and application documentation and technology data within their own industries, sometimes replicating work produced by others for related applications in other industrial segments.
A coordinated effort was needed in order to consolidate the considerable effort of numerous innovators and scientists and to offer a comprehensive source and destination for ozone technology and application information. Business people and government officials desired third-party-verifiable data and proven technology in order to meet stricter environmental regulations and push forward in their respective industries.
Compared to the labor-intensive, potentially hazardous and toxic nature of other chemical treatments, ozone was a revolutionary approach. Several ozone generator manufacturers were working hard to develop solutions using ozone for the ever-growing public utility markets of drinking water and wastewater treatment, tied inextricably to the population boom of the latter half of the 20th century.
Among such a small supplier pool, competition was fierce and information was at a premium; technology and application information was highly guarded. Two men, Dr. L. Joseph Bollyky of PCI Ozone Corp. and Harvey Rosen of Grace Chemicals, saw the need for a professional association to bring together the scientists, engineers, plant managers and business people serving and leading the ozone industry. By sharing experiences and research data on ozone, members compiled application information, solved technical issues and promoted ozone’s broadening industrial scope.
“We needed a professional association to carry the flag for ozone,” Bollyky said.
Incorporated in June 1973 in Connecticut, the International Ozone Institute (IOI)—as the International Ozone Association (IOA) was originally called—was led by a Board of Directors including Bollyky, Myron Browning, Dr. Rip Rice, Morris Bueller, Dr. Otis Sproul, Dr. Norman Liebergott and Dr. Walter Blogoslowski. Coordinated around the world by the Board of Directors and locally by Browning and Rice, the first Ozone World Congress, held in Washington, D.C., in December 1973, focused primarily on the current applications of municipal water and sewage treatment.
To head this new institute, the ozone industry needed a credible and qualified leader. “The challenge was to find somebody not affiliated with any of the ozone manufacturers,” said Bollyky, who wanted to see the coalition built up without the marketing or critical influence of any company. “We didn’t want to create any controversy.”
Dr. Morton Klein of the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Center fit that bill, becoming president of the IOI in December 1973. Klein served through 1979, and subsequent presidents served two-year terms.
In 1979, the same year the IOI changed its name to the International Ozone Association, Bollyky became the founding editor of Ozone: Science & Engineering, the first peer-reviewed journal focusing on ozone.
As the IOA was growing both in membership and scope in the 1980s, it faced the challenge of leveraging enough resources to support research and technological applications in a wide variety of industries. Help came from one of ozone’s longest standing industrial partners—the municipal water treatment sector. In 1983, the Zurich Water Department recognized the value of a strong relationship with a research and technology partner like the IOA and helped establish the International Office of the IOA in Zurich and funded the publication of Ozone News. This move allowed for wider promotion of the IOA and dissemination of the new research supported by Ozone: Science & Engineering.
Bollyky served as president of the IOA from 1992 to 1993, during which the IOA focused on issues such as aquaculture and industrial wastewater, including nuclear wastewater treatment. Of Bollyky’s term as the head of the IOA, one highlight he recalled was the 1993 Ozone World Congress in San Francisco, Calif.
A main focus of the San Francisco Congress was the Milwaukee Cryptosporidium outbreak in the spring of that year. Severe spring storms caused high turbidity and bacterial counts in Lake Michigan, which resulted in 400,000 people becoming ill, the nation’s largest waterborne disease outbreak. In a joint effort with four engineering firms, the IOA helped to get ozone treatment systems installed in two Milwaukee drinking water plants—treating 297 and 116 million gal per day, respectively. A follow-up presentation on this successful ozone solution was given at the Kyoto Ozone World Congress in 1997.
The San Francisco conference received the highest attendance in association history. “I got the ladies interested,” said Bollyky, who capitalized on good rates at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco following the historic 1989 earthquake. Activities included cable car rides and a San Francisco Bay cruise featuring a band, which of course played Tony Bennet’s classic “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
“If you want people to attend, you have to talk their wives and families into going,” Bollyky said.
Another situation in which ozone was a strong solution was zebra mussel control in the Great Lakes region, where the mollusks clogged intake pipes. The mussels most likely entered the freshwater system via ballast discharge from European cargo ships, and aggressively populated the lakes with free-swimming larvae that attached themselves to the inside of intake pipes deep in the lakes. The mussels fed on nutrients in the water flow and multiplied to their peak population in five years.
By maintaining a small ozone concentration, the zebra mussels in the pipelines were prevented from attaching themselves to the walls of the pipe. “We added about 0.1 ppm of ozone to the inlet of the pipe, which was about 3 ft in diameter,” Bollyky said.
From thousands of research papers, to solutions in a variety of fields, such as nuclear wastewater treatment developments, extended shelf life, and transport precautions for fresh produce and food products, the expansion and development of new applications that benefit from ozone technology continues through today.
The IOA hosts an annual conference that presents the latest research, applications and technology in the world of ozone. Many innovations were highlighted at the 2006 International Ozone Association (Pan-American Group) Annual Conference in Arlington, Texas.
“Because (the annual conference) was in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, it was heavily municipally focused because of the significant municipal use of ozone in that area,” said Paul Overbeck, IOA’s current executive director. “We also had one whole day of tech sessions devoted to commercial and industrial ozone uses, like microelectronics, laundry and food processing. It was very well attended.”
Another part of the IOA’s efforts to serve its industry partners is the creation of task forces that work on some of the finer technical details and regulations in a given application. The Bottled Water Task Force, for example, had much success partnering with bottlers to resolve quality and technical problems in the bottling process that used ozone as a highly successful solution.
More recently, the Agri-Food Task Force and Air Treatment Task Force have presented new application overviews and success stories on the IOA website that answer questions about produce storage and food processing. These developments allow IOA members to stay at the cutting edge of industry regulations and technology and take an active role in the future of ozone technology and business.
Overbeck, along with many IOA leaders, looks forward to providing technical and educational opportunities to meet the growing demand for industrial ozone solutions. “There seems to be significant interest in growth of commercial and industrial applications,” Overbeck said. “We’re going to build on that in the World Congress in Los Angeles (August 2007) with a full-day workshop at WQA Aquatech USA (March 2007) and a day-long food conference as part of the International Center for Water Technology in Fresno, Calif., in April 2007.”