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Fertilizer Dump Spoils Intel's Pure Water 211

An anonymous reader writes "Intel had to shut down part of its Irish plant for a while because of the extreme cold and the fact the local council polluted the water supply with fertilizer. Apparently it got down to -12 degrees C at the Intel plant in Leixlip, County Kildare. But to make matters worse, the local council ran out of rock salt to grit the roads and opted for fertilizer instead. There were fears that ammonia and nitrates in the fertilizer might have contaminated the local water supply. The problem for the chipmaker is that it needs extremely pure water for its manufacturing processes."
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Fertilizer Dump Spoils Intel's Pure Water

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  • Priorities, people (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:20AM (#30960900)

    I daresay people also need 'extremely pure' water to... you know... drink and suchlike. Right?

  • by mim ( 535591 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:23AM (#30960914)
    One would think that a company with their resources would have a filtration system in place if the need for pure water is such a priority that the lack of it risks shutting down the whole operation.
  • by HappySmileMan ( 1088123 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:35AM (#30960938)

    I was in this very plant a year or two ago and seem to recall them saying that not even filtering was good enough, they actually had to distill the water they got because filtering won't remove all impurities (enough for most practical purposes, but I think the reason they need absolutely pure is because pure H2O doesn't conduct electricity, but the slightest impurity will).

    I find it very hard to believe this same plant shut down because they didn't consider the possibility of their water supply (completely outdoors and unguarded) being contaminated somehow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:35AM (#30960940)

    They surely have, as the water in the water supply are never pure, but there is a difference between purifying normal water, and contaminated water.

    I'd guess their system could not handle, (or could not process enough of), the contaminated water.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:41AM (#30960968)

    This is testable. Add 100g of nitrate fertilizer to 4 liters of water, and let it sit overnight. In the morning pour the water through your filter of choice and then drink the result. Delicious right?

    Filters and purification mechanisms have limits, those limits are chosen at design time based on the range of pollutants expected in the input water. If you increase those pollutants by orders of magnitude it's likely the purification system you have just won't cut it.

  • by Xenkar ( 580240 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:41AM (#30960970)

    Water filters aren't magical devices. They can only filter so much crap out of the water before they need to be replaced. It might not make financial sense to continue operating the plant if they have to replace the filter for every fifty gallons of water they use.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:49AM (#30960992)
    OK then, Invent the perfect filter or distillation method and I'm sure Intel will buy it from you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:20AM (#30961098)

    It practically never becomes that cold in Ireland. It's quite rare to get sub-zero temperatures here, nevermind -12. This situation was unprecedented. There was not enough equipment or supplies of salt and grit and this was a last resort. It's easy for someone living in a country which experiences this regularly to criticize the actions of a country who doesn't. In my lifetime I had never seen snow at 6" before. The councils and the people were extremely unprepared and I'm sure that the last thing on Kildare Co. Council's mind was runoff into the river affecting Intel.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:39AM (#30961166)
    I'm guessing you just ignored your lessons in common courtesy.
  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:07AM (#30961274) Journal
    The sites intel left in the USA to be cleaned up by the US gov.
    A generation later Intel now needs its water cleaning up.
  • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @11:46AM (#30962568)

    Sub Zero for you dingbats using the metric measurement isn't cold. Bitch when it's -12 below Zero f

    ...then everybody buys snowchains for their car, a fur coat that would make you pass out with heatstroke if you wore it in a typical UK or Irish winter, and builds tunnels or covered walkways between buildings. Simple.

    Now try dealing with temperatures hovering around zero C for a few days at a time, where you rarely get enough snow to use chains or studs and the water is continually melting and re-freezing and where years or even decades can pass between bouts of nontrivial winter weather. Its a different problem.

  • by ZedNaught ( 533388 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @12:02PM (#30962700)
    Water supplies in the US and around the world are being contaminated to unsafe levels by industrial waste, agricultural runoff and mining effluent on a daily basis. Nobody cares until Intel can't use it to make chips? Slashdot is a strange place....
  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @06:00PM (#30965854)

    Nice omission of detail there, buddy. []

    In early 1982, concern about widespread contamination in the area's shallow ground water led the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) to send chemical use questionnaires to over 2,000 facilities regarding the use of hazardous materials. Intel Corporation (Intel) was among the few questionnaire recipients that responded proactively by installing ground water monitoring wells adjacent to their underground chemical storage tanks. Intel also responded with a full inventory of all chemicals used in its operations.

    Although it was evident by the late 1980s that the VOC contamination at Santa Clara 3 and Magnetics was minor, these sites became federal Superfund sites on the National Priority List (NPL) because they were among the handful of sites that had sufficient data to be evaluated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for inclusion on the NPL.

    In other words, the Intel sites became Superfund sites because Intel, unlike so many other manufacturers, actually responded to environmental investigations with COPIOUS information -- such comprehensive information is rarely acquired, and so Superfund took this project under its wing mostly to praise Intel for their proactiveness. By omitting the relevant details you make it sound like Intel was injecting dioxins into aquifers or something like that.

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