Author Topic: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water  (Read 3583 times)

Offline richardt

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Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« on: April 26, 2012, 10:32:02 AM »
OK.  There's boiling and lime softening to lower carbonate levels (reduce alkalinity).

But what about methods to lower sulfate levels?

We're cursed with crappy local water that is high in SO4 and HCO3.
Jacksonville       Ca=70, Mg=31, Na=16, SO4=153, Cl=22, HCO3=139

Only a few cities around the world have higher sulfate levels.  Everyone else has much lower levels.
Examples: 
Burton-on-Trent Ca=352, Mg=18, Na=44, SO4=820, Cl=16, HCO3=320
Vienna               Ca= 163, Mg=68, Na=8, SO4=216, Cl=39, HCO3=243
 
What can be done--other than dilution (with distilled or RO water) or building the desired water profile (using distilled or RO water and brew salts)?  Is there some way to precipitate out sulfate?  I would love to have sulfate levels in the single digits, i.e., 0-9 ppm, like Portland (0 ppm) or Seattle (2 ppm), or Pilsen (4 ppm).


Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2012, 10:42:06 AM »
I would just use RO water and build up with minerals if you want single digits of SO4.

Take any city water number with a grain of salt (pun alert).  Burton on Trent has many different values depending on the well used for analysis. Vienna is one that has a lot of dicussion, as you would have a hard time making a Vienna Lager with that water. Turns out there is more than one source.  I think there is a discussion of the Vienna water in "Designing Great Beers".
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Offline richardt

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2012, 11:24:43 AM »
Thanks, Jeff.  I wanted to throw out a "ballpark" number for reference and discussion. 

I knew really water-smart guys like you and Martin would come along and point out the historical inaccuracy and regional- (and seasonal-) lability of such numbers.

So, no chemical or physical way to get sulfates out of the water except by RO or distillation?

Homebrew level:  just use RO water, distilled water, and build your profile.

Professional level:  ?what would be cost-effective?  Solar distillation?

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2012, 11:36:19 AM »
Martin is the pro on water.  I have a little knowledge, mainly forced by my tap water that is loaded with HCO3 to about 362 ppm.

If there is a specific way to remove SO4, we have to wait for Martin to say.

The Pros use industrial sized RO systems.  If you tour Stone they point that unit out, and blend with the tap water. Much of that part of CA gets water from the Colorado River, which is loaded with minerals downriver.  High in SO4 IIRC.  The river flows through some gypsum beds in Utal, I have seen those with my own eyes.
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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2012, 11:38:37 AM »
You have a lot of Ca/Mg as well, so boiling should precipitate out some SO4. Other than testing a sample after boiling, I don't know how you could determine the final concentration though.
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Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2012, 12:04:52 PM »

From  http://www.lenntech.com/sulfates.htm#How%20to%20remove%20the%20sulfate%20from%20your%20water

Quote
There are three types of treatment systems that will remove sulfate from your drinking water: reverse osmosis, distillation, or ion exchange. Carbon filters, water softeners and sediment filters will not remove sulfate.

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Online kramerog

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2012, 12:44:42 PM »
Add calcium or magnesium to precipitate CaSO4 or MgSO4.  There are several drawbacks: 1. you may be adding lots of unwanted cations (Mg(OH)2 (milk of magnesia?) might be good from the point of avoiding unwanted cations)  2. the Ksp for CaSO4 or MgSO4 may be too high to achieve the desired sulfate level  3.  other reasons like real world water chemistry is much more complicated than I think it is.

I'm guessing that if this idea was easy, cheap and better than the alternatives then you're municipal water supply would already do this treatment.
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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2012, 12:47:54 PM »
I'm guessing that if this idea was easy, cheap and better than the alternatives then you're municipal water supply would already do this treatment.

I kind of doubt it. The SO4 level is within EPA standards, so there's no justification for them spending unnecessary money.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2012, 08:47:19 AM »
Sulfate and chloride are very tough to remove and that is the reason they are a big problem in aquatic environments.  I gave a presentation to one of the Indiana wastewater professional organizations last fall on chloride in wastewater and did some research with EPA on the subject.  The problem is that ionic complexes with sulfate or chloride are very soluble and won't drop out of solution if you do something like raise the water pH or drive off CO2.  Those techniques will cause calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide to precipitate, but not calcium sulfate or magnesium sulfate. 

Deionizing columns or RO will work well for stripping sulfate, but they are going to also take out a lot of the other desirable ions too.  At the AB brewery in Jax, they use nanofiltration (a coarse form of RO) to remove some of the ions from the water for brewing use.  The American Lager water profile in Bru'n Water is the product water from the Jax brewery.
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Offline richardt

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2012, 09:07:15 AM »
Thanks everyone.  Martin, I looked it up: 
American Lager water profile (Bru'n Water):  Ca=13, Mg=6, Na=8, SO4=37, Cl=13, HCO3=20.
TH=57, Alkalinity=17, RA=4, SO4/Cl=2.8

What a huge difference from the local water here in Jacksonville.  Nanofiltration looks pretty effective.

Is nanofiltration economically feasible on the homebrewer level?  on the local microbrewery level?  I'd imagine the filters get clogged up pretty quickly ("blinded").  How does AB keep the process cost-effective?  Is flushing/backwashing done to extend filter life?
 
Is nanofiltration "wasteful" like RO systems are?  I've heard one gets 1 gallon of RO water per 8 gallons of regular water.

Anybody know if distilling local water is practicable?  We get a lot of sunshine and warm temps here in Jacksonville, FL.  Any microbreweries or homebrewers already doing this?

Offline ccfoo242

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2012, 09:18:08 AM »
I guess it depends on your budget  :P
http://www.buy.com/pr/product.aspx?sku=225813345&sellerid=28773273
[edit found it cheaper]

http://www.airwater.biz/chanson_water_nano_filtration_system_nano_filter_3758_prd1.htm
$500


Chanson Water Filter - Water Nano-Filtration System - Nano filter
Presenting the Chanson Nano Filter with Chemical -Free filtration (No use of salt). This unit gives a low cost of operation and low energy cost with lower discharge and waste water. It has a 95 per cent heavy metals removal, up to 70 per cent water hardness/TDS reduction with virus, bacteria, VOC's and pesticides removal. It also reduces nitrates, sulfides, salt content and removes up to 80% fluoride. This unit is ideal for municipal water supply, well water, river and rain water while it can also be used to process sea water or in times of disaster as water never needs to be boiled. The Nano pre-filters can be customized to address your specific water issues.
Chanson Water Nano-Filtration System Nano filter Specifications
Input Power   110 V
Power Consumption   33 Watts max.
Water Pressure   5 - 90 PSI
Flow Rate   1 Ltr Per Minute
Flow Rate with Ionizer   3/4 Liter Per Minute
Maximum Gallons Per Day   250
Unit Dimensions   7.5" D x 14" W x 18" H
Box Dimensions   16" L x 10" W x 23" H
Box Weight   33 Lbs
Chanson Water Nano-Filtration System Nano filter Features:
Low cost of operation
Low energy cost
Up to 500% lower discharge and waste water than typical Reverse Osmosis systems.
Reduction of Heavy Metals (removes 95%)
Reduction of water hardness/TDS up to 70%
Reduction/ Removal virus', bacteria, VOC's, and Pesticides.
Reduction of Nitrates and Sulfides
Reduction of the salt content (brackish water).
Chemical -Free filtration (No use of salt)
pH of the water can be altered for better health.
Ideal for municipal water supply, well water, river and rain water.
Removes Iron, Lime and other problem causing chemicals often neglected by water softeners.
Removes up to 80% fluoride.
Can be used in times of disaster and water never needs to be boiled.
Can be used to process Sea water
Nano prefilters can be customized to address your specific water issues.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2012, 09:24:42 AM by ccfoo242 »

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Offline mabrungard

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2012, 02:35:00 PM »
Since we brewers don't really want to strip the majority of the ions from our tap water, nanofiltration provides several advantages over RO.  First, nano is a form of membrane separation, just like RO.  Its just that the membranes have larger pores that let more of the ions through.  It requires lower pressures to drive the water through the membrane and there is less reject water produced.  So its more efficient through several venues. 

Only the commerial scale RO and nano units I deal with use pumps to drive the water through the membranes.  Home units operate only at low pressure.  That is one reason that home units are less efficient.  Another reason is that we brewers can't really obtain nano membrane cartridges for the typical home unit.  (Although I think I might have seen some on the web recently.)   The unit that Steve points out above is a little much for the typical home user, but it would be quite suitable if you had the coin. 

Commercial units are acid washed to clean the membranes, but home units don't have that capability.  You just replace the cartridge about every year.   
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2012, 06:39:02 AM »
What a huge difference from the local water here in Jacksonville.  Nanofiltration looks pretty effective.

Is nanofiltration economically feasible on the homebrewer level?  on the local microbrewery level?  I'd imagine the filters get clogged up pretty quickly ("blinded").  How does AB keep the process cost-effective?  Is flushing/backwashing done to extend filter life?
 
Is nanofiltration "wasteful" like RO systems are?  I've heard one gets 1 gallon of RO water per 8 gallons of regular water.

Anybody know if distilling local water is practicable?  We get a lot of sunshine and warm temps here in Jacksonville, FL.  Any microbreweries or homebrewers already doing this?

The wastewater generated by filtration can be put to good use, so its not necessarily waste. Use it for cleaning. Most commercial RO units use their waste water for cleaning water, cooling tower makeup, irrigation, etc. (Martin - could you use the concentrate for making sanitizing solution?)

The payback on buying an advanced water treatment vs diluting with Drinking/Distilled water all depends on your batch size and how often you brew.

Look at how much water you would need to buy per brew session. Compare that to the cost of the purchase and upkeep of a treatment unit (replacement filters, including upstream charcoal filters and water/sewer costs). How many brewdays would it take you to pay off the unit? Does it become economical after that?

If those numbers don't favor buying the unit, is it favorable ENOUGH to get rid of the hassle of buying water before every brewday?

Its not that a nanofiltration unit is out of the homebrewer's reach or too complicated - its whether it actually pays to do it.
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Offline nateo

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Re: Lowering or eliminating high sulfate levels in local water
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2012, 06:46:53 AM »
Look at how much water you would need to buy per brew session. Compare that to the cost of the purchase and upkeep of a treatment unit (replacement filters, including upstream charcoal filters and water/sewer costs). How many brewdays would it take you to pay off the unit? Does it become economical after that?

If those numbers don't favor buying the unit, is it favorable ENOUGH to get rid of the hassle of buying water before every brewday?

Its not that a nanofiltration unit is out of the homebrewer's reach or too complicated - its whether it actually pays to do it.

I think that's a really good point. Crunching some of those numbers led me to the conclusion that an RO system wasn't the best course for me. My water was pretty easily "fixed" though, as I have insanely high temporary hardness, and basically no permanent hardness.

I have seen some of the more "survivalist" types make brackish water distillers out of plexiglass over a tub, some sort of black coating to absorb sunlight, and a gutter to catch the water as it condenses and drips down the plexiglass. They call it "passive solar distillation" IIRC.
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