Toxic Dust Control Bulk Bag Unloading System contains Toxic Dust in Fluoridation Plants

Author / Editor: Alex Walton * / Marcel Dröttboom

In water fluoridation plants different chemicals are used, including the highly toxic silicofluorid. Bulk material handling systems for this application, including bulk bag dischargers, dust containment systems, and flexible screw conveyors, have to meet high dust control requirements.

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(Picture: Flexicon (Europe) Ltd.)

For many years various Australian authorities have been slowly installing water-fluoridation plants in a general endeavour to promote dental health. In the last few years, though, the pace of fluoridation has quickened as various states have introduced fluoridation programs, backed by state government subsidies. Queensland, for example, decreed in 2006 that 90 percent of Queenslanders would have access to fluoridated water by 2012.

Prominent Fluid Controls has supplied more than 60 fluoridation systems over the past 25 years. Many of the earlier installations were for rural water supplies in relatively small water treatment plants. Initially, 25 kg bags of sodium silicofluoride powder (Na2SiF6) were manually loaded into a hopper; later installations used a vacuum loader designed by Prominent. A dry chemical feeder meters the Na2SiF6 into a mixing tank of water, where it is dissolved before being added to the water supply. (Other chemicals used for fluoridation are sodium fluoride powder and hydrofluosilicic acid).

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Toxic Dust Control

More recently, however, the company has supplied equipment for much larger plants, including five that started up in Queensland around the end of 2008. The plants range in size from approx. 125 to 750 million litres per day and serve more than 50 percent of Queensland's population of approx. 4.5 million, says Neville McKee, a Prominent sales manager.

For plants of this size, Prominent has designed a fully automated process in which the Na2SiF6 is completely contained in a sealed transfer system from the time it is received until the moment it is put into the mixing tank. Sealing is important for dust control, because the plants use up to 875 kg per day of Na2SiF6, which is toxic and subject to strict regulatory control. Bulk bags of Na2SiF6 are unloaded into a transition or floor hopper, from which a flexible screw conveyor transfers the material to a storage hopper that feeds the mixing tank.

The transition hopper is small, with a capacity of only 60 litres. In contrast, storage hoppers may be as large as 8750 litres or more for a 750 million litres per day plant, and designed to hold up to seven days supply of Na2SiF6.

The major pieces of equipment are the bulk bag discharger, a dust containment system, and the flexible screw conveyor, all supplied by Flexicon Corp. (Australia), Brisbane. Bulk bags of 1000 kg are lifted into place on the discharger frame by an electric hoist and trolley on a cantilevered I-beam.

Powder is discharged from the bag into the transition hopper through a double-wall Tele-Tube telescoping tube. The tube is secured to the bag spout by a patented Spout-Lock clamp ring that creates a dust-tight seal, while the bottom of the tube is connected to a collar in the lid of the sealed hopper.

The clamp ring, in the open position, is raised pneumatically to the bag spout. The spout is pulled over the rim of the tube's inner wall and the ring is locked in place over it. At this point the pneumatic pressure that raised the tube is released, causing the telescoping tube assembly to exert downward pressure on the spout. The continuous downward pressure on the bag keeps the spout taut at all times and helps maintain a steady flow by preventing excess material in the spout from bulging outward and creating dead spots, or falling inward and restricting the flow.

“The double-wall telescoping tube is a key element in the entire system,” says McKee. In this design, errant particles are drawn into the dust collector through an annular gap that encircles the bag spout seal. “This is the only way to go to obtain extra protection against dust leakage,” he says.

Flexicon's Bag-Vac dust collection system is activated prior to connecting the telescoping tube to the bag. The system, attached to the discharger frame, conveys dust pneumatically to a water trap tank. Once the clamp ring has been secured, the dust extractor is turned off and the spout drawstring is untied, allowing the powder to flow into the transition hopper.

The dust extractor remains inactive throughout the unloading process. However, air displaced by the flow of material exits via the dust collection system. A filter prevents Na2SiF6 from being entrained in the outflowing air.

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