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Cooling Towers: Managing Tighter Water-Discharge Regulations

By Brad Buecker Kiewit Power Engineers |

Historically, many large industrial facilities, including power plants, have relied on once-through cooling, in which the entire cooling water volume flows through the plant heat exchangers and then is discharged to the original source. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; Washington, D.C.) has, for over a decade, been developing regulations to protect aquatic life from impingement and entrapment at once-through cooling intakes. This development has essentially eliminated once-through cooling as an option at new plants. Rather, cooling towers now tend to be the preferred choice, with air-cooled condensers increasing in popularity.   Cooling tower blowdown Subsequent to the passage of the Clean Water Act in the late 1960s, EPA began controlling industrial plant wastewater discharges per the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) guidelines. In many cases, NPDES guidelines focused on a small core of primary impurities in wastewater discharge streams. The two most common for cooling water were pH (typical pH control range of 6.0 to 9.0) and residual oxidizing biocide at a common limit of 0.2 parts per million (PPM). These guidelines, or perhaps even more stringent limits, are still in place at…
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