- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 5 Oct 2000, p. 99-111
- Vander Laan, Hank, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The safety of our drinking water. An overview of the issues countries face to ensure that safe and adequate drinking water is available. Water-protedction strategies currently used here and in other countries. The leading-edge water-treatment tedchnologies that have been developed in Canada. An illustration of the urgency of the water crisis with some alarming statistics. Protecting the earth's water resources as not only a business but a passion for the speaker. Some personal reminiscences. Trjoan Technologies' focus on developing leading-edge envirohnmental technology for the disinfection of water through ultraviolet light. The speaker's vision. The importance of research, engineering excellence and quality manufacturing. The unavoidable fact that the earth is running out of fresh water. Canada's fresh water resources. Disparate usage of water in different countries. The depletion of the water table. The work of the United Nations and the World Bank through World Water Vision. Recommendations. The need for political will and for us to change our behaviour. The significant role now played by the water treatment industry to improve global health. The treatment needed in three different types of water that we use. No one perfect solution for water treatment. Disinfecting drinking water supply systems. Two very serious concerns about the widespread use of chlorine as the sole disinfectant for water, with a discussion of each. Alternatives. A discussion of the use of ultraviolet light. A brief discussion of the experi4ences and strategies used by municipalities and countries around the globe to ensure safe water for their populations. How our wastewater is treated before it is discharged into our local streams, rivers and lakes. The reuse of wastewater. Lessons to be learned in terms of quality control for our drinking-water supplies. A consideration of the cost of drinking bottled water. Our choice. Applauding the Ontario Provincial Ministry of the Environment for the work they have done to improve the security of our provincial water supply. Encouraging the Provincial Ministry to follow the U.S. EPA's approach in establishing a multi-barrier strategy as well. Remaining ever-conscious of our need to protect our drinking water supplies through good stewardship, source protection and innovative and environmentally friendly technologies including world-leading technologies.
- Date of Original
- 5 Oct 2000
- Language of Item
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- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Fairmont Royal York Hotel
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- Full Text
Hank Vander Laan
President and Chief Executive Officer, Trojan Technologies Inc.
HOW SAFE IS YOUR WATER?
Chairman: Catherine Steele
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Col. Frederic L.R. Jackman, CSt.J. Ph.D., LL.D., President, Invicta Investments Inc. and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Garth Archibald, Student, Parkdale Collegiate Institute; Grant Kerr, Pastoral Staff, St. Paul's United Church, Brampton; Ned Macaulay, Marketing Consultant and Venture Capital Investor, Macaulay Marketing and Director, Trojan Technologies Inc. Board of Directors; Anthony F. Griffiths, Director, Trojan Technologies Inc. Board of Directors; William D. Laidlaw, CEO and Executive Director, St. John Council for Ontario and First Vice-President and President-Elect, The Empire Club of Canada; John Kaime, President and CEO, London Economic Development Corporation; and Forbes West, Senior Vice-President, Financial Communications, Hill & Knowlton.
Introduction by Catherine Steele
It is my privilege to welcome our guest speaker, Hank Vander Lann, President and Chief Executive Officer, Trojan Technologies Inc. When we made arrangements last spring for Mr. Vander Laan to speak to the Empire Club, I must admit I wondered what our guest speaker would say. I mean what could possibly be new about water.
Then in May came Walkerton and the events there made many of us re-think our everyday routine of going to the tap to get clean water. Suddenly, doubts and questions popped up over a commodity to which most of us never give a second thought.
Clean water and ensuring that the events in Walkerton are not repeated anywhere is now very topical. Not just in Ontario but across the country.
For our guest speaker today, water is what his company is all about. Trojan Technologies Inc. is a Canadian-based high-technology environmental company that operates internationally. With more than 20 years experience, Trojan has the largest installed base of disinfection systems operating around the world. The company specialises in the design, manufacture and sale of ultraviolet disinfection systems for municipal waste water. In addition, Trojan designs and sells drinking water systems for residential, municipal and commercial use.
In 1992, Trojan received the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Business Achievement Award. In 1993, Trojan became a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange, and in 1997, the company received the Financial Post Environmental Technical Gold Award. The company was recently awarded the Outstanding Production Achievement Award for its system uv4000 wastewater technology system by the Canadian Advanced Technology Association. They are a Canadian success story.
Our guest speaker, Hank Vander Laan founded Trojan Technologies in 1977 and is the President and Chief Executive Officer. A long-time resident of London he has previously held senior management positions in Cable television operations. He received his education from the University of Western Ontario.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Hank Vander Laan to The Empire Club of Canada.
Hank Vander Laan
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and thank you for your warm welcome. I first want to thank the Empire Club for inviting me to speak to you today. Speaking to you is certainly an honour. It is my hope that through this presentation you will learn more about a subject that I am very passionate about-a topic that has recently become a serious concern among many Canadians. That is the safety of our drinking water.
In my presentation today, I will provide you with an overview of the issues countries face to ensure that safe and adequate drinking water is available. I will discuss the various water-protection strategies currently used here and in other countries. I will introduce you to the leading-edge, water-treatment technologies that have been developed here in Canada.
Let me illustrate the urgency of the water crisis with some alarming statistics.
Globally 30,000 people die each day from drinking contaminated water. In low-income countries worldwide, 1.5 to two billion people do not have access to a reliable supply of safe drinking water. These countries may be more appropriately referred to as ""Thirst World"" countries.
In his recent book on water, Marq de Villiers, stated that ""...a child dies every eight seconds from drinking contaminated water."" It is disturbing to think that in the short time it takes me to speak here today, 150 children around the world will have died from waterborne disease. Protecting the earth's water resources is a necessity; for me it is a passion-not only a business.
I remember when I was a boy growing up on a farm just outside London, Ontario, my mother would pour chlorine or Javex into our well to ensure our water was safe to drink-a practice that continues to happen today in many homes with private wells. These memories raised my awareness of the need for more reliable and advanced disinfection methods when I began Trojan Technologies in 1977.
Trojan Technologies is entirely focussed on developing leading-edge environmental technology for the disinfection of water through ultraviolet light. Employing over 300 staff, we are based in London Ontario and have offices in California, England and Holland with additional sales and service personnel in Australia, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
It is my vision to make the world a safer, cleaner and healthier place for future generations. We can create lasting solutions to environmental problems through focussed research, engineering excellence and quality manufacturing. For over 20 years we have seen the many problems and have provided the solutions to hundreds of municipalities all around the world.
We are all confronted by one unavoidable fact: the earth is running out of fresh water. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population growth. About one-third of the world's population is now living under moderate or severe water stress. This is expected to increase to two-thirds by 2025 when the world will need fresh water to support an additional two billion people.
As Marq de Villiers wrote, ""The trouble with water is that they're not making any more of it. There is the same amount of water on the planet now as there was in prehistoric times."" The amount of water on this earth is fixed; it is not being created or removed. It is contained as atmospheric moisture, oceans, rivers, lakes, groundwater, subterranean aquifers, polar icecaps and saturated soil, tundra or wetlands. Water is transferred from one of these reservoirs to another by the action of solar energy and by gravity. The majority of the earth's surface consists of the oceans and more water evaporates from the oceans than returns to them as rain or snow. The balance falls on the land--which is fresh water--and it is this balance that makes all terrestrial life possible. Less than 1 per cent of the earth's fresh water is available to support life. It is this supply that is currently in use, is being reused or is being polluted.
DeVilliers expresses this very clearly when he states that if all of the earth's water were placed in a five-litre container, the amount that is available to support life is less than one teaspoon.
Canadians are very fortunate as about one-tenth of this available water is located in Canada-a country with only 0.5 per cent of the world's population.
Each Canadian uses an average of 350 litres of water per day while Americans use 425 litres per day, making North Americans the highest per-capita consumers of water in the world. Yet, a person really only needs 80 litres of water per day to maintain a reasonable quality of life.
In Mexico City, home to over 20 million residents, unsustainable pumping of local groundwater has caused parts of the city to subside nearly 20 metres. As a result, water must be brought in from a distance of 300 kilometres. Our water table, even here in Ontario, is being depleted.
As the world population and the demands on our water resources continue to grow, the importance of water conservation and reuse through innovative technologies becomes increasingly important.
The United Nations and the World Bank have been well aware of the crisis looming before us. In their work with World Water Vision, recommendations have been made to ensure water resources are sustainable in the 21st century. Some of the recommendations include the need for governments to act as enablers providing effective and transparent regulatory frameworks for private action. They also recommended that water be viewed as a commodity with full-cost pricing and targeted subsidies for the poor. These recommendations will not be implemented unless political will is mobilised and we all change our behaviour.
The water treatment industry now plays a significant role in contributing to improved global health.
Treatment is needed in three different types of water that we use: our drinking water, the wastewater or sewage that we produce and the process water used in industries and agriculture. Disinfection is one of the most important treatment processes in each of these applications. Some of the world's leading advances in water disinfection technology exists right here in Ontario.
For drinking water, the treatment choice for each municipality depends on a number of factors that are site-specific. Adjustments are made depending on the raw water quality. These factors include the turbidity levels or the amount of particles in the water, the water temperature and pH level as well as the number and types of micro-organisms that exist in the water.
There is no one perfect solution for water treatment. We saw that in the case of Walkerton where bacteria counts exceeded normal levels and the single barrier approach in place was not sufficient.
In North America, the traditional method of disinfecting drinking water is to use a chemical disinfectant such as chlorine, chloramine or chlorine dioxide. Chlorination of drinking water is one of the most significant public health advances of the 20th century saving more lives than all of the medicines combined. It has been credited with virtually eliminating the risks of bacteria that once caused epidemics such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and hepatitis. More than 200 million Canadians and Americans receive chlorine-disinfected drinking water every day.
Over 98 per cent of the drinking water supply systems in the U.S. that disinfect use chlorine and every one of Canada's 3,000 drinking water plants use chlorine disinfection. Chlorine-based disinfectants have the lasting residual properties needed to help prevent re-growth of micro-organisms as the water is distributed from the treatment plant to your tap.
But there are now two very serious concerns about the widespread use of chlorine as the sole disinfectant for water.
The first concern is the evidence of by-products called ""chlorinated hydrocarbons"" that are found in surface water supplies treated with chlorine. When chlorine and decaying organic matter such as leaves and animal waste come together, a chlorine compound called Trihalomethane or THM is formed. In studies carried out by the University of Toronto and the Ontario Cancer and Treatment Foundation, consumption of chlorinated water has been shown to be associated with bladder, colon and rectal cancer. The greatest risk for contracting the cancers was among those who drank water with elevated levels of THM for over 35 years.
Earlier this year, about 100,000 residents in Newfoundland learned that their water supplies contain up to four times the allowable level of these compounds affecting more than one-third of the province's communities.
Other research has connected high levels of THMs to reproductive disorders such as miscarriages, birth defects and low birth weights. It is estimated that women living in high-THM areas run the risk of stillbirth that is 1.7 times higher than that of women whose drinking water contained lower levels of THM.
Authorities warn however that the risk of drinking unchlorinated water is much higher. It is clear that an alternative solution is needed.
The second serious concern is that protozoa such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia are resistant to chlorination. Giardia, the most common parasite found in Canadian drinking water, causes giardiasis or ""beaver fever."" In the early 1990s, 26 people in Dauphin, Manitoba were diagnosed with giardiasis. But public health authorities said that as many as 2,000 people could have been made ill in the outbreak.
Cryptosporidium outbreaks tend to be larger and more serious. In 1993, 100 people died and 400,000 suffered as a result of a Cryptosporidium contamination of city water supplies in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the same year, 200 people became ill in Kitchener-Waterloo from drinking water contaminated with Cryptosporidium. More recent outbreaks have occurred in Collingwood, Ontario and Kelowna, B.C.
One of the alternatives to traditional chemical disinfection is the use of ultraviolet energy.
When micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa, are exposed to UV light, their DNA is rearranged and they can no longer reproduce. Microorganisms that cannot reproduce cannot cause illness.
Ultraviolet light is produced by lamps which are directly submerged in water. As the water flows past the lamps, micro-organisms are exposed to a lethal dose of UV energy. Over the past 20 years, Trojan Technologies has built a global enterprise based on the use of UV and has re-invested an average of 7 per cent of annual revenues to developing more effective and efficient UV technologies.
Ultraviolet light is an environmentally friendly way to disinfect water. There is no chemical storage or handling risk through the use of UV and there are no by-products such as Trihalomethane left after disinfection has taken place. This allows a small and safe amount of chlorine to be added to drinking water before it is distributed through the system thus providing a dual barrier for disinfection. UV is cost-competitive. It can be as low as one-fifth the cost of ozone and one-tenth the cost of membrane filtration.
UV disinfection has had widespread acceptance in the wastewater treatment field throughout North America. It has long been believed that UV was not capable of disinfecting against Cryptosporidium and Giardia. But recent studies performed by leading North American research institutions have concluded that UV is highly effective at inactivating both of these organisms.
This new research, in combination with the cancer risk associated with traditional chemical disinfection, has prompted a major review of disinfection strategy in the
U.S. A Federal Advisory Committee on Microbial Pathogens and Disinfection Byproducts was established to make recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency on a disinfection strategy that would balance these two factors. Trojan was honoured when our Chief Scientist, Dr. Bill Cairns, was invited to be an advisory member of this committee. Its recommendations will be the basis for the EPAs new regulations to be proposed in the spring of 2001 and finalised in May 2002.
UV disinfection has been included in these regulations as a viable method of disinfection in a multi-barrier disinfection strategy.
Another disinfection technology used around the world is membrane filtration. Membrane-based water filtration technology has been used historically for desalination of brackish waters. However, it is also effective in trapping micro-organisms in drinking water. Membranes act as a physical barrier filtering out contaminants, parasites and bacteria. Slight suction draws pure water through each thin, hollow fibre membrane strand. This technology, developed and marketed by another leading Canadian company-Zenon Environmental who are represented here today-can be used in drinking water, wastewater, industrial and water-reuse applications.
I'd now like to briefly discuss with you the experiences and strategies used by municipalities and countries around the globe to ensure safe water for their populations. North America can learn a lot from their experience. As a global company, Trojan is often a partner in the design of the treatment solution and can share with others what we have learned from our involvement in diverse water-treatment strategies.
Europeans frequently do not rely on chlorine or other chemicals to disinfect their drinking water. In Europe, adding a chemical to drinking water is considered to be an unhealthy practice. Water experts have devised ways to reduce the threat of waterborne illnesses by eliminating the organic food sources for bacteria and viruses to grow. The typical strategy involves the removal of nutrients that feed micro-organisms through sand, carbon or other form of filtration followed by ultraviolet light as the primary disinfectant.
UV has been used as the primary disinfectant in Europe for over 20 years. The very first installation of IN disinfection was in Paris, France in 1910. Over 400 larger municipalities in Europe rely on UV disinfection for their drinking-water protection including Helsinki in Finland, Milan in Italy, Toulouse in France and Motala in Sweden.
Ozone has been used for several decades in Europe for taste and odour control, colour removal as well as disinfection. Ozone acts as an excellent disinfectant, it produces no chlorinated byproducts and is effective against Cryptosporidium and Giardia.
Ozone does produce other disinfection by-products including ketones, aldehydes and bromate. These can be removed through a filtration process. Ozone does not provide a residual disinfectant and is an expensive treatment option.
UV products are also available that disinfect water as it comes out of the tap or as it enters the building in a home or a business. Going back to my opening remarks, some 20 million homes, cottages and other rural private water supply users typically have no barriers against bacteria, viruses, or protozoa, unless like my mother, someone has a significant concern about the quality of their water supply.
Today's UV technology allows you to have a reliable solution for less than $800.
It is in this market that I began in 1977. In Trojan's early years, I would fill my station wagon with point-of-use or point-of-entry systems and drive to the Muskokas to set up a dealer network and stock them up with product. Invariably I would come home with an empty wagon convinced that the need for UV disinfection technology was for real, and if the need was for real in Ontario, it certainly would be globally as well. Hence the birth of a new Canadian corporation with a technology that could fill a global need.
Now let me turn your attention to how our wastewater is treated before it is discharged into our local streams, rivers and lakes.
One of the most exciting new developments in the North American wastewater treatment market is the reuse of wastewater. California has been leading the effort to reuse wastewater for irrigation, recharge of aquifers and other non-potable water applications. Disinfection is critical in this application and UV is the technology of choice. Other states are beginning to follow California's lead.
Countries where water is scarce are already looking to alternative disinfection technologies to allow them to reuse rather than discharge their wastewater. New regulations may be developed and implemented requiring that all wastewater treatment plants disinfect their effluents.
Outside North America and Europe, many countries are just beginning to address the need to treat sewage in a centralised facility. Some countries are much further along than others. For example, Hong Kong is building plants for primary treatment followed by disinfection. Trojan's largest UV disinfection system in Asia is in operation at the Shek Wu Hui Sewage Treatment Works serving 250,000 residents and treating up to 65 million gallons of wastewater per day.
How countries and governments manage and regulate the treatment of wastewater impacts significantly on the safety and security of drinking-water sources and ultimately the health of human life.
Disinfection is used in industries around the world where consistently safe water is of paramount concern such as in the food and beverage industry, semi-conductor industry and pharmaceutical industry.
You may be amazed to hear that it takes 350 gallons of water to manufacture one computer chip. Ever increasing computing capacity on a chip requires more and more components on an extremely small surface necessitating the need for ultrapure water applications where even one bacteria can short circuit a chip and cause major quality control problems.
Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned here in terms of quality control for our drinking-water supplies. In conclusion, let me ask you to think about the cost of this half-litre bottle of water. I bought it at a convenience store for $1.37. That's $2.74 per litre. Yet we are outraged at the gas pumps where we pay 72 cents a litre for regular unleaded gas for our cars. In comparison however, this glass of tap water cost only a few pennies.
Should we as consumers be satisfied with having to buy our drinking water in bottles? Consider the amount of energy needed to manufacturer the bottle, to process the water, to transport bottles of water to retail outlets and finally to recycle or dispose the bottle after it's been used.
By comparison, our tax dollars have already been invested into the existing infrastructure to treat and distribute drinking water right to our homes in an unlimited supply. Would it not make sense to improve the standard of disinfection at the municipal level, implement advanced Canadian technology already in use around the globe and follow the lead of the U.S. and European governments by focussing on the implementation of a multi-barrier treatment strategy?
We have a choice. We can go on as we are today and increase the consumption of bottled water. Or, we can invest in our water-treatment technologies, implement a multi-barrier treatment strategy and have safe, affordable drinking water for generations to come.
I applaud the Ontario Provincial Ministry of the Environment for the work they have done to improve the security of our provincial water supply by implementing mandatory disinfection, testing and reporting requirements. I would encourage the Provincial Ministry follow the U.S. EPA's approach in establishing a multi-barrier strategy as well, thus providing Ontarians with the safest water possible.
As Pasteur said: ""We drink 90 per cent of our illnesses."" We should never become complacent about the quality of our drinking water. We must remain ever conscious of the need to protect our drinking water supplies through good stewardship, source protection and innovative and environmentally friendly technologies including world-leading technologies right here in our own province.
Thank you very much.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by William D. Laidlaw, CEO and Executive Director, St. John Council for Ontario and First Vice-President and President-Elect, The Empire Club of Canada.