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Camden-Clark Hospital cutting water usage

from The Parkersburg News and The Parkersburg Sentinel

PARKERSBURG - Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital will use around 10 million gallons of water less a year through conservation and contracting services, hospital officials said.

Much of that is from last year's transfer of laundry services to a private contractor, said Steve Cockerham, director of engineering at the hospital. About 9 million gallons a year will be saved.

Other steps include retrofitting equipment, such as water flow controllers on the sterilizers, to reduce the amount of water usage and limiting how often the boilers are blown off to remove impurities, he said.

The sterilizers, which generally run around the clock, had required a constant flow of water, he said. Timers were installed to control the flow, resulting in a savings of 1.4 million gallons a year, Cockerham said.

''That's a little more than $8,000,'' he said.

The installation has already paid for itself, Cockerham said. Cost was $3,600, he said.

''The good thing besides the savings is you're not using the water,'' Cockerham said.

To remove impurities from the boilers, the material is blown off by releasing steam, called blow down, he said. The boilers were on constant blow down, Cockerham said.

Chemicals are being added to the water to consolidate the impurities, requiring blow down once a day, saving 150,000 gallons a day, he said.

Camden-Clark averages 40 million gallons of water a year at a cost of about $232,000, spokesman Greg Smith said. Conservation and outsourcing will save about 25 percent in both usage and cost, he said.

''We continually look at ecological and cost savings that keep the cost of health care lower,'' Smith said.

Ditto at St. Joseph's.

The hospital buys equipment with cost savings features, such as sterilizers with flow control valves, which use the least natural resources for the most benefit, said Jill Parsons, director of marketing and community relations.

"You don't want water going down the drain," Parsons said.

Camden-Clark from April 2002 to March 2003 used 41.6 million gallons of water, according to documents filed with the Parkersburg Utility Board. The hospital used 36.7 million from April 2003 to March 2004.

St. Joseph's usage was 47.3 million gallons from April 2002 to March 2003 and 48.8 million from April 2003 to March 2004.

The comparisons were for the main hospital facilities and physicians office complexes.

Conservation is good, but there's another aspect to consider, according to Clarence Cox, utility board manager.

"Like so many things in life, it's a two-edge sword," Cox said.

The institution is spending and using less water, increasing available capacity of the treatment system, but the utility board loses that revenue, he said. The benefit to the utility board would be greater if there was a water shortage, Cox said.

"But that's not the case," he said.

Cockerham's job as engineering director is come up with methods to save such operational costs. Some are common sense, he said.

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