When the staff at Helix’s R.M. Levy Water Treatment Plant received estimates as high as $3.5 million to upgrade the plant’s ozone power supply units and generators, they decided to install the upgrade themselves.

Suez Water Technologies provided the engineering and equipment, and staff incorporated new technology and innovative installation practices. They completed a proof of concept pilot project for just under $300,000.  A full retrofit is planned in the next few years and will complete the entire project for an estimated cost of $1,100,000 – an approximate 70 percent cost savings. The upgrade will extend the life of the power supply units and generators at least 15 years.

Our water treatment process begins with the removal of dirt and other material suspended in the water, then we use ozone to inactivate or destroy any organisms in the water. We use ozone because it offers important advantages over chlorine:

Ozone destroys or inactivates a wide range of organisms in the water.
Ozone needs little contact time with the water to be effective.
Ozone produces fewer potentially harmful disinfection byproducts than other disinfectants.
Ozone removes most of the smell and taste issues people associate with tap water.

Ozone is naturally unstable at normal atmospheric conditions, which is why we need ozone generators to produce it on-site. The high voltage generators break down oxygen molecules (O2) and form ozone (O3). The ozone molecules are then diffused in a contact chamber and bubble up through our water to destroy any organisms present.

Ozone project team in front of the rebuilt power supply unit.
Helix staff member installing parts in ozone generator.

Photo: Ozone project team (pre-pandemic) in front of the rebuilt power supply unit.

Photo: Helix staff member installing parts in ozone generator.

After ozonation, we filter our water and add a dose of chloramines — chlorine and ammonia — to maintain water quality throughout our 737 miles of water distribution pipelines. Our treatment process is managed by a team of highly trained plant operators who conduct 200 water quality tests per day. Our chemist and biologist test water samples from our treatment plant and distribution system, as well. 

The ozone project is our latest example of cost-effective local government. In early 2020, Helix staff standardized the design, hardware and software of the motor control centers in the district’s 25 pump stations to create operating, maintenance and purchasing efficiencies.