This article originally appeared in Commercial Water Summer 2020 issue as "Custom Treatment, Community & COVID-19"
Unprecedented times frequently can create unique problems which require quick thinking and teamwork to provide solutions. As we have all experienced in some fashion or another these past few months, perceived shortages in consumable products, such as toilet paper, created a widespread purchasing panic, which in the end drove a greater society self-fulfilled prophecy of shortages. Store shelves across America were bare in several areas, from toliet paper, canned goods, pasta to flour, and unfortunately, every kind of bottled water, including deionized (DI) water.
Over the past decade, sales of DI water into households across America have increased as home medical devices, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines have become more commonplace. CPAP works by gently pumping humidified air into the throat via a mask, subtly increasing air pressure in the throat and preventing the airway from narrowing. Where one may minimize the value of a properly operational CPAP machine, the impact of a proper night sleep, especially if compounded over weeks and months, can have significant impact on overall body health.
Inability to get a restful night sleep can decrease the ability for the body to fend off viral attacks. CPAP for millions of Americans reduces daytime fatigue, improves focus, lowers blood pressure and lowers risk of heart disease. Utilization of DI water to operate these and other home medical devices ensures proper operation and prevention of scale buildup within the device.
As the stay-at-home orders were being implemented across California, the city of Murrieta started receiving a significant number of calls from the public regarding inability to purchase DI water from local stores. This was causing individuals within the community, especially for retirement communities, an inability to operate their home medical devices. During one of the city council meetings, this topic was brought up as a growing concern for the community.
Fortunately, one of the council members was familiar with 8Bit Brewery, one of the many microbreweries in the greater Murrieta area. As with any microbrewery, a significant investment is needed in order to prepare the main ingredient—water—for development of the final product—beer. 8Bit brewery has a comprehensive reverse osmosis (RO) system complete with custom pre- and post-filtration to dial-in proper parameters for their various product offerings. Council members were familiar with and had been provided tours of 8Bit in the past so they were aware of the large onsite water treatment process 8Bit had.
Murrieta city council members met with 8Bit and discussed with them the possibility of providing water to the community to operate these home medical devices. During the discussion, it was mentioned that the water parameters needed were for DI quality water and 8Bit at the time was only filtering to RO quality water. Where RO is close, it does not provide the final polishing treatment that these medical devices require to operate properly. There was a need to provide a final polishing stage and the operators at 8Bit had a network of their own to tap in to for additional guidance.
Developing the Solution
8Bit Brewery reached out to Aquamor, formerly TST Water, to discuss options for delivering DI quality water. Aquamor has a number of high-flow systems, but at the time there was not an off-the-shelf build for the requirements as needed for the specific system 8Bit had in operation. Aquamor has a number of different DI filter configurations using resin from ResinTech.
Therefore, the issue was not what the solution needed to be, but putting the correct solution into a configuration which would easily be installed and provide the flow rates and capacity which the system and community needed. Following a quick review of desired capacities, flow rates, water chemistry and available space for installation, the Aquamor team went to work and developed a custom DI water treatment package.
One of the aspects which needed to be addressed was to create a dedicated line from the currently existing RO line, tapping off to the DI system and then having a new clean, dedicated sanitary dispensing station specifically for high quality DI water. Care needed to be taken in the materials of design so as to ensure proper sanitization, especially with heightened awareness of surface viral contamination and developing cleaning procedures. Steps as lined out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were followed to ensure proper sanitization between every use of the DI water dispensing line provided guidelines in the development of the design. Working together, 8Bit Brewery and Aquamor teams designed, manufactured, installed, flushed, tested and put into operation a new custom DI system, which was donated by Aquamor to 8Bit within 24 hours.
Working with the Community
Once the system was up and operational, 8Bit reached out the Murrieta city council and informed it that a solution had been developed. City council members then inspected the facility to see firsthand the solution to this issue that the community had brought forward. Once council members were able to review and approve the program, an announcement went out to these affected communities which had been looking for a solution. 8Bit, working with the city of Murrieta, agreed to provide DI water to the community at no cost. Individuals needing DI water for home medical devices needed to only show up to 8Bit with their own water containers and the microbrewery would fill the containers at no cost.
Follow-up and proper maintenance, especially for DI systems, is crucial. Aquamor has continued working with 8Bit to test and monitor the quality of the water being delivered through the dedicated outlet. Initial demand was high, so proper maintenance and replacement of DI elements as needed was tightly monitored.
Across America, there are stories from the water filtration industry where members have stepped up to provide custom solutions to problems which stemmed from the current state of affairs. Over the past decade, member organizations have provided boots on the ground in Washington D.C. and state capitols to promote the water filtration industry as a solution provider for challenging and sometimes complex problems. From lead in drinking water at schools, GenX, PFOA and PFOS contamination, to new emerging compounds, and now a simple DI solution for home medical treatment devices, the water filtration industry continually steps up to the challenge.