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Six exposed to treatment chemical at United Water Haworth plant, all OK

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

UPDATE: Squads of firefighters, hazardous materials experts and ambulances descended on the United Water treatment plant in Haworth in response to the exposure of six employees to ozone gas, a potentially toxic water-purifying chemical.

“All six have refused medical assistance at this time,” Haworth Lt. Michael Gracey told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

“Our emergency protocols were immediately put into effect and we were able to contain the incident rapidly, thanks to our conscientious personnel,” United Water Vice-President and General Manager Jim Glozzy said in a statement.

Ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent widely used to remove bacteria and other pathogens from water. Unlike chlorine, it doesn’t leave behind a taste or odor or any residual disinfectant.

A $100 million upgrade to the Haworth facility in 2009 created one of the largest and most modern ozone facilities in the country. It is capable of pumping up to 200 million gallons of water a day through 2,000 miles of mains to 800,000 residents of Bergen and Hudson counties, according to United Water.

Among those responding to the on Lake Shore Drive facility:

Haworth firefighters and EMS
Demarest firefighters and EMS
New Milford firefighters and hazardous materials unit
Bergen County Hazardous Materials Unit
Oradell’s tower ladder truck

Oradell firefighters were also on standby covering New Milford and parts of Haworth.

Yahoo! offers this layman’s explanation of ozone:

What is Ozone in Relation to Water Purification?

You may have noticed that a sudden summer storm leaves behind a very distinct smell, sort of a “fresh scent” which lasts for about an hour. In this case, you smell Ozone, which has been creating from lighting bolts during the electrical storm. Ozone is also created by the Sun’s ultra violet rays.

Ozone – or O3 – is Mother Nature’s purifier and disinfectant. The 3 stands for the three oxygen atoms that compose Ozone. The normal Oxygen we breathe is called O2, and is made up of only two chemically linked Oxygen atoms.

How Does Ozone Kill Germs and Bacteria to Purify Water?

As mentioned above, Ozone is made up of three Oxygen atoms. Once of these has a weak hold on the others, and is more than willing to transfer electrons with other organic substances, such as bacteria, and viruses. This single Oxygen atoms binds with the other substance, causing it to oxidize (turn into something else. Rust is an example of Iron oxidizing into Iron Oxide). The byproduct of Oxidation in this case is simply O – a single Oxygen atom.

How Do Ozonation Water Purifiers Make Ozone?

Ozonation water purification systems create Ozone with something called an Ozone Generator, which creates O3 in much the same way as the sun does. Inside ozone generator’s chamber is a high intensity Ultraviolet (UV) light. Compressed air is forced into the generator’s chamber, which then converts some of the oxygen in the air into Ozone. This process is part of the reason why the layer of Ozone in the Earth’s upper atmosphere protects us from most of the harmful UV rays emanating from our Sun.

The Ozone that has now been created inside the Ozone generator is then sent through a line into a diffuser, which creates ozone-saturated bubbles. Water is drawn in to mix with the bubbles, and then fed into the water purification tank. The weak Oxygen molecule in the Ozone attaches to other organic molecules in the water and oxidizing them. In effect – the Ozone “eat’s ’em up” and viola! Clean, fresh, purified drinking water.


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