Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This is what happens when you get really busy.

We have been very busy and, as a result, I have not updated the blog in quite some time.  Between designs, drawings, installations and O&M manuals I just haven't had a few free minutes to add some content.
I am still very busy but figured it was time to get a post up.

Here are a few notable projects we've completed since the last blog post:

Another Highway Rest Area in Eastern Montana.  We worked with WGM Engineering out of Missoula and Diamond Construction of Helena on the job.  These are two top notch companies to work with and the job was smooth and trouble free.  Justin Buchanan of E-On Northwest was responsible of the installation and start-up of the system.  

This rest area, like all the others, produces some very high strength wastewater so it was important to get the design right.  Our experience with rest areas has proven that the Eliminite system is well suited for these applications and we won this job on a competitive bid meaning our price was also the best of the bunch.  

A Restaurant in Helena Montana. This job was in last months issue of Onsite Installer.  A popular and growing steak house in Helena, Montana needed to expand their onsite system and hired us to provide the treatment system.  Justin spearheaded this project also and received a nice recommendation from the owner at the completion of the job

A Condo Development in New Mexico. The condos were served by a system that failed quite some time ago but the lot was so small that there was barely any room to install a new treatment system and drainfield.  I worked with the contractor to help design the replacement and he installed it.  The fit was perfect and the system is working well.  

A Retrofit of Another Failed system in New Mexico. Jerry Richardson of Ruidoso Septic Service installed an Eliminite system as a retrofit.  Another brand was specified but after a conversation with the project engineer we were allowed to substitute an Eliminite for the original system.  The owners are pleased with Jerry's work and they understand why the Eliminite is a better system than what they were going to use.  

A Resort in Michigan.  The clients, with whom we have worked with for years in Colorado, did not want the unreliable system that was being proposed for their job so they brought us in to design something that would work for their application.  Timelines were tight for this one because they had to have design, permitting and construction completed so that they could open by Thanksgiving. With only a month and a half of lead time, we had to work hard and smart.  The system was completed and is operational before the Thanksgiving deadline.

Several Water-Reuse systems in New Mexico.  Reusing wastewater is important in arid areas like New Mexico.  We have been working with an expert in the field to design systems that produce highly treated effluent for a reasonable price.  I have designed several of these and recieved state approval for installation.  

10.2 mg/L  That was the most recent total nitrogen result from a development with a centralized onsite system.  I have written about this project a few times.   It currently serves about 30 homes and didn't meet it's nitrogen requirements with the two brands of treatment systems that the owner started with.  Now that they are using Eliminite exclusively....well, TN=10.2 mg/L says it all.

Another RV Park Serving the Bakken Oil Fields.  This one was just completed this week.

A slew of Individual Systems.

We are not at all busy, however, with:  Service calls, call-backs or repairs.

Eliminite denitrification system serving two highway rest areas.

This system serves both the east-bound and west-bound rest areas.  The Department of Transportation asked for the panels to be installed at the system.  If they had been mounted to the building, there would be no visual impact.

The system consists of: Primary treatment, biological nitrification and denitrification, post-anoxic denitrification and final effluent polishing.  The highly treated effluent is discharged to two shallow pressurized drainfields.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Total Nitrogen and Fecal Coliform

Annual results from one of our standard 120 C treatment units.  TN measured 11.0 mg/L and fecal coliform in the effluent was zero. 
This system was part of a study we participated in several years ago and from these results it is clear that it continues to perform exceptionally well.  Nothing has been done to the system other than to collect a sample once per year.  I suppose I could make a few fine adjustments and get the TN down below 10 mg/L...but what would be the point?  It's already well below the permit limit.
The average TN for the 18 month study was about 7.5 mg/L . 

These are great numbers and I know this industry well enough to know that any manufacturer would love to obtain these results consistently, and very few do in real-world applications.  The fact is, Eliminite does achieve these results, not only on single family residential systems, but on community and commercial systems, as well.  This system was installed by one of our distributors and cost thousands less than any competing systems expected to achieve similar results. 
Our designs are copied by the giants in this industry, but our numbers are better.  Our edge is not just in the intelligent design and careful engineering, but also largely attributable to our MetaRocks media.  You have seen manufacturers use all kinds of media...plastic beads, Styrofoam packing peanuts, filter fabric aka textile, peat moss, coconut shells, plastic blocks, foam cubes and the list goes on. If you think about it, not a single one of these media was developed specifically to treat wastewater; they were all commandeered from some other use and force fit into onsite wastewater treatment systems.  MetaRocks, on the other hand, were developed specifically for job they do.  This is an important distinction and the benefit is clear and unequivocal; better treatment results, lower cost, less maintenance.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nitrogen Reducing Wastewater Treatment System for a Highway Rest Area

We recently completed construction of a wastewater treatment system at another busy highway rest area, located in a rugged area at high elevation.  The system is designed to remove nitrogen from the high strength wastewater encountered at this facility. Highway rest areas are common across the country, but what is not common is the knowledge that the wastewater they generate is much more concentrated than residential wastewater.  In fact, just about the only facilities that produce residential strength wastewater are residences, and we've actually encountered a fair number of residences that produce the higher strength wastewater more typical of restaurants or other commercial applications.  We have a lot of experience working with restaurants, RV parks, campgrounds, churches, rest areas etc. and they all produce wastewater that is considerably stronger than that produced by average homes.  This fact has caused real problems for many different facilities because the design engineers and manufacturers of the treatment systems did not understand what the system would be receiving, or, in some situations, I suspect they understood the nature of the wastewater but turned a blind eye in order to force-fit a technology from a preferred vendor or contractor whose technology wasn't necessarily suited for the job.
I can only sigh and shake my head at a system design I read about the other day that was installed at a highway rest area in Colorado.  Colorado seems to have a pretty poor track record when it comes to treatment systems at their CDOT rest areas.  They apparently tried several big-name systems which I heard could never meet their discharge limits (results on file with the state confirmed this).  This is a very serious environmental problem considering the sewage, after going through the system, is discharged directly to the river. The treatment systems I saw were pretty involved contraptions consisting of tanks, filters, upflow reactors, downflow reactors and more.  Even after all those steps, and after the Dept invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, into the system, the operator told me that they could not even come close to meeting the permit limits for the river discharge...not that it stopped anyone from continuing to discharge.  So, Colorado recently tried something different.
As best as I can determine from the article, a box of magic wood chips was installed--a box of woodships that would be a panacea..."green" and "sustainable" and "zero impact", etc etc.  Apparently, the bed of wood chips is installed directly under the toilets.  As rest area users deposit the "stuff" onto the top of the wood chips (it helps to develop a mental image of this) it is magically transformed into pure, clean and harmless minerals.  All I can think is what a mess this is going to be to clean up.  If it works as promised, the entire decentrlized industry will be revolutionized!  Everyone except the manufacturer of this magic box will be run out of business!  Seriously, I actually hope it does work, because the last thing Colorado needs is another system spewing raw or poorly treated sewage into the environment.  But, I've been working in this field for longer than I care to admit, and I predict problems.  I'll be keeping my eye on the treatment results.
Eliminite take a slightly different approach...one that does not attempt to violate the First Law of Thermodynamics.  Is the Eliminite a "zero impact" system?  No.  It requires a modest amount of power to run the pumps, and the media is engineered, it isn't just "harvested" from mother nature, though MetaRocks are made from material that is at least partially plant based and is deemed by its supplier as "green".  It does take energy to produce MetaRocks.  But, it takes quite a bit of energy to clear logs from a mountain forest and mechanically convert them into wood chips, too.  At least MetaRocks won't need to be replaced--one batch will last the life of the system.  I have my doubts about wood chips that are abused in the manner described in the article I read.
The photo shows the surface exposure of the finished treatment plant.  (Sorry but I am not providing detailed photos because, as I have mentioned before, I don't really feel the need to be generous to my competitors.  The last time I provided details of one of our systems, our competitor released their "new" product line which is a direct knock-off of our system.  Who sets the bar in this industry, the one with the original idea or the one who copies the original idea?  )
The photo shows the entire treatment system which is capable of 90%+  nitrogen removal with a design flow of over 6000 gal/day.  It is installed on Lookout Pass at the Montana-Idaho line and will be subjected to harsh winter conditions.  Our unique design allows us design for high strength wastewater and high capacity while keeping the footprint compact.  The system is fairly simple, making it easier for the operator to maintain and monitor.

The videos below help visualize the characteristics of our patented MetaRocks.  The first one shows the rough sandy surface magnified and illustrates the rough textures surface providing area for microorganisms to attach and grow.  The second video shows how water behaves on the surface of MetaRocks.  You can see that the rough surface "wets" as the water is dripped on it and pulls the water around in a thin film.  Because the film is thin, oxygen is able to easily diffuse into the biofilm.  The large pores between individual MetaRocks carry bulk air with little headloss so the entire system is easy to keep aerobic.  This combination of characteristics really is not replicated in any other treatment media and is part of the reason we have such good results across a wide range of waste strength and flow.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The best treatment media for onsite systems

Have you ever thought about how advanced onsite septic systems work? Is there a key component similar to the engine in a car that is the driving force of their functionality?


Most wastewater treatment systems rely on microorganisms to effect the treatment. These biological organisms are naturally present in the environment and are ideally suited for the task. The only thing we have to do is provide a comfortable home for them...like Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come.


The goal is to provide a place to which the microorganisms can attach themselves so that they can populate the treatment system and grow. That's it. The heartbeat of an advanced onsite system is therefore the attachment surfaces or media as it is commonly called. (Systems that use air bubblers and little or no treatment media, aerobic systems, are not discussed here because I want to focus only on systems that actually have a hope of working)


Eliminite is one of the few, maybe the only, advanced onsite system manufacturer that developed its own proprietary media designed specifically for the onsite industry. Most of the other system manufacturers borrowed something from some other application, stuffed it into a tank and called it a wastewater treatment system. This is not unlike "fixing" something by wrapping duct tape around it; it may hold for a while but it is a temporary solution at best.


The cost associated with developing a new media is significant. There is the testing, patenting, manufacturing and marketing. This is why most manufacturers have opted out of development in favor of utilizing something off the shelf. They did not see the need to re-invent the wheel.


My opinion is, the wheel needed reinventing, or at least, perfecting, and that's why we did it. We developed our MetaRocks media to address the specific needs of this industry. One of our achievements is a media that does not require cleaning. 


We engineered our MetaRocks with large open spaces that allow the free movement of air through the system because if the microorganisms cannot breathe, they will die.  If air flow is restricted, solids will build up on the surface of the media further restricting air movement. 


Everyone has seen a clogged drain.  Most sink drains in a home receive relatively clean water and they still have a tendency to develop clogs.  Now imagine the liquid flowing out of a septic tank and think about the potential for clogging.  Most media-based system manufacturers will tell the owner that it is necessary to hose off the media, fluff it(because the stuff it is made from compresses over time and strangles the microorganisms) or replace it entirely.  If you think about the actual procedure necessary to accomplish any of these tasks, you can see why none of them are very desirable requirements.  It's not like they can take the system to their shop and do the dirty work, it must be done right in your yard.


MetaRocks are an entirely different beast.  A system based on MetaRocks is simply more stable and robust than the others.  Owners may use it without the constant worry that any little thing they do will damage the system.  Once you know about MetaRocks you will never want to use anything else.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ruidoso Septic Service Installs an Eliminite Nitrogen Removal System for an RV Park

Jerry Richardson of Ruidoso Septic Service recently installed an Eliminite system for an RV park expansion in Alto, New Mexico.  A few years ago Jerry installed an Eliminite for the first phase of the RV park and the owners were so pleased with his work and the reliability of the system that they hired him to do an expansion.
System Installed by Jerry Richardson

RV park wastewater is generally quite a bit more concentrated than domestic wastewater and New Mexico has seen so many advanced treatment systems fail that the Ground Division of New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has essentially placed a moratorium on new RV parks unless the wastewater is discharged to an evaporative lagoon.  You RV park developers can thank the manufacturers of inferior treatment system for the restrictive rules. 
Jerry installed an Eliminite at this RV park a few years ago under the Liquid Waste Division of NMED and has been monitoring it is as required.  Apparently the Department has been very impressed with the results obtained from the first system and quickly permitted the expansion. 
Several owners of  O&M companies that collect samples from Eliminite systems, who also collect samples from many other systems, have told me that Eliminite results are always far superior to any other treatment systems they monitor. 
So it appears that all the manufacturer hype about how well their system works is just that, empty talk.  The Eliminite has not needed any maintenance or cleaning and has been functioning without problems.  Some installers don't appreciate the reliability however, because, their business model is predicated on return visits where they can charge for scooping out feculent peat moss, or fluffing little foam balls or changing filter fabric.  The air bubbler systems need to be pumped out  so often that the cash flow from necessary maintenance operations becomes more significant to them than the initial cost of the system.  Septic system maintenance becomes the gift that keeps on giving.
We, on the other hand, have developed a system that does not require the constant babysitting and cleaning.  Eliminite systems operate trouble free under a wide array of wastewater flow, wastewater strength and climatic conditions.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

“The alternative systems’ nitrogen removal is not that good, and they’re very expensive to maintain.”

The title quote is from a recent article in the Barnstable Patriot out of Hyannis, Massachusetts.  Apparently, a 60-unit condo complex there needed to upgrade their onsite systems.  The owners association considered installing alternative onsite denitrifying septic systems or a central sewer connected to a central treatment system.

The final bids for sewering the Center Village project were around $800,000, breaking down to about $15,000 per unit. The condo association representative stated, “That is less expensive than installing an alternative system, and should be forever because we’re in the town sewer.”

So the bottom line is that Massachusetts has approved a number of alternative systems for nitrogen removal that, according to the people actually paying for and using the systems, (1) Don't work well and (2) cost more than $15,000 to install and maintain. 

I thought it would be interesting to see what systems are approved in Massachusetts that fall into these two catagories.  The link is: http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/wastewater/summary-of-innovative-alternative-technologies-approved.html

If you go to the bottom of the page you will see a list of I/A Technologies with Nitrogen Reduction Credit .  I will let you draw your own conclusions.  But this is typical of many regulatory authorities, they are far more concerned with adherence to the mountains of red tape they have created to justify their existence than they are with protection of the environment.  In other words, it is more important that a manufacturer has conformed to their procrustean approval process than it is that the system actually performs and is available at reasonable cost.

Here is the full article:  http://www.barnstablepatriot.com/home2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32904&Itemid=30