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Cuba counts on new facility to treat its brackish aquifer water

Cuba counts on new facility to deal with its brackish aquifer water » Albuquerque Journal

Levi Casaus Jr., an operator for Cuba’s water division, sits close to a tank on the village’s predominant water filtration plant. (Theresa Davis/Albuquerque Journal)

Wells and tanks in Cuba date to the Sixties, which suggests the village is continually repairing and changing valves and pipes. (Theresa Davis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

CUBA – Richard Velarde as soon as spent hours with a wire hanger in hand, slowly scraping away the calcium deposits in his water heater. It’s a typical water drawback for the Village of Cuba, the place Velarde is serving his second stint as mayor.

“Typically you open your faucet and nothing will come out as a result of the buildup is so dangerous,” he stated. “The little sprayer hoses on the facet of the sink – you may’t use these right here. You higher have filters if you wish to save your water heaters and washing machines.”


Now the agricultural group has a possible resolution for its water woes – one that might additionally assist different cities and cities in New Mexico enhance their water high quality.

The water division’s wells and tanks date to the Sixties, that means the city of fewer than 800 individuals in Sandoval County is continually repairing and changing valves and pipes.

“It looks like all I take care of is infrastructure right here,” Velarde stated. “Repairs are so costly. It’s onerous sufficient for small cities to pay the payments generally, in order that doesn’t go away quite a bit for issues like engineering estimates.”

When an organization approached Velarde with a proposal to construct a facility and deal with water pumped from the brackish aquifer beneath the village, he jumped on the alternative.

Cuba signed a memorandum of understanding in Could with the KNeW Co. to construct a plant that may pump and deal with water from the aquifer, offering no less than 450,000 gallons of water a day to the village.

Cuba sits atop the huge Rio Puerco aquifer. Engineers estimate the aquifer comprises about 2.6 million acre-feet – about 847 billion gallons – of brackish water.

However the salty water is laden with calcium, sodium and sulfates. Massive cities akin to El Paso and San Diego deal with brackish groundwater with desalination. That’s not an possibility for rural Cuba, with its four-person water division.

“Desalination is pricey,” stated Aubrey Howard, co-founder and CEO of the KNeW Co. “Little villages can’t afford reverse osmosis crops and the vitality necessities that come together with that.”

Desalination additionally produces giant quantities of brine.

As an alternative, the plant will use KNeW Co.’s ion change know-how pioneered by John Bewsey, a South African chemical engineer and technical director at Trailblazer Applied sciences. KNeW stands for “potassium nitrate ex waste.”

Water tanks are stuffed with small resin beads act that like little magnets, pulling out the sodium, calcium or magnesium in brackish groundwater or mine wastewater.

One set of tanks removes all of the positively charged ions, which connect themselves to the beads.

Negatively charged beads in one other tank take away chlorides and sulfates.

A water filtration tank in Cuba. Over time, buildup of minerals akin to calcium and sodium results in pricey repairs. California-based KNeW Co. has plans to construct a facility that may deal with brackish aquifer beneath the village. (Theresa Davis/Albuquerque Journal)

“You’re left with water which is impartial and has nothing dissolved in it,” Bewsey stated. “The trick that we got here throughout is to transform all these undesirable ions – which prior to now no one knew what to do with – we convert them into fertilizer. Particularly, the one that’s priceless is potassium nitrate. That pays for all the difficulty that you simply’ve gone to take these dissolved solids out of the water.”

The fertilizer facet of the plant means the corporate turns a revenue even with out promoting the handled water. This permits KNeW to offer clear water to Cuba, freed from cost.

“We’re going the place the necessity is best,” Howard stated. “We don’t create any waste, as a result of we’re changing it right into a product. Cuba will personal the water, and any income they generate from it’s theirs.”

Cuba and KNeW Co. could apply for grants with the U.S. Division of Agriculture and New Mexico to assist finance the plant. The corporate would really like the power to be in manufacturing by the top of 2021.

After the $10 million water therapy plant is constructed, Cuba would personal and function the power. The corporate would handle the “waste” on the adjoining fertilizer plant.

Bewsey makes use of his know-how to deal with acid mine drainage and brackish groundwater at a pilot plant in Johannesburg.

The plant has examined the ion change technique on water with the identical make-up because the Rio Puerco aquifer.

The method “labored fantastically,” Bewsey stated, and it cleans the water so totally that some minerals must be added again in to satisfy consuming water requirements.

The Cuba mission is the primary try by the California-based firm to broaden the usage of Bewsey’s know-how into North America.

A New Mexico State College professor and water scientist serves as a technical adviser for the corporate, which first started trying on the Rio Puerco aquifer a number of years in the past.

This chlorine tank is used for treating water in Cuba. (Theresa Davis/Albuquerque Journal)

The Cuba mission builds on a 2011 research of the aquifer commissioned by Sandoval County.

Now, KNeW Co. is ending feasibility research, 3-D modeling, and state and federal allowing for the Cuba water therapy and fertilizer crops. The amenities will probably be constructed on a parcel of U.S. Forest Service land on the sting of city that will probably be donated to the village.

Levi Casaus Jr., an operator with the Cuba water division, stated the brand new infrastructure and a cleaner water provide may assist break the pricey repair-and-replace cycle for municipal strains and residential home equipment.

“Now we have onerous water even after filtration,” Casaus stated. “You’ll see the calcium buildup in your sink, bathe head and water heaters. We additionally get blockages in our meters and municipal strains. It prices some huge cash to restore and exchange these, and it additionally means we’re losing water.”

Cuba makes use of a sequence of sand, anthracite and gravel to filter heavy metals and different minerals out of the water. The filter media is changed each three to 4 years. This 12 months’s substitute got here with a price ticket of $92,000. It was paid for with state capital outlay funds.

The Cuba system has two water tanks, that are on separate land from the pumping and therapy website. The older wells get much less productive annually, so it’s a battle to fill each tanks and keep good water strain.

“Now we have some areas the place if the tank strain drops, they merely don’t get water,” Casaus stated. “When water ranges go the opposite method and get too excessive, we get leaks and full breaks in our strains. It’s a balancing act. We’re enjoying with the playing cards we’ve been dealt.”

A central plant nearer to the village would handle these water amount and strain issues.

The proposed plant would come with two wells to pump 2,700 ft down into the aquifer, tapping right into a a lot bigger water supply than what Cuba can at the moment pump 700 ft down in a separate aquifer.

St. Johns, Arizona, has additionally signed a memorandum of understanding with KNeW Co. to construct an identical plant to transform brackish aquifer water into consuming.

Mayor Velarde stated the development, together with regular jobs on the water plant and gross receipts taxes from the fertilizer plant, may assist the economic system of Cuba, the place the roads are lined with long-closed companies.

“We’ve received to attempt one thing totally different,” Velarde stated. “We’re getting by with what now we have proper now, however now we have a possibility for it to be higher. A cleaner water provide would imply quite a bit for this group.”

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member masking water and the surroundings for the Albuquerque Journal.



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