(Sept. 14) Water conservation and food safety are among the reasons a leading cherry grower-shipper has stopped washing its fruit in chlorine and started using ozone.

Orchard View Farms Inc., The Dalles, Ore., has inked a deal to implement the ozone technologies of Novazone Inc., Livermore, Calif.

The deal will allow Orchard View to reduce water use and wastewater disposal, decrease operational costs, reduce worker exposure to chemicals and improve the overall quality of up to 3,000 tons of fresh cherries the company annually ships, said Bridget Bailey, Orchard View’s vice president.

“It’s wonderful having crystal-clear water in the packing line through the entire packing shift and not having to refill the tanks to clean the water,” Bailey said.

The company conserves water, Bailey said, because, unlike with chlorine, the cherry packing lines don’t have to be refilled with water as often.

Also, regulations prohibit chlorine from coming into contact with water that’s used to clean the organic cherries Orchard View ships, she added.

Orchard View has treated about 1,800 tons of fresh cherries in ozone this year, Bailey said, and could treat 3,000 tons in 2006.

Connie Bordanaro, director of marketing communications for Novazone, said Orchard View’s decision to go ozone is just the latest in a long line of forward-thinking moves by the company. Other moves, she said, include Orchard View’s decision to use modifie- atmosphere packaging to keep their cherries fresher longer.

Ozone is preferable to other chemicals, Bordanaro said, because it is produced on-site from oxygen and, once it’s work is done, is converted right back to oxygen. That means no residue and no health or environmental concerns, she said.