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A journey through a water cleaning plant in Brazil

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About an hour drive outside of the packed streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and into the sprawling Sorocaba region, GE has quietly been leading the way on clean water technology. There at GE’s Brazilian water filtration plant, the company develops mobile (containerized) water reverse osmosis machines, and also mixes chemicals in huge vats for water treatment applications, and cleans waste water in a large outdoor pit.

All of the above processes at the Sorocaba plant are used to clean water for industrial applications, not for human consumption. But similar principles could apply for cleaning drinking water. The type of industrial applications that GE commonly sells some of its clean water tech to include the sugar cane ethanol industry in Brazil, which uses processed water for cooling, pretreatment and for the ethanol mix itself.

GE’s Brazilian site manager Geraldo Menezes says that GE can assemble and ship the containerized mobile filter water device in days to industrial companies that have an urgent need to use clean water. GE’s customers rent the equipment on a weekly basis and GE has a handful of them ready to ship at all times to different parts of Latin America.

Reverse osmosis water cleaning works by pushing water through membranes at a high pressure, which captures all the contaminants, particles and salts from the water. The water that comes out of GE’s mobile unit is far too pure to drink, and would actually make you sick, says Menezes.

The one part of the tour I couldn’t take photos of was the chemical focused part of the plant, where the GE workers mix raw materials to make chemicals that can be used for water treatment. These types of chemicals could be used for ethanol production for cooling towers and the pretreatment process. Because the chemicals are flammable, cell phones and electronics are not allowed near them.

10 Responses to “A journey through a water cleaning plant in Brazil”

  1. Water Industry Professional

    That is an urban myth that RO permeate is too clean to drink…there are quite a few bottled water brands on the shelf with less than 10 mg/L TDS…troubling to see someone within the industry perpetuating that statement.

  2. Ski Sullivan

    Katie this was a good look into GE’s efforts but didn’t give me enough info to actually see how this is affecting their industrial processes or resources in the region. I know you’re limited in word count but are you going to finish this report in subsequent posts? Obviously a touchpoint in this report was the “too pure to drink” realization. However, with no substantiation or fleshing out of this revelation it just creates more questions and very little satisfaction for the reader. Is there more to this report (series)?

    • Water Industry Professional

      Ski, the assertion that RO permeate is too clean to drink is flat-out wrong. Starting with raw water with a total dissolved solids level of 300 mg/L, and if the RO membranes reject 99% of the ions in the water, you will have a solids level in the permeate/product stream of 9 mg/L. If you’ve ever had Aquafina bottled water, you have consumed water of this salt level (or lower), and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this water. Just trying to keep this fact-based…

  3. Roland

    There is a type of de-ionized water that is used especially in microchip processing that is too pure to drink. It will cause your digestive tract to give up essential ions. I learned that while reading about chip processing in Arizona. Weird but true.

  4. Capitalist Desi

    Can water be “too pure to drink”? I doubt.
    Distilled water is the purest water and it is definitely so pure that it can make you sick.