The protection of desalination plants, open loop cooling water intakes, seafood processing plants and other seawater users is a special problem during an oil spill or other marine accident. Potential pollution sources include crude oil drilling and production, ships and barges with oily bilge wastewater or cargo spills, and other industrial plants with oil leaks in cooling water discharges.

Low-maintenance Turner oil-in-water monitors are increasingly being used to protect seawater intakes from oil. Using fluorescence-based measurement technology, these units provide high sensitivity to most oil-based hydrocarbons including crude oil, fuels, lubricating and hydraulic oil, and virtually all aromatic chemicals including BTEX.

High-sensitivity continuous on-line monitors such as Turner Designs Hydrocarbon Instruments’ TD-4100 and TD-1000C series provide the earliest warning to contamination on the market today. In most applications, detection limit is below 500ppb, and for some as low as 20ppb, depending on the organic background of the water source. This is well below the threshold of a sheen detector. Alternately, the TD-3100 bench model and TD-500D handheld single sample analyzers provide quick results for spot checking. TD-500D field test kits are available for immediate delivery.

The TD-4100 was first applied to river pollution monitoring in Austria 15 years ago by sensing groundwater from monitoring wells under the influence of the Danube along its banks in Austria. Its viability was proven by detecting river spills above 20ppb in the first weeks of operation. Since then, more than 150 systems have been installed to protect major international municipal seawater desalination plants, power-plant cooling water intake and discharge systems, and more recently, water intakes for multiple municipalities in Michigan under grants from the Department of Homeland Security.

In Michigan, the TD-4100 shuts down the intake pumps at the municipal water plants if hydrocarbons are detected. The TD-4100 was chosen for its high benefit-to-cost value, operation and maintenance simplicity and lack of interference from silt, suspended solids and natural organic substances. It and its sister monitors are designed for maximum sensitivity to hydrocarbons in the presence of high levels of what would be interference to other technologies.