Ford puts big money into water treatment

Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa is investing R21 million in a new wastewater treatment plant to facilitate the manufacturing of the all-new Ranger at its Silverton assembly plant.

Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies SA has been contracted to design, supply and install the new plant, which will incorporate the first “ContiFilt” sand filtration system to be installed locally. ContiFilt technology involves continuously regenerated sand filtration, as opposed to the classic sand filtration with periodic backwash sequence (and related downtime).

“The introduction of the all-new Ranger has been a transformational task for Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa,” says Peter Lawson, the company’s vice president of operations. “We’ve had to look at every aspect of the manufacturing process in order to ensure that we have implemented world-class processes at every step.”

The decade-old wastewater treatment plant used to treat water before it ended up at the Tshwane Sewage Works is unable to handle the new capacity and meet municipal requirements. With water recycling a key focus for Ford, an environmental impact assessment was done. It led to a recommendation that further treatment of the effluent be done to ensure compliance with municipal by-laws.

“We looked into the possibility of upgrading the existing water plant,” says Lawson, “but it was decided that it would be more cost-effective to rather decommission the old plant and construct a new plant boasting the latest technology.”

While used process water will be routed to the old wastewater treatment plant via an underground effluent pipe network, a new tie-in will connect the effluent network to the new plant. An existing water purification plant adjacent to both the old and new plants will be used to further purify the treated water for use within the company’s manufacturing processes.

The input quality from the old plant meant only seven percent of the water could be successfully purified and re-used in selected processes. With the higher quality water expected from the new plant, recycled water can now be considered for previously sensitive operations. An immediate increase, more than doubling the amount of recyclable water to up to 15 percent, is expected without upgrades to the purification plant.

This system will allow for the purification of water for industrial use, but future projects, as implemented at other Ford facilities around the globe, could allow for the use of recycled water for day-to-day human use. This would see the use of recycled water increase by as much as 40 percent. However, because of the complexities involved in ensuring that all health and safety aspects are taken into account, this will only be considered at a later date.

“While it is imperative for us to build a world-class product, we have a responsibility to the environment and the community to ensure that we do so without impacting on our surroundings,” says Lawson.

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