Water Treatment Sees Upgrade In Fort Wayne

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 25, 2013 Updated Oct 25, 2013 at 5:48 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- The stuff that gives you a sunburn is now being used to better disinfect Fort Wayne's water supply.

A new treatment system was unveiled Thursday to elected officials, civic leaders and other citizens at the Three Rivers Water Filtration Plant downtown.

Tours were given in a renovated part of the filtration plant, where fairly low doses of ultra violet light are being used to better ensure that city water is free of organisms that can cause dangerous gastro-intestinal illnesses.

The 11 billion gallons of drinking water produced each year at the plant go through several steps to make it cleaner.

Now, at the end of the process, the water is pumped through tubes where UV lights shine in, destroying the ability of pesky Cryptosporidium to re-produce and threaten health.

Back in the early 1990's, chlorine failed to knock out the harmful organisms in Milwaukee, leading to 70 deaths and hundreds more people getting really sick.

" That's what sort of touched off looking into what do we need, how do we move forward, so this doesn't happen again, and again, it was crypto, crypto was the first thing they looked at, so we can use UV to inactivate crypto," said Wayne Emery, who works for Calgon Carbon Corporation, which markets ultra violet light treatment for water.

" We know that there are other regulations that are being looked at, the UV system is flexible, it allows us to make some adjustments to it, that we think will meet those needs in the future," said Frank Suarez with Ft. Wayne City Utilities.

The EPA mandated that cities like Fort Wayne upgrade surface water treatment.

It took until 2006 to get the order out to cities, and those communities were given until January 2014 to make changes.

Fort Wayne is now in compliance with that order.

The upgrades cost the city $ 22-million.

To offset some of that cost, the city can cut down on chlorine disinfectant, plus solar panels have been purchased to save on electricity.

Mayor Tom Henry and others Thursday lifted their glasses in a toast to clean water.

City officials are confident that's exactly what we’ll get from this investment.

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