Board of Water and Power Commissioners Recognizes
|LOS ANGELES — Affirming the Department’s commitment to water quality, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners today recognized Dr. Brian N. White, a veteran Department biologist, for his discovery and development of a groundbreaking new water treatment application that utilizes blacklights to prevent nitrification in covered storage facilities.
Pointing to a major advancement in water treatment, Dr. White’s efforts to battle nitrification with blacklights appeared as the feature story in the February 2010 issue of Opflow, a monthly publication of the American Water Works Association that provides practical ideas for water operators.
Dr. White’s discovery addresses a problem that has long vexed water providers – preventing water quality from degrading in systems which use covered storage and chloramine disinfectant – a biological process known as nitrification. This challenge exists primarily with water that LADWP purchases from the Metropolitan Water District. However, as LADWP continues to switch gradually from chlorine to chloramines to disinfect the water served to our customers, Dr. White’s innovation could potentially result in substantial savings for the Department. During nitrification, ammonia converts to nitrite and subsequently converts nitrite into nitrate—this can rapidly degrade water quality and, until now, had no known method for prevention. With the knowledge that bacteria involved in the nitrification process are sensitive to low-intensity ultraviolet light (UVA,) Dr. White went on to test the idea that black lights could provide enough UVA to prevent nitrification from occurring. The pilot test results have thus far been encouraging and indicative of a significant scientific breakthrough for the water industry.
“Dr. Brian White has been a key figure behind our water quality efforts for 25 years,” said Lee Kanon Alpert, President of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. “His blacklight discovery is vital to the Department’s future operations as chloramine and covered reservoirs increasingly become our new reality. His discovery will benefit not only this Department but our society as a whole. We applaud and thank Dr. White for his ingenuity.”
This is the first such breakthrough of its kind, providing a practical and safe method for nitrification prevention occurring in covered water storage facilities. Until now, methods to protect against nitrification required labor-intensive spot treatments to restore water quality in facilities that had begun to nitrify. Dr. White’s discovery allows LADWP to fight nitrification before it begins.
While working to patent this new technological solution, Dr. White’s investigation and research into the utilization of light as a water treatment tool will continue at the Subaquatic Inhibiting-Light Observatory (SILO), which is currently under construction at the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant. The SILO will contain four 17,000-gallon covered tanks plumbed with chlorinated and chloraminated water. This facility will make it possible to test the use of different wavelengths, intensities and periods of exposure against variations in water flow, temperature and disinfectant.
Dr. White is no stranger to the world of invention. He previously discovered, developed, tested and oversaw the LADWP implementation of the shade ball application, wherein four-inch, hollow, black plastic balls are used to prevent the formation of bromate in open-air reservoirs. In 2008, millions of shade balls were place on Elysian and Ivanhoe Reservoirs to create a temporary floating cover and shade the water surfaces. The practice, the first-ever in an American drinking water system, has been confirmed as 100% effective.