Water purification plant: the importance of regular maintenance

Water purification plant: the importance of regular maintenance

Nobody would doubt the importance of regularly servicing and maintaining water purification systems. This is especially true for those used in healthcare areas such as renal dialysis, sterile services and decontamination.

Yet, when times are busy, or budgets are under pressure and cost-cutting is the order of the day, it’s all too easy to forget about or delay maintenance.

While it’s understandable, this approach simply stores up problems for the future. For example, most water purification systems will include in-line filters that are designed to remove particulate matter from the water flow. Over time, these will become clogged, reducing their efficiency and, in extreme circumstances, affecting water flow speed and pressure. Similarly, ion exchange filters have to be regenerated at regular intervals to avoid the build-up of scale in downstream equipment, while activated Carbon filters must be replenished with fresh Carbon to avoid damage to reverse osmosis membranes. 

Ultimately, delayed or incorrect maintenance of water purification systems will affect the system itself, leading to poor performance and a shorter operating life. It will also have an effect on the services that depend on the system.

Service contracts: the easy option
The simplest solution for all clients that rely on a consistent supply of purified water is to outsource the service and maintenance of equipment to a specialised supplier. In many instances, this will be the original manufacturer.

The advantage of this approach is that, with the correct service level agreements (SLAs) in place, you can almost forget about the need to maintain your water purification system for as long as the service contract lasts. Your supplier should be able to schedule routine maintenance for a period when the system is idle, normally weekends, or where full redundancy is installed can service one half of a duplex system while the other half continues to function.

One point that should be considered, however, is that not all manufacturers of water purification systems are set up to provide both routine and emergency service cover; indeed, some manufacturers may not offer maintenance services and will sub-contract this work out to a third party.

Even those suppliers that do offer maintenance services may not always provide the level of support expected. For example, it’s not uncommon to hear Estates or Facilities staff complain about poor levels of support from their service suppliers, with slow response to call-outs, or service engineers with limited knowledge and experience of the water purification system or the application itself.  This is why the choice of supplier and the use of SLA’s are crucial.

Emergency call-out
Perhaps the greatest number of complaints relate to emergency call-outs. If part of a water purification system fails unexpectedly, and the system goes off-line, this will have an immediate impact on the ability of a hospital department to provide patient care, (although most systems will have purified water storage tanks, these are usually only sufficient to support a few hours of continued operation).

A good service provider will offer 24/7 cover. In many instances, problems can be resolved remotely, either over the phone or, where it exists, through remote access over a wireless network. In some cases, the only solution is to get an engineer on-site as quickly as possible. This is where a nationwide network of service engineers is crucial, to enable an expert to be on-site and working before the disruption to the supply of purified water becomes a bigger problem. Equally important is for the service engineers to carry – or have fast access to – a stock of critical parts, to minimise delays to repair work.

Regular maintenance minimises emergencies
It should be noted that although modern water purification systems are often highly complex, they are also extremely reliable. Levels of reliability will inevitably be improved still further through the simple expedient of carrying out maintenance at the recommended intervals.

In essence, regular maintenance of your water purification system will reduce the risk of a problem occurring. It will also reduce operating costs and extend the service life, often far in excess of the intended working life of the system; for example, we have equipment that is still working efficiently after 15 or 20 years, despite an initial design life of around 10 years.

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