Water treatment in Tampa takes European system for a test-run

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says clean drinking water could become one of the most "significant" issues facing the world.

That's why the city is taking on a new technology to treat tap water.

Mayor Castor announced it at the David Tippin Water Treatment Facility Monday.

“This unit came from the Netherlands,” said Chuck Weber, Tampa’s water department director.

It’s called Suspended Ion Exchange, or SIX, and it uses resin to capture organic carbon, the primary contaminant in the Hillsborough River, Tampa’s water source.

The organic carbon attaches to the resin which settles to the bottom. The resin can be recycled up to four times.

Castor said Tampa already uses fewer chemicals than most other cities to treat its water, but the new system will reduce them even further, saving the city up to $4 million a year.

Right now, it’s a pilot program, but if the test is successful, Weber said within about three years, up to 140 million gallons of water a day will be treated with the system for all of Tampa and certain other parts of Hillsborough County.

If that happens, we will all get to sample the latest in European water treatment technology.

For some, that boils down to taste.

Tampa’s water was judged among the best tasting in the nation. Weber says adding ozone made the difference and SIX technology will only improve it.

“Ozone will be more effective because there will be less organic carbon that it will have to deal with, so that’s how it will improve taste and ozone,” he said.

The city says it will spend about $1.85 million on the SIX pilot program. If it is successful, the city says the full SIX system will cost around $75 million.

Tampa also plans $300 million on upgrades at the water treatment facility over the next few years.

A previous version of this story said the city would spend $300 million on the SIX program.