Clarification system enhances water quality, conserves resources

By |  March 20, 2017

Cemex has taken wash plant water recycling to a new level of efficiency at its Balcones Quarry in New Braunfels, Texas, reusing 90 percent of the water required in the plant’s aggregate production.

The Balcones Quarry, with 100 employees producing between 10 and 12 million tons of limestone materials each year, incorporated its company-designed water clarification system into a recently expanded and updated wash plant.

The first of its kind, the new water clarification system is intended to conserve local water resources while improving the quality and availability of water for aggregate stone washing.

“The new, fully-automated aggregate washing plant cleans aggregates used in concrete and asphalt,” says Lance Griffin, Cemex’s director of aggregate operations for Texas and New Mexico. “This water recycling system uses and recycles 12,000 gallons of water per minute in the aggregate wash plant. The system also separates aggregate and sand fines from the water into a useable manufactured sand product.”

Cemex designed and built the wash plant and water recycling system. The aggregate wash plant consists of triple-deck and four-deck Deister screens to separate the stone fractions for future blending into finished product to be used in the construction market. Sandvik 660 automated cones accomplish tertiary crushing. GIW pumps perform the tail pumping and Van der Graaf drives are used throughout the system for high efficiency conveying.

Growing population

The quarry’s new water recycling system recycles 12,000 gallons of water per minute in the aggregate wash plant. Photo By Megan Smalley

Cemex’s Balcones Quarry is one of the top aggregate producers in the United States and one of the largest crushed stone quarries in North America. It began operations in 1969 and was acquired by Cemex in the late 1990s.

One aspect related to development of the quarry’s new water recycling system is the accelerated population growth seen in New Braunfels in recent years. In May 2016, the San Antonio Business Journal called attention to U.S. Census Bureau statistics that listed New Braunfels, just north of San Antonio, as the second-fastest growing city among those with more than 50,000 residents during a 12-month period ending July 1, 2015.

New Braunfels saw a 6.6 percent population increase, growing from 66,204 residents to 70,543 residents during the 12-month time frame. That growth stimulated a 3.6 percent increase in the 2014 to 2015 estimated number of housing units in Comal County, Texas.

During winter months, New Braunfels residents use between 7 and 8 million gallons of water per day. In the warmest summer months that total jumps to 10 million. In drought conditions, water restrictions are common.

“We recognize the importance of water to local communities,” Griffin says. “There are 2 million local residents and businesses in and around New Braunfels. We are aware of New Braunfels’ rank as the second-fastest-growing city in the nation for cities with more than 50,000 residents. Emphasis on water management and conservation has been a high priority at the Cemex Balcones Quarry for many years. To do our part, Cemex developed and implemented this long-term water conservation solution.”

In addition to conserving the water resources and reducing costs for the Balcones Quarry, the new water clarification system adds to the Cemex focus on a safe workplace. The water recycling system was designed with safety in mind.

The Balcones Quarry, which began operations in 1969, is one of the top aggregate producers in the country. Photo courtesy of Cemex

Numerous safety gates are included in the system design. Instead of ladders, stairs are used to provide accessibility. Open flumes are used instead of pipelines and the Cemex programmers designed them to be fully automated. In the past, similar systems have required as many as five people to operate. Cemex’s new water recycling system is operated with one person and one control operator.

“The water recycling system was installed in 2016 and was used on a pilot basis so operators could become familiar with using it before it went completely online,” Griffin adds.

Griffin explains that development and use of the new water recycling system fits the rich history Cemex has in improving the well-being of those it serves through its efforts to pursue innovative industry solutions, efficiency advancements and to promote a sustainable future.

Cemex has maintained an ongoing commitment to integrating safety and sustainability practices into their operations and minimizing its environmental footprint in communities where the company resides and operates.

“At Cemex, sustainability is integrated and embedded into our day-to-day operations and business strategy,” Griffin says. “Our top priorities are the safety of our employees, responsible stewardship of our environment, and giving back to the communities in which we live and work.”

Plans for conservation

Cemex installed the water recycling system to conserve water, lower costs and boost safety. Photo by Megan Smalley

In addition to the new wash plant and water recycling system, Cemex has made other upgrades at its Balcones Quarry in an effort to improve efficiencies and meet the demands of the booming Texas economy.

“Balcones Quarry has installed a base stone circuit, a state-of-the-art tertiary washing and crushing plant, a new mobile repair shop, an environmentally sensitive oil storage area, and other quarry and plant improvements too numerous to mention,” Griffin says. “In early 2017, we will also place an automated primary crusher in service at Balcones Quarry.”

In the future, Cemex expects to install the same type of water recycling system used at the Balcones Quarry at other Cemex quarry sites. Additional company conservation projects include planting trees at a plant site in Louisville, Kentucky. The trees will be donated to the city to aid Louisville’s urban reforestation program.

In the Cemex plant and quarry at Lyons, Colorado, the company established a multifaceted land stewardship program that involves planting native prairie vegetation to create long-term, self-sustaining plant communities. The project included installation of pollinator gardens, and the use of targeted goat grazing as a biological control for invasive weed species.

In 2016, Cemex received five awards from the Wildlife Habitat Council, including recognition for the 2016 Gold Tier Program of the Year based on its conservation efforts at the El Carmen ecological reserve, a critical area for wildlife at the scenic Texas-Mexico border. Six years ago, Cemex became involved at El Carmen, purchasing more than 175,000 acres of land, entering into conservation agreements with adjoining landowners. As part of that project, Cemex has helped lead the way in reintroducing native species of the land, including the desert bighorn sheep, which disappeared from the area more than 60 years ago.

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