Volume 1, Number 8
eMDE is a monthly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. Additional monthly features include: MDE public meetings and hearings schedule, enforcement and compliance notes, and permitting activity.
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The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), in partnership with the Maryland Technology Extension Service (MTES), sponsors a pollution prevention intern program. The program has been successful in placing engineering students with manufacturers to identify and implement cost-saving waste reduction opportunities.
Edgewood-based Alcore Corporation, producer of aerospace-grade aluminum honeycomb products, was looking for ways to reduce phosphorous—an environmental pollutant—from its wastewater. They contacted Paul Gietka, Manager of the Environmental Engineering Program at MTES, who then recruited Matthew Hafner, an undergraduate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Maryland, as an intern for the summer of 2004. Pollution prevention (P2) interns are closely supervised by Gietka and supported by faculty at the University of Maryland.
Honeycomb Core Manufacturing
Honeycomb core manufacturing starts with an aluminum foil anodizing process to develop an aluminum oxide surface coating. This process involves passing the aluminum foil through a series of baths, one of which contains phosphoric acid. That acid breaks down the foil surface, allowing aluminum and water to form an aluminum oxide film on the metal. Phosphorus enters the waste stream from the rinse cycle, and the residual is carried over. Periodic additions of water and phosphoric acid are required to maintain bath concentration levels.
Harford County Growth Spurs Consideration of Solutions
The Sod Run Wastewater Treatment Plant contacted several industries in 2002 about the phosphorous content in their wastewater. Their service area in Harford County is growing rapidly and the treatment plant’s ability to stay within their discharge permit limits could potentially limit future growth in the area. Alcore was included in this notice and chose to look at their options for reducing phosphorus discharges. P2 Intern Matt Hafner’s task was to examine possible methods to reduce the phosphoric wastewater levels created in the anodizing process. Ray Levesque, R&D Manager at Alcore, and Jamie Barnett, Manufacturing Engineer, guided Matt’s efforts while in the plant and allowed him to tap into their extensive knowledge of the anodizing process.
“The problem is aluminum builds up in the bath,” said Gietka, “so you have to dump part of it, which also discharges phosphorus in the wastewater. By re-using the bath, it reduces the amount you have to dump.”
Ion Exchange Would Cut Phosphorous Use by 75 Percent
Hafner estimated Alcore could save as much as $37,000 per year using the ion exchange system. Water usage would be reduced by 23,000 gallons per year, with an annual cost savings of $100. Over $1,100 would be saved each year on the phosphorous surcharge, as less acid would be carried over into the wastewater. The largest savings would come from phosphoric acid usage, which could be cut by 75 percent per year, at a $36,000 annual savings. Hafner also solicited budgetary quotes for ion exchange systems that put the cost in the $50,000 range. Additional costs for installation, operation and maintenance would depend upon the system selected, but a return on investment could be expected within roughly two years.
Restrictions on the allowable phosphorus concentration in the wastewater might also become mandatory in the future. “Aluminum ion removal is a proactive solution,” said Levesque. “Further restrictions on phosphorous discharges are likely, and Alcore now has a much better understanding of the capital expenditures they will be facing and now has a viable option”.
Dr. Allen Davis, Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, has been instrumental in the success of this program. He assists MTES with identifying and recruiting candidates for the program, providing technical assistance with the selection and evaluation of appropriate technologies, and editing the report.
Other companies who have benefited from the MDE/MTES Pollution Prevention Intern Program are Baltimore-based Rhodia and Victor Graphics, Cambridge-based Airpax, College Park-based Stone Industrial and two other Harford County based firms, Automated Coatings and General Die Finishing.
MDE is pleased to announce that it will be offering the Pollution Prevention Intern Program again for the summer of 2006. Interested companies should contact MDE Pollution Prevention Coordinator Laura Armstrong at 410-537-4119 for further information.
Alcore has been a member of Businesses for the Bay since 1998.
To join Businesses for the Bay, call 1-800-YOURBAY, ext. 719, or visit
www.b4bay.org. To see previous Businesses for the Bay member spotlights, go to
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