Most Apartment Associations and Housing Societies are run by volunteers and most of them do not have necessary technical background that is necessary to ensure proper maintenance of the critical assets like Water Treatment Plants, RO Water Plants, DG Sets etc. Typically the operations and maintenance of these assets are outsourced by the managing committee with a hope that the agencies maintain them professionally. More often that not, no one in the managing committee is even aware how to check if the assets are being maintained and operated properly. Due to this, associations typically end up with sudden huge expenses towards the repair/re-installation of these assets.
In an attempt to help all housing societies and apartment associations, ApnaComplex, with the help of Mr. Ranganathan – Water Management Consultant, presents below an guide / checklists on Water Treatment Plants Operation and Maintenance.
Why Water Treatment Plant?
Today water used in apartment complexes and gated communities is obtained partly from bore wells or from tanker water suppliers. Invariably, the water has a total mineral content higher than the “desirable” value specified in BIS-10500 which is the official Indian standard for water used for human consumption. A high mineral content means that the total hardness of the water will also be high and cause problems like scaling of hot water geysers, choking of pipes, poor quality of washing in machines etc. This is often taken care of by installing a water softening plant (also called as Water Treatment Plant). Refer our other article on “Water Treatment in times of Water Scarcity” to know more about the importance of Water Treatment Plants
How does a Water Softener Plant work?
A water softener plant comprises a pressure vessel made of either mild steel or fiberglass composite. It contains a bed of ion exchanger( normally called resin) which softens water. The pressure vessel is fitted with external piping fitted with valves. The softener plant is also provided with a tank in which a specified quantity of salt is filled in and water allowed in by means of the valve provided for this purpose. The water dissolves the salt to make a solution of brine (this is what a salt solution is called).
The resin bed inside is capable of removing hardness from the hard water passing through it . The quantity of water thus softened depends entirely on the hardness of the water and the capacity of the resin. When the capacity of the resin to soften water is exhausted, it has to be regenerated by injecting a solution of salt solution (brine) into it to prepare the resin to soften more water. The manufacturer of the softener is normally supposed to provide a detailed Operation & Maintenance manual which gives detailed instructions on how to operate the unit and regenerate it.
This manual indicates the total capacity of the softener to soften water before it is exhausted (this capacity is called Output Between Regenerations or OBR). The manual also indicates how many kilos of salt are to be filled in to the salt tank to prepare brine for one re-generation. It gives detailed instructions on how to operate the valves on the unit to inject brine into the softener, rinse off the excess brine and then prepare it to produce soft water for another cycle of operation.
Every softener plant must have a water meter fitted at the inlet so that the quantity of water softened can be monitored. The water meter also helps in measuring the water used for regeneration since this water goes to drain and usually ends up in the STP (Sewage Treatment Plant). Every softener operator must have a hardness testing kit so that he will know when the softener is producing soft water and when it is exhausted.
Following two procedures must be followed by Operators for proper Operation of Water Treatment Plant. In most associations, the operations are outsourced to an agency, even then it is imperative that Managing Committee members verify the log books and the hardness reports once every fifteen days to ensure the softener plant is operating properly.
Procedure for regeneration of an exhausted softener
- Make a note of the water meter reading in the log book.
- Start backwash if the softener manual calls for it. Carry out backwash for the specified duration.
- Inject the salt solution(brine) into the softener.
- When brine injection is over, start the process of rinse to remove all the excess brine.
- When end of rinse is approaching, take a sample of rinse water and test for hardness.
- If the hardness is within the figure specified in the manual, usually about 10.00 ppm., stop rinse and open soft water outlet valve and make a note of the water meter reading.
How to know when to Re-generate
- When water meter reading shows that softener has treated almost the quantity as per OBR, take a sample of soft water and test it using the test kit. It is critical to note that with out a proper log book and Water Meter, it is not possible to accurately know the amount of water treated since last regeneration.
- If the hardness is higher than 10.00 ppm, and the OBR figure has been reached, shut down the softener, prepare it for regeneration and carry out the regeneration as per procedure given above.
Very Important Points
- Approximately 95% of the apartment complexes Mr. Ranganathan visited in the last 8 years had no documents/manual for the softener and have operators without relevant knowledge, experience or training in softener operation. So, the first step is to get the manual from the supplier/manufacturer as it is critical. If this is not possible, approach an expert with correct/relevant expertise for help.
- The next step is to read the manual 🙂. This is invariably the most difficult step – but there must be few members in the society who must read the manual and understand how their Water Treatment Plant works. If we buy a new electric/electronic appliance such as Microwave in the house, we do glance through the manual – don’t we? Water Treatment Plant is more costlier and many times more critical piece of equipment that owners of apartments have invested in. The more number of people know about the plant the better it is. Some members with relevant background can go through the manual and share the details with the larger community in meetings in simpler language. (By the way, you can upload the electronic/scanned versions of the manuals into the Document Repository of ApnaComplex – easy way to store all documents in a central place).
- Timing given in the manual for the various sequences which are part of operation must be strictly followed.
- All the sequences of operation given in the manual must be carried out exactly as specified. All this data must be logged into a log book as it will help with troubleshooting if needed. It is critical to ensure log book is maintained by the operator and monitored by the committee frequently.
- If these procedures are not followed DO NOT WASTE TIME and MONEY on the softener. Any amount of salt will not help soften the water if the re-generation is not done in time.
This article aims at providing information for benefit of ApnaComplex customers and blog readers. Mr. S.S. Ranganathan, who provided inputs for this post, is a retired senior executive of Ion Exchange and currently a freelance Water Management Consultant based in Bangalore. He can be reached at +91-93437-34229.
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