Water contamination warning

Dave Broxton, managing director of Bohle, warns that glass processors could face potentially crippling fines if they’re found to have polluted water systems.  

In March, Thames Water was fined a record £20.4 million for polluting the River Thames with 1.4 billion litres of raw sewage. The company allowed huge amounts of untreated effluent to enter the waterway in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire in 2013 and 2014, leaving people and animals ill, and killing thousands of fish.

The presiding judge handed down a fine of £20,361,140 – the largest penalty for a water utility for an environmental disaster, describing the breach as “shocking and disgraceful”, adding that it shouldn’t be “cheaper to offend than to take appropriate precautions”.

Thames Water is, however, just the tip of the iceberg. Fines may not run into their millions but there are still hundreds of prosecutions each year in the UK for smaller breaches of environmental legislation, including those governing waste water.

Therefore, how you manage waste water should be a priority for every glass processor. And it’s not just about the environment. Time lost to production in cleaning machinery and in disposal of dirty coolant, can add up. It can also have a massive impact on product quality and the service-life of tooling.

Clean cooling water increases the performance of machinery by up to 20% and the service life of tools by up to 30% – but it can all too easily become contaminated with particles from drilling, polishing and grinding.   

As an indication of how much time glass processors could be losing – or gaining – we have customers who have recently installed our Sedimentor coolant cleaning system, and who have added a day’s production per week to their schedule through efficiency savings.

Suitable for elementary to chain-linked, double-sided straight line edgers, we manufacture and supply three different sedimentors: the 2.4, which has a filling quantity of 2100 litres; the 1.0, (1,000 litres); and the 0.3, which has a filling capacity of 320 litres.  

The fully automated system uses a sophisticated multi-stage process to pump water, first into a settling tank, removing around 70% of heavier glass particles from coolant.

Powdered flocculant is added, and mixed using a programme of agitation, which then bonds to the remaining glass particles, making them sink.

At the end of the cleaning process, a valve at the floor of the tank opens and the accumulated sludge is flushed into a filter bag by the water pressure. This leaves the cleaned cooling water ready to be returned into the cooling circuit.

This means that sedimentors will support most glass processors in trimming around 10% off the costs of machinery cleaning and associated downtime.

Paying for itself in as little as a year, the benefits are immediately tangible in the form of better quality finishing, improved tool life and lower maintenance costs.

The impact that this can have on your profitability as a glass processor, plus savings in water disposal and downtime, can make an incredible contribution to your bottom line.  

The record fine faced by Thames Water is a shot across the bow for industry more widely. Environmental pollution is unacceptable and breaches face very substantial penalties.

The rationale for running the risk simply doesn’t make sense when dirty water also impacts so significantly on product quality and efficiency.