As a water industry professional, you get to know quite a bit about two things: water and people. Both are the same—in how different they can be! And because water is used in one way or another just about everywhere you look, today’s water quality professionals have more opportunities than ever before. No matter what markets you’re currently serving, with so many potential revenue streams available, it pays to be prepared when new opportunities come knocking. With today’s health-conscious society and the growing threat of food, water and air contamination, ozone represents one of the best new opportunities for today’s water professionals.
Many of you know that ozone is great for decontaminating water, but what may not be so well known—and carries even greater significance—is the fact that ozone in higher doses literally turns water into a powerful disinfectant.
First, let me brief you on how ozone was approved for field use. Ozone was first used to disinfect drinking water in 1906, in Nice, France. Today, ozone is used to treat drinking water in just about every big city in the U.S. and abroad. But, did you know that ozone also cleans the air? Ever wonder why the level of ozone in the upper atmosphere gets higher when it is smoggy? Nature produces ozone to reduce pollution in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Although air and water are completely different, one statement remains the same for both: “If it’s not clean, you’re in trouble.” The same adage rings true of the food we eat, and if you haven’t already guessed, ozone is also used extensively in the food processing industry. Ozone is especially effective at eliminating the growing number of chlorine-resistant pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella that threaten our food supply.
On June 26, 2001, the U.S. FDA amended the food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of ozone in gaseous and aqueous phase as an antimicrobial agent on food, including meat and poultry. Since then, ozone has proven to be so effective in combating foodborne illness that it is now being used in a surprising number of foods and beverages.
There are many reasons why ozone is so successful in protecting food and water. For one, ozone is safe, and it leaves no chemical residue; therefore, the FDA does not require ozone to be listed under its stringent ingredients labeling laws. Reason number two is a little more subtle—food processors don’t like to talk about their best trade secrets. Using ozone improves shelf-life and helps many foods retain their natural color—just the kind of information you would like to keep from your competitors. But, good news travels fast, and the word is quickly getting out. Ozone equals food safety and bottom-line savings.
Twenty years ago, the most advanced commercial ozone generators were the size of 1960s-era computers and just as mysterious. Now, the scientific principles of ozone production are well understood, and modern manufacturing techniques have been greatly improved. One of the most advanced ozone systems ever designed is embodied in the self-contained mobile ozone generator.
An example of this class of design is the MSW456 currently being produced by ClearWater Tech, LLC. The sanitation mode can deliver up to 8.5 ppm of dissolved ozone at 4 gal per minute, with pressures up to 35 lb/ in2. To give you an idea of how powerful 8.5 ppm of ozone is, consider that concentrations of ozone even as low as 0.01 ppm are toxic to bacteria. The MSW456 also has a general-purpose mode that can deliver a high-pressure blast of up to 100 psi (a feature not found in many other systems).
The mobile system was designed primarily as a surface sanitation device used for clean-in-place duty in the food processing industry, but it has found its way into a number of additional applications. Because the systems are portable and can be used throughout a large facility, dairies, wineries and food processing plants were the first logical adopters; however, other uses for these versatile mobile systems soon became apparent, based on the wide range of ozone’s decontamination abilities. The U.S. Navy is currently testing mobile ozone carts for washing down vehicles exposed to chemical and biological attacks, and municipal parks and recreation departments are utilizing mobile systems to clean and disinfect public restrooms.
We don’t need too many things to survive, but clean air, water and food are right up there at the top of my list (followed closely by beer and football). Today, the safety of our water and food supply is of national concern. When it comes to fighting contaminants in food, water and air, ozone is an ideal choice, and water professionals looking to expand into additional markets should seriously consider this powerful disinfectant.