BY EMMA CONNOLLY
A BANDON-based company is one of only two businesses in the entire country who make a chemical which is vital in making our drinking water supplies safe.
Acorn Water (acornwater.ie) on Glasslynn Road, manufacture a water purifying chemical, aluminium sulphate, also known as a coagulant which is used to clarify river and lake water.
William Holland, whose parents Bill and Eileen set up the business in 1991, explained: ‘As Ireland does not have adequate supplies of groundwater, we rely solely on rivers and lakes to supply our towns and cities. Without coagulants, we would simply not be able to consume these waters as they contain high levels of organic materials and pathogens.’
Explaining how coagulants work, he said: ‘Most drinking water supplies in Ireland come from rivers and lakes. These waters pick up natural organic materials which must be removed before they can be supplied to our taps at home.
‘The organic materials are made up of billions of tiny particles such as bacteria, silts and clays which can only be removed with water purifying chemicals known as coagulants. Dosed continuously in water treatment plants, coagulants cause the particles to clump together to form little ‘flocs’ which will settle out to form a clear water. A well-designed and controlled coagulation process greatly reduces the amount of chlorine needed in the final water that is supplied to our homes.’
Acorn Water has Irish Water as its customer as well as private industry throughout Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford and Carlow, along with the major dairies.
The chemical is only made by Acorn and a Shannon-based business, and if stocks from either ran out, William said water would be simply undrinkable.
‘Coagulants are also supplied to many wastewater treatment plants in Ireland for the removal of a substance known as phosphates. As these are a food for algae which grow rapidly and deprive fish of precious oxygen, coagulants are used to protect our rivers and lakes from toxic algal blooms,’ said William.
Acorn Water employ a team of 10, and have a production capacity of 95,000 tonnes per annum of aluminium sulphate. Full tanker loads of the chemical leave their yard every day.
‘Cork city uses over 3,000 metric tonnes per annum. Irish Water procure over 50,000 metric tonnes per year for all of Ireland,’ he said.
Acorn Water is also very involved with local schools and regularly host visits by students. They will also host a final year chemistry student from CIT to trial and evaluate coagulants that can be produced in a completely sustainable way for the treatment of drinking water.
Going forward Acorn plan to expand their storage of raw materials and capacity to manufacture new products and coagulants.
‘We have also recently held meetings with a large coagulants producer in the USA. This collaborative relationship will help us to develop next generation water purifying coagulants,’ said William.