Case Study: National Bottled Water Brand
By practicing a design philosophy that stressed flexibility, the EAI team was able to partner with the client to create a truly unique, but replicable system that is ready to help the brand grow nationally and internationally.
One EAI client is a consumer drinking water company on a mission to provide the most sustainable packaged water anywhere in the world. To do this, they harvest rainwater from collection sites co-located with bottling facilities across the country. Their process is optimized to capture the cleanest rainwater, minimizing the amount of energy consumption and water waste that goes into the treatment process. Their commitment to sustainability does not stop with their infinitely renewable glass bottles and aluminum cans but extends to the water quality itself. They aim to beat drinking water standards by achieving non-detect levels of harmful contaminants such as disinfectant byproducts, PFAS / PFOS, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, microbiological growth, and radioactive particles.
This company reached out to EAI Water to custom design a modular, containerized treatment system that could be deployed at its next collection and packaging site and relocated if necessary. Most importantly, the client’s production team wanted a standardized treatment train that could be easily reproduced as the company rapidly grows.
While this sounds like a reasonable goal for any source of drinking water, there were several engineering challenges that had to be overcome:
- Traditional treatment solutions such as reverse osmosis were ruled out due to their relatively high energy consumption and water reject percentages.
- Water quality can vary dramatically between different production sites, or even at the same site, depending on local materials, air quality conditions, and seasonal rainfall patterns. Therefore, designing a treatment system to work reliably and efficiently in any set of conditions required design flexibility and redundancy.
- The US Food and Drug Administration tightly regulates the levels of disinfectant residuals that must be present in bottled water, which can be difficult to achieve given the desire to stay away from chlorine-based products and the varying source water quality.
- Further design discipline was needed to meet the high treatment reliability requirements condensed into the space of a shipping container, with 100% uptime. A compact footprint and easy power and plumbing connections were needed so that the treatment systems could easily deploy at any bottling facility. Furthermore, the containers needed to be outfitted to operate in extreme variations in heat, humidity and cold.
- Pressure had to be maintained and balanced across given a multi-stage filtration process, changes in source water storage tank levels, and uncommon pipe sizes and pressure requirements on the filling lines.
- Achieving a non-detect rating on an emerging contaminant such as PFAS is a very recent challenge. Many commonly used water quality measurement instruments and testing protocols are not yet up to this task and the scientific community is still studying the full family of contaminants. Additionally, many commonly used pipe fittings contain seals coated in chemicals from the per and polyfluoro-alkyl families.
For three of the client’s US collection sites, EAI Water designed and built systems in 15-foot shipping containers with a maximum combined flow rate of 30 gallons per minute. These systems had the following multi-stage treatment trains and added features:
- Multimedia filtration to remove sediment and large particulates with minimal consumables.
- Fine-particle filtration using cartridge filters, down to 0.8 microns in size.
- A specialized cartridge filter to remove any remaining PFAS / PFOS.
- Pre- and post-treatment with carbon block filters to adsorb a wide range of organic and inorganic compounds that would otherwise be missed in the other filtration stages.
- Option for initial disinfection with UV lamps (zero residual).
- Ozone generator with dosing that could be tuned to meet the varying conditions in the captured water while meeting the residual requirements for bottled water.
- Backwash water could be recaptured and recycled into the production process.
- A clean-in-place system to automate cleanings of the pipe work, filters, housing, and tanks.
- An advanced controller system with internet connection that provided the ability for:
- Remote performance monitoring by the client’s production team charged with maintaining uptime at geographically dispersed sites.
- Remote troubleshooting with EAI experts.
- Real-time water monitoring for a variety of quality parameters such as conductivity, turbidity, and ozone.
- Orchestrating the complex array of motorized valves, pressure release valves, and pumps needed to meet pressure and flow requirements.
- Easy-access sample ports for frequent water quality testing not covered by automated sensors.
By employing the EAI treatment system, the client is now actively producing drinking water at three sites in the U.S. with imminent expansion plans. Their carbon net-positive products are now on sale across North America in retailers such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, Albertsons, Kroger. Most importantly, they have been able to achieve their rigorous water quality goals, guaranteeing human safety as they scale to become one of the largest canned water providers in the United States.
By practicing a design philosophy that stressed flexibility, the EAI team was able to partner with the client to create a truly unique, but replicable system that is ready to help the brand grow nationally and internationally. EAI was able to balance a difficult combination of design requirements to engineer a system that minimizes environmental impact but maximizes reliability, versatility, and safeguards to human health.