Ozone for Water Purification

Ozone in Water Treatment - Basics

Key Points:

  • Ozone has been in use for 150 years.
  • Ozone has to be made on site, it can’t be stored or bottled.
  • Ozone kills bacteria and viruses, also disassembles large organic pollutant molecules
  • Ozone is more powerful than chlorine Chlorine is toxic and leaves toxic byproducts in the water while ozone does not.

Ozone (O3) is an altered, energized form of Oxygen (O2). The oxygen in the air that you are breathing right now is only two atoms of oxygen attached together, which is the reason why you see it written “O2”. When Oxygen (O2) is exposed to an energy field, high speed collisions occur due to the energizing of the oxygen (O2). During these collisions, some of the O2 molecules are split apart, and become Ozone (O3). Ozone, is simply three atoms of oxygen attached together. It might seem that because Ozone is 3 atoms of oxygen and “Oxygen” is two atoms of oxygen attached together, that ozone would behave more or less the same as ‘oxygen’. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is ozone’s differences from ambient ‘oxygen’ (O2) that make it so useful for water purification, air purification, and so many other uses.

Ozone is an extremely powerful ‘oxidant’. What is an oxidant? To keep this article simple and relatively free of complex chemistry it is best to simply describe an oxidant as something that can disassemble or destroy complex molecules. The most common ‘oxidant’ that you have likely heard of before is Chlorine. Chlorine is used in water purification because it kills bacteria and viruses, and also destroys complex chemical molecules that would otherwise be harmful if you drank them in your water. That is the good part about chlorine. However, chlorine itself has been found to cause cancer. More importantly, when chlorine combines with complex organic molecules (such as those found in drinking water that has not yet been treated) and destroys them, the byproducts that are formed are even more toxic (carcinogenic or ‘cancer causing’) than the chlorine itself. These byproducts of chlorinating the water are called THM’s or “TriHaloMethanes”.

So why is chlorine used for water purification? Because it is easy to apply to the water, is relatively inexpensive, kills pathogens in the water (disease causing organisms), and destroys complex chemicals in the water. This all sounds fantastic until you remember the information in the paragraph above, that chlorine itself is cancer causing, as are the THM’s that remain in the water after the chlorine has been applied. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a non-toxic agent (oxidant) that could purify water, that would also leave the water pure and contaminant free, with no toxic byproducts? We have! Ozone.

Ozone is 35 times more powerful than chlorine and can kill pathogens (harmful organisms) is seconds rather than minutes. Ozone was discovered in 1840 and by the 1890’s was recognized as a safe and effective oxidizing agent for water purification. Ozone was found to be so safe that all major cities in Europe use ozone for primary disinfection of their water supply. Most of these cities began using ozone for water purification in the 1800’s and continue to this day.

Ozone is highly unstable and reactive. This means that even if it doesn’t run into any contaminants in water or air it will automatically revert back to oxygen (O2). So, ozone needs to be made on site, at the time that it is going to be applied to the water to purify the water. It can’t be stored for long periods of time. In fact, if you make ozone right now, and save it in a glass bottle, only half of that ozone will remain in the bottle after 30 minutes. Where did it go? It didn’t really ‘go’ anywhere, the O3 molecules simply fell apart back into O2 molecules. Since it needs to be made on site and at the time of application, this is the reason anyone wishing to use ozone for water purification can’t buy ozone. Instead, you need to buy a machine that makes ozone, called an ‘ozone generator’.

Ozone itself is non-toxic, and when it reacts with organic molecules in the water there are no toxic byproducts, just pure clean water safe for drinking, and for swimming pools. At the present time there are almost 300 cities in the USA using ozone for water purification. Some of them are:

  • Dallas
  • Orlando
  • Raleigh
  • Seattle
  • Tucson
  • Los Angeles

Why isn’t your city using ozone for water purification for drinking water and swimming pools? Given the toxicity of chlorine and the safety of ozone, that is a question you need to be asking your city counselors.

If you would like to Ozonate your own water, please read the accompanying article ‘Ozone Generators for Water Purification’.

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