Friday, December 30, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Eliminite treated wastewater sample from a daycare facility.
The system was installed by Justin Buchanan of Eon NW located in Bozeman, MT

Sample Results
Ammonia: 0.7 mg/L
TKN: 1.7 mg/L
BOD5: 3.5 mg/L
TSS: 0.0 mg/L

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best Available Technology

Remember this post?

A few weeks ago I showed you the 10 day results (before and after) of a mixed use (commercial and residential) septic system we retro-fit with an Eliminite.  Today I want to give you the total nitrogen numbers.  The sample was collected about a week ago.  Think.....December in Montana. 

TKN: 6 mg/L
NO2+NO3: 1.8 mg/L

Total Nitrogen:  7.8 mg/L.
This means that in a few weeks, at high altitude, in Montana cold, an Eliminite system transformed the wastewater on the left into treated effluent with a total nitrogen concentration below the safe drinking water standard.  No media cube fluffing...just trouble free operation and great results.

I have been thinking and it has become clear to me that,
 Eliminite's worst numbers are better than other systems best numbers.
And our prices are lower. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I forgot to tell you about this one

A beautiful residential development on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Bozeman, MT
needed to upgrade their onsite wastewater treatment system.  The HOA hired an engineering firm to prepare plans and explore treatment options for the 70+ lot system. 

Three manufacturers provided proposals for the new system.

After reviewing the proposals with their engineer, the HOA decided to award the job to Eliminite. 

Maybe it was our lower cost or simpler maintenance.  Maybe it was our robust telemetry system.  It could have been that our treatment numbers are significantly better or that our systems do not have the visual impact of the others.
Maybe it was a combination of all these factors.

I can say with certainty that if you need an advanced onsite wastewater treatment system and you have not considered Eliminite, you will probably be paying more for a lower quality treatment system, period.

Here is an interesting news flash

Maryland auditors recommend criminal probe of septic system upgrade contractsBALTIMORE — Questionable septic system upgrade contracts totaling $1 million have been referred to the attorney general’s criminal division, according to an audit of the Maryland Department of the Environment released Thursday.
The average cost of 57 MDE-administered contracts awarded to two contractors was about $19,000, more than $7,200 higher than other projects statewide. And the cost for the 57 projects was more than $400,000 higher than similar projects, the auditors found.

As soon as I find out more details I'll post it here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Think about this from the homeowner's point of view: An addendum to yesterday's post

I am adding this to yesterday's post because I don't want an important point to be lost inside one of my usual rants.

The homeowners having the septic system installed saved $10,000 because they questioned their engineers work and decided to install an Eliminite denitrification system rather than one from the "Big Guys."

This is significant because the total installed cost of the entire system (Building sewer, primary tank, Eliminite treatment unit, drainfield, pumps, control panel and labor) was about $21,000.  This is a huge savings.  

The two systems, Eliminite and "Big Guys", are regulatory equivalents meaning in the eyes of DEQ they are equal.  However, I have years of data comparing the effluent from the two systems showing Eliminite has far superior nitrogen removal results.

So why is the other system so expensive?  My opinion is that they have, with the assistance of your state and local health department, enjoyed a near monopoly. 

In Maryland, the agency charged with permitting these system actually lowered the standard to accommodate a system that they had previously approved but could not meet the original standard for which it was permitted.

Generally, these systems are approved for installation by providing ONE data point, NSF testing.  The problem is once the system has passed NSF's fantasy test, the state agencies don't bother exploring REAL WORD numbers from the installed systems and it is a well know fact, though only spoken in dark corners of empty rooms, that certified systems generally do not meet real world nitrogen standards.  Hence the shenanigans in Maryland.  (The certification is would cost a company in the neighborhood of $150,000 to complete the 6 month test.   Who pays for this?  You do.) 

In Rhode Island it is reported that residential denitrification systems cost $35,000 to $45,000.

Here is a breakdown of the types of systems installed in Charlstown, RI taken from:

Monopoly?   You decide.  I can tell you that based on the pie chart, Eliminite would provide dramatically lower effluent nitrogen numbers than the vast majority (90%+) of the systems being installed (I can't speak to every system listed because I am surprised anyone even uses them any more) and cost thousands less. 

This means that Rhode Island would see an immediate reduction in the cost of residential denitrification systems of guessed it $10,000 to $25,000. 

That is real money in the homeowners pocket and less nitrogen in the environment. 

Oh..and for the record, Montana's water is better.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A letter from the Client to the Engineer. File this under, "I told you so."

A little background:
Client hires Mr. Engineer to design an advanced onsite wastewater treatment system for her property.  The system will serve three homes.

Mr. Engineer decides that he will not show Eliminite on the plans and opts to only show the "Big Guys" onsite wastewater system on the plans. 

During the process of obtaining cost proposals for the treatment system, several contractors suggest  Client look into Eliminite as an option because they prefer Eliminite advanced onsite treatment systems to those manufactured by the "Big Guys."

Eliminite provided a  price to  Clients contractor and offers to help have the system re-permitted if Client decides to work with us. 

Client decides to use Eliminite and authorizes re-permitting.  Re-permitting takes a few days.

The Smackdown
The system is installed and, apparently, Mr. Engineer, noticing the construction activity on the property asks Client if he should come out and certify the installation.  Client sends Mr. Engineer the following letter:

Mr. Engineer,
They are just finishing putting in the Eliminite system this week. In response to your inquiry, we went with this system because it was $10,000 less than the other system. They are a Montana company & have been very professional with us. They should be included in the options you give people also.
Mrs. Client

That's a fairly strong rebuke and I doubt Client will be recommending Mr. Engineer for future work.

The Problem
In general, larger firms prefer to specify systems that cost more because their fees are based on a percentage of the overall cost. So a system that costs $10,000 more, represents an additional $2000 to $2500 in the engineers pocket for doing nothing.

Clients, whether public or private, must be aware of this practice of deliberately designing with more expensive components for no reason other than that they cost more.  A case in point is a Montana firm that is designing a public onsite wastewater treatment system and is only designing with the "Big Guys" on their plans.  They refuse to even call us back even though they have already been smacked down by other clients that they pulled these shenanigans with.  

The bottom line is, because we are able to provide better systems for less money, they make less.  In fact, the installed cost of one of our systems was less than the cost of their engineering services, and they did not even design the system.

This firm just lost a big public job that they did the preliminary engineering report for.  The clients decided not to use them on the design and construction phases.  The firm that won the award is a competent, ethical group that has worked with Eliminite on several projects.  Their approach is to allow several manufacturers to present a design for review and the best system wins the job.

Eliminite almost always wins the fair bids.  The only ones we do not win, are the ones that are rigged from the beginning.   This ultimately ends up costing the client a lot more money initially, more money for operation and maintenance and, after the "Big Guys" system has been installed and is not meeting permit requirements, more money because the engineers are forced to "de-certify" the non-compliant system.

Want to know more?  Give me a call.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ten Days in October

This project has a long history so I'll provide a short background.  It was built in the 90's as a mixed use residential and commercial development in a resort area. It consists of cabins, condos, retail and a restaurant. 
Back in those days recirculating sand filters were all rage and the DEQ required one to be installed for wastewater treatment. 

You remember the design...a goofy little frame wall built around the perimeter of the excavation to which plywood or drywall was applied so that a 30 mil PVC liner could be draped over the whole thing.  Then there were the layers of sand, gravel, pea gravel, more gravel that had to be meticulously placed, leveled and smoothed.  

Well it failed, just like they all fail.  It was rebuilt.  The new one failed.

When the owners decided they had had enough, they installed an Eliminite as a retro-fit to the existing primary and recirculation tanks. 

The photo on the left shows the wastewater in the recirculation tank before startup.  It looks so bad you can almost smell it through the screen. 
The photo on the right shows a sample collected from the Eliminite just ten days after the system was started.   It is clear and there is no offensive odor. 

This means that in ten days or less the Eliminite system turned a tank full of filthy, stinky, nasty wastewater,  into a clear, odor-free effluent.   

Try this with one of those air bubbler systems and the aeration tank would have looked like  Yellowstone Mud Pot.  I can only imagine what a filter fabric or foam cube system would look like after a week of receiving this type of wastewater.  Can you say, "Time for the Tyvek suit?"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wastewater sampling

Justin Buchanan and I went on a maintenance run recently and inspected 7 Eliminite systems in about 2 hours.  The reason we can do so many inspections in such a short time is because there is usually nothing for us to do other than collect a sample and look at the system.  We read the counter numbers from the panel, open the lids, inspect the MetaRocks, pull a sample, do a quick flush on the drainfield and move to the next system.  I cannot imagine arriving at the site and needing to remove feculent, septic saturated sheets to hose off or having to travel with a foam cube fluffer to loosen up saturated little foam meatballs. 

Every system we inspected was producing wastewater that looked like the sample shown in the picture.  Clear, odor-free and well below Montana's nitrogen limit of 24 mg/L.

I spoke with a government relations coordinator (Lobbyist) who works for a big manufacturer of onsite systems.  Apparently, this company was very interested in the New Mexico study in which we participated.  Our average total nitrogen for the duration of the study was about 7 mg/L.  The PhD lobbyist took a stab at explaining the fundamentals of biological nitrification and denitrification to me because, in his experience, onsite systems cannot achieve such stellar numbers.    He reasoned that our impressive results were probably due to "one little old lady wearing Depends," living in the house.  He actually said that!  I tried to explain to him that the people living in the home work from home and conduct business in their home.  The installer informed me that Eliminite was chosen for that home because the people entertain regularly and he felt other systems would not be able to treat the flow from the house. 

I have to admit his comment took me by surprise and it seems offensive of several levels.  But, I guess it explains why, in his experience, onsite systems cannot acheive impressive numbers.  In fact, it seems obvious that, considering his comment, their systems never produce results comparable to Eliminite, unless the system is not being used, of course.

Maybe the next set of requirements this company will include in their warranty, after the prohibition on using house-hold cleaners and antibacterial soap, will be that everyone in the residence needs to wear Depends undergarments when they are home.  That might help their numbers but can you imagine the new inspection procedures?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Last Blog Post is Creating Quite a Commotion

The previous post on highway rest areas sure has generated a lot of interest.  I have experimented with my posts and find that educational posts such as:

Just don't generate as much interest as my slightly more sarcastic posts:

And the recent post on highway rest areas has really brought the little critters out of the wood work.  Keep in mind that the information I post is all readily available to the public, you might have to dig a little but it's there.

Case in point,  I was poking around and came across a newspaper story about a tiny town in New Mexico.  Some genius decided there were wastewater problems and the town was required to build a new wastewater treatment system.  It is comprised of several clustered treatment systems scattered around the town. 

The article was very interesting and recently I visited this small town and looked at what had been installed.   I took photos and drove around, visiting each little cluster system.

Now, maybe I'm no expert but I know stink when I smell it, and these things were stinky. This is really too bad because it would not be too much of a stretch to assume that the system cost was pretty close to the entire value of the property it served.  In other words, if you took the cost of the wastewater treatment system, in cash, you could probably buy all the property the system was designed to serve.  Now this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but if you saw the place, you might agree with me. 

My understanding from the newspaper article is that the system was not meeting its discharge limits and everybody involved was pulling their hair out about it.  The town had the engineer there, the distributor, the manufacturer, and they simply could not get it/them into compliance. 

The interesting thing in the article was that the manufacturer was blaming the installer, the operator, the town, anyone they could name in an attempt to shift responsibility somewhere other than where it rightfully belonged...right in the manufacturers lap. 

Ultimately I heard that they pretty much stopped sampling it so nobody really knows what's going on, but it sounds like it/they are still non-compliant.

I was happy to pull into the RV park in New Mexico that is being served with an Eliminite and see every space full and utilizing the treatment system to its capacity.  I opened the lids, no odor.  The owner said there is never any odor.  The treated RV wastewater was clear, and odor free and the BOD5 had recently been reported at 18.9 mg/L and Total Nitrogen was 13.7 mg/L.

I was just visiting and was not called there to fix something that was broken.  There was no conflict and the owner was so happy with the system that he let Amanda and me, and our three pets, stay in one of his resort cabins at a reduced rate.  This is a big difference with Eliminite compared to other systems, we care about our products and, as a result, the systems work.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Highway Rest Area Here are the Results

A few days ago I posted the photo below of a wastewater sample taken from one of our highway rest area on site wastewater treatment systems.  The lab sent me the sample results.

cBOD: 4.0 mg/L
Ammonia: 2.4 mg/L
TSS: Not Detected
E. coli: Not Detected
Nitrate +Nitrite: 31.8 mg/
Organic Nitrogen:  20.9 mg/L

The system is set up to add carbon and alkalinity but these results are from one of our standard systems with no carbon addition and no alkalinity addition.  Influent strength at these rest areas is
BOD ~1200 mg/L
Nitrogen~450 mg/l

This means a standard eliminite system, treating very high strength wastewater, is achieving about 85% removal of nitrogen and about a 97% removal of BOD.   The permit for this system requires 60% removal of nitrogen.   Because the system is so far below permit limits, the Department of Transportation may not need to add the carbon source.  If the carbon source were to be added, it would take about 3 hours to have everything set up and dialed in.  I am obviously not using wood chips for denitrification because if I were, we would have to have excavators out to the jobsite to install the wood chip tanks, and plumbers to connect the piping.  Sorry guys, I just think wood chips are a bad idea considering that many Eliminite systems, in standard configuration, already produce Total Nitrogen results in single digits for a lot less money.

So for a system operating in a remote location on an Interstate highway experiencing no malfunctions or alarms, it is doing pretty well.  It has not required any maintenance time other than sample collection.

I was at a similar highway rest area in Colorado that had another manufacturers system for wastewater treatment.  It discharges directly into the River.  I learned that the system does not always meet a 50 mg/L ammonia standard and routinely exceeds this generous standard resulting in the discharge of  wastewater directly into the River.  I feel sorry for the rafters and Kayakers!!  You all better watch out for the "Brown" trout.

I understand the Colorado system has been out of compliance for a long time.  The manufacturer has been out there with the engineer and distributor and nobody can seem to get the thing into compliance (Not even the people who designed, built and installed it) I know of one sample set where the total nitrogen was over 150 mg/L.  The Colorado DOT would apparently rather ignore the system than get it fixed ,even though it continues to pollute the River. (Maybe, because it continues to pollute the  River) This must be the benefit to a company that employs full time lobbyists in an effort to have its way with state and local regulations. 

What it really is, is further evidence that pod type systems simply cannot match the treatment results of Eliminite Advanced On Site Wastewater Treatment Systems.  

Oh...and,  "Eliminite is Lobbyist Free Since '93!"

Friday, August 12, 2011

This is what Eliminite does to wastewater from a highway rest area...

The onsite system was installed in the winter at high elevation.  In its 10 months of operation there have been no alarms, no malfunctions and no maintenance.  We have inspected the system visually but have not had to do anything to it.

We were awarded this job through a competitive bidding process and our price was about $30,000 lower than the "Big Guys" price and they did not even include denitrification.  That means we were probably  $60,000 to $80,000 less than the "Big Guys."

Every Eliminite system is this reliable.

Monday, August 8, 2011

RV Park in New Mexico

I had a conversation with the Ground Water Division of New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) a few years ago regarding a client's desire to build an RV park on his property.  NMED informed me that they would not approve anything but a non-discharging system (Evaporating Sewage Pond) because in their experience, most of the wastewater systems installed in New Mexico at RV parks were in a perpetual state of failure. 

The photo below is from an Eliminite system, permitted under Liquid Waste Division, installed at an RV park in New Mexico two years ago.  At the time the photo was taken, all 20 spaces in the RV park were occupied and had been for several months. Notice how clean the MetaRocks media is...It has never been hosed off, taken out, fluffed or changed.  There was no odor. 

The system is sampled quarterly and, at the time of the most recent sample, the park was full. The Permit Limit for BOD is 150 mg/L.  There is no specified standard for nitrogen.

The sample results were: 
BOD  18.9 mg/L
TN (ammonia, organic nitrogen, nitrate and nitrite) 13.7 mg/L

Clearly, the system is not only capable of treating RV park wastewater, it is capable of doing it better than most systems do with a single family residence.  In fact, take a look, for instance, at Maryland's Best Available Technology data and you will see that this very compact Eliminite system treating RV wastewater blows the"Best Available Technology", according to the state of Maryland, away.

I had the opportunity to visit a few advanced treatment system installations in New Mexico last week and I must say that I was shocked at what I saw.  It seems the onsite industry is the only industry where manufacturers, engineers and installers are allowed to charge, and receive,  huge sums of money for systems that do not work.  If automobile purchases we conducted similarly, a person would pay for the car and and not even be able to drive it home before it broke down.  They would have no recourse because the manufacturer would cite some study where a "test car" was shown to work adequately.  How do you say NSF?

I saw installations that were so ugly that I cannot believe the manufacturer is still in business. I thought NSF had some kind of annual certification process....I would like to give them a few addresses. 

One installer in the Albuquerque area is so incompetent and cheap that he will not order effluent pumps with a cord long enough to allow proper placement of the control panel.  He installs the customers control panel about 4 inches above the ground.   This means that in order to service, adjust, or even open the damn panel, the service provider has to lay on the ground on his belly.   Apparently, NMED finds this acceptable and continues to permit and approve this garbage work. I have a photo, want to laugh?

I visited an RV park that had seven air bubbler systems installed for wastewater treatment.  The stench was overwhelming and the system has been in a constant state of violation.  The interesting thing about this is that the Technical Advisory Committee(TAC) in New Mexico recently upgraded the status of the manufacturer by recommending they be approved for the tertiary treatment standard.  I saw several of these bubbler systems installed at residences and they too, filled the air with their feculent stench. 

I visited one system that must have been an engineers wet dream...It was a wetland system of sorts but it was easy to tell, and this was confirmed, that the engineer keeps cobbling additional components on in a vain attempt to get the thing to work.  It was actually kind of hideous and the only real visual blight in an otherwise beautiful setting.  I hear it really annoys the neighbors with its alarm and odor.

I recently received a set of sample results for a number of Eliminite systems in New Mexico.  The total nitrogen average was 5.8 mg/L.  A set of nitrogen samples from Montana from several systems had a TN average of 8.05 mg/L.  These are new results and I have not previously reported them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Some facts about Eliminite Recirculating Trickling Filter


Eliminite was developed in Bozeman, Montana in 1994 in response to evolving water quality regulations developed by Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).   The new regulations identified nitrogen, due to its potential mobility in the vadose zone, as the contaminant of primary concern.  Between 1994 and 2004, no formal classification for nutrient removal systems existed in Montana. However, early results from the Eliminite technology were so promising that MDEQ allowed them to be installed on a case-by-case basis until the formal rules were prepared.  By the time MDEQ finalized the regulations, Eliminite systems had been in use in residential, commercial and community applications throughout Montana for 10 years.  Also during this time, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) completed an in-depth field study of four onsite treatment technologies, including Eliminite, which focused on identifying wastewater treatment technologies capable of meeting Montana’s maximum allowable effluent nitrogen concentration of 24 mg/L and 60% minimum nitrogen removal.   At the conclusion of the 18-month study, Eliminite was recommended for approval at the highest classification in Montana, Level II treatment.  Three patents have been issued for the Eliminite system and its proprietary components, including MetaRocks lightweight treatment media for growing microorganisms.

Eliminite are now used in hundreds of homes, businesses and government facilities in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and California. 


Eliminite is a fixed-film biological reactor with recirculation and alternating aerobic/anoxic treatment processes.  While many models and configurations targeting a variety of wastewater constituents are available, the most basic configuration consists of a single primary tank (septic tank) and a single Eliminite treatment tank.  The treatment tank houses the fixed-film bioreactor, recirculation/storage volume, level control and effluent pump(s).  

MetaRocks fixed-film media:

Eliminite systems utilize patented, proprietary treatment media called MetaRocks.  MetaRocks media represents a significant improvement over other types of trickling filter media common to the industry.  Long-term use has proven that MetaRocks possess superior treatment characteristics which are absent from other types of fixed-film systems, including the following:

·         High specific surface area in excess of 60 ft2/ft3 provides ample surface for microbial attachment and biofilm development.

·         Large void volume exceeding 70% ensures low headloss for efficient air transfer through entire media bed.

·         Large average pore diameter of 0.5 to 1.5 inch translates to nearly zero clog potential.

·         Rough surface speeds time to maturation and enhances water holding characteristics.

·         High hydraulic loading capacity, 250 gal/(min* ft2).

·         Polar surface is hydrophilic and wets completely with water.

·         Thin liquid surface film allows oxygen to penetrate into the full depth of the developed biofilm.

·         Light weight at 7 lb/ft3 allows for deep media bed with no additional structural requirements imposed on the tank manufacturer.

·         MetaRocks are free-flowing and take the shape of the vessel they occupy while retaining their superior hydraulic and biological properties.  This allows for their use in virtually any type of tank.


Versus suspended growth systems

·         Fixed-film systems are known to be significantly more resistant to upsets caused by flow variation and varying influent wastewater strength.

·         Because nitrifying organisms prefer to embed into a biofilm, fixed-film systems provide superior nitrification capability. This leads to reduced potential for microorganism washout during high flow periods.

·         Operational complexity of suspended growth systems demands skilled operators be available for frequent monitoring, adjustment and maintenance in order to keep the system functioning at adequate levels.  Eliminite is naturally biologically complex but mechanically simple.  No special skills are necessary to operate the system and achieve exemplary results.

·         Small scale suspended growth system have almost no operational control and are therefore incapable of responding to, or being manually manipulated to accommodate, wastewater characteristics that deviate from design parameters.  Eliminite is designed with many degrees of freedom allowing a good deal of control and manipulation.  It is possible to “fine tune” the system with a high degree of precision.

·         Air blowers are energy hogs and suspended growth systems with their large, noisy blowers will consume far more energy than an Eliminite fixed-film system.

·         Cold weather slows biological activity and the only pragmatic method for improving treatment levels in a suspended growth system is to increase oxygen to the aeration basin.  This results in greater quantities of cold air being injected into the system and further degradation of the treatment process.  Heaters are commonly employed in suspended growth systems during winter months to alleviate this problem.  Obviously, heating wastewater, will add significant operational expense.  Eliminite was developed in, and designed for, a cold climate and does not exhibit the severe, cold weather, degradation in effluent quality seen with suspended growth systems.


Versus other fixed-film systems

·         Most commercially available fixed-film systems are manufactured around a “pod” arrangement.   Pod based system leave little flexibility to the design engineer other than the specification of more or fewer pods.  Pods are generally manufactured out of state and potentially in another country, providing scant benefit to the local economy.  Eliminite works with local engineers and suppliers to develop a wastewater treatment system configuration that fits the clients project and meets budget demands.

·         Rather than stringing multiple pods together, Eliminite prefers to simply install a larger single tank.  This reduces piping complexity, O&M procedures and helps conserve heat vital to the treatment process.

·         Eliminite uses patented MetaRocks trickling filter media which have large open passageways for air transfer.  Textile, foam cube, peat moss and other similar media exhibit high porosity but this porosity is comprised of very small pores.  Biological organisms and even liquid will quickly bridge these miniscule voids rendering them ineffective for air transfer or treatment.  

·         MetaRocks have a rough polar surface because the surface is highly textured sand and recycled glass.  Textiles and foam cubes are smooth and, because they are manufactured from plastics, are non-polar.  It has been shown that a rough surface will develop a biofilm more quickly than a smooth surface meaning that MetaRocks will reach optimum treatment levels more quickly.  Surface polarity relates to a materials ability to be wet with water.  The sand and recycled glass surface of MetaRocks are polar and therefore easily wet.  A non-polar surface, in contrast, is wetting resistant and water will bead, much like water on a waxed surface.  Beading is an undesirable characteristic of plastic media systems.

·         MetaRocks do not require cleaning or replacement.  Textiles must be washed and cubes require fluffing because they cannot support their weight plus the weight of the biofilm.  Textiles have a tendency to stretch over time and will need to be trimmed periodically.  Manipulating the media in a system that has been in use is a dirty and potentially hazardous job.

·         MetaRocks have structural integrity and are suitable for deep trickling filter beds.  A deep bed has many advantages including smaller footprint, superior resistance to cold temperatures and highly efficient nitrification potential.

·         Eliminite can use fewer small access risers and lids because MetaRocks do not require invasive maintenance procedures.  This means lower heat loss in cold weather and dramatically reduced visual impact.  Fewer access points also reduce the potential for unauthorized entry into the system and results in a less visually obtrusive end product.

·         Eliminite does not require a telephone up-link.  One can easily be added, reporting any number of parameters, if desired.

·         MetaRocks were designed specifically for use as a fixed film media. Their size, shape, surface characteristics, weight, and structural integrity are specific to their purpose. Most other media used in the industry use materials that were intended for other uses
and have various drawbacks when applied to the wastewater industry.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Results from the lab and other things

I thought you might like to see some more lab results from an actual system that has been in use for about 5 years.  In that time the owner has not had to replace or repair any equipment.  The fixed film MetaRocks media looks like new and has never needed to be hosed off, fluffed, trimmed or removed for cleaning.  The system is technically a single residence treatment unit but serves a duplex in one of the coldest areas of Montana.  As you can see on the attached lab analysis, the results from the system are pretty good. 

Allow me to be candid,  but we all know what the numbers from onsite systems look like.  We all have seen the full page advertisements for 16 mg/l TN from some study halfway across the world.  If you take a look at the dozens of studies and tons of marketing material manufacturers are so proud of, it is clear that the Eliminite results below are off the scale great results .  This fact becomes even more compelling if you consider that the system has received no maintenance, it receives only annual inspections.  I realize the statement that our systems produce superior results without the constant babysitting necessary to keep other systems running is sacrilegious to regulators, but it is the truth.  

Last years lab sample taken from the system showed TN at 9 mg/L.    Apparently Eliminite gets better with age.

These numbers above are consistent with the third-party testing that was recently completed in New Mexico.  We were part of a state funded study looking at maintenance requirements for several systems.  Eliminite had the best overall numbers and averaged about 7 mg/L TN for the duration of the study. 

It is interesting that our TN results form a tight grouping and are not scattered all over the place like most systems.  One manufacturer I spoke with is of the opinion that individual system results should not carry as much weight as the statistical average of all their systems.  Honest!  I am not making this up!

Following his logic, convoluted as it may be, means that if I were to get pulled over for going 80 mph in a 55 mph zone, I should be able to argue that my average speed since I left home was under the speed limit and get off without a ticket.  In reality you would probably get two tickets: one for speeding and another for being an idiot.  How can you even argue with such tripe?  It seems more reasonable to me that each system must stand on its own.  The problem with that approach would be that most manufacturers would have to exhume 50% or more of their units and retrofit with Eliminite.  Well. not a problem for Eliminite anyway.

We are doing just that, exhuming a system and replacing it with an Eliminite, at a convenience store.  The current onsite system included all the promises and rhetoric about how wonderful it it is.  Too bad the discharge permit did not consider a weighted average of TN, glossy brochures, fancy marketing and big promises.

Onsite Installer article

Onsite Installer featured two of our highway rest area systems in last months issue.  We learned before the article went to publication that the true influent nitrogen concentration is generally between 400 and 500 mg/L TN.  This makes our 28 mg/L effluent TN even sweeter.  I am in the process of reducing the effluent TN further. I will post results here soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

News from Colorado

Amanda and I have been in Colorado for most of this week, meeting with our friends and co-workers in the engineering and onsite profession. 

As you can imagine, Colorado is beautiful this time of year, the snow is still deep on the highest peaks and I don't know if the valleys and lower elevations have ever been so green.

We visited several jobs that have been recently completed and a few that are ongoing.

Red Sky Ranch

We have been working with Vail Resorts Development Company for about 12 years and have completed several cluster systems and many individual onsite systems.  These photos show an individual system being installed. The owner decided to use Front Range Precast tanks (one tank for the septic tank and one tank for the Eliminite) for this installation.  Discharge is to a pressurized bed absorption field.  Thanks to Don O Dell for this efficient design and expert installation.

State Bridge
Ask anyone who knows State Bridge and you will hear things like, "That place is awesome!"  An outdoor music venue destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 2007, State Bridge has risen from the ashes and is once again drawing large crowds to hear bands play in their amphitheater on the Colorado River.  Led by a dedicated team of music lovers, State Bridge provides tepees, cabins and yurts for people to rent.

Eliminite is proud to be a part of State Bridge's rebirth and revival.  LKP Engineering and Pete Petrovski of Innovative Septic Technology, Edwards CO provided the design and installation of the 320C System. 

We are starting to see a real departure from the way the onsite industry here has been doing wastewater.  In the recent past, most people only knew of one brand of onsite system and that system dominated the market.  But, we have been meeting with regulators, engineers, builders and homeowners, and we are beginning to see a significant shift away from the big guys. 

I'm sure that price plays a major role in the initial decision; our estimates have been dramatically lower than the big guys' prices.  The interesting thing is, we have held our prices at a fair level and have not played games with the numbers.  We've just committed a lot of time, effort and consideration to keeping our prices reasonable; we work with local suppliers, we choose not to invest disproportionately in costly advertising and marketing campaigns, and we've steered clear of the common business model of using multiple middlemen, which quickly translates into big markups.  As an example, Eliminite and one of its primary competitors in CO--I'll call them "Brand X"--provided quotes for a 6 bedroom home in Colorado.  Our price for the entire system was literally half of the Brand X quote.  What happened on the next job quote is significant:

This time, Brand X (probably determined not to lose another job to us) dropped their price by $14,000!    In one step, they reduced the price they would have normally charged the consumer by $14,000.  There is a lot one can read into this tactic:

1) They have been severely overcharging their customers because they have enjoyed a near-monopoly for years. 
2) They are deeply concerned about Eliminite in Colorado.
3) They are pretty ticked off.  I mean, we forced them to walk away from a $14,000 gravy train that they have enjoyed at the expense of the consumer.

I predict there will be some concern and dissension at the Brand X offices because, suddenly, their blank check has been taken away and they will be forced to provide a fair job for a fair price...that is where the rub will be--fairness.  Today's economy is vastly different than the economy of years past.  Consumers are no longer willing to accept the first bid they receive from the most obvious source; they are doing their own research, and they know an unfair price when they see it.  When construction loans were flowing freely, consumers often overlooked unfair prices, trusting their contractor and engineer to find them the best deal.  Contractors and engineers often went with the most commonly known brand, because it's what they already knew...years of intense marketing, lobbying, networking and advertising efforts made Brand X the go-to brand for most onsite professionals.  It was easy, obvious, and cost wasn't much of an issue.  However, today's consumers are taking matters into their own hands because resources are more scarce.  When they receive a $40,000 bid for an onsite system for a modest home, they start looking for an alternative.  Eliminite is that alternative.

Even with Brand X's dramatic $14,000 price reduction, Eliminite's price is still lower, and its maintenance requirements are significantly less onerous.  So, cost savings are substantial, not only up front, but also long term.

My long-term goal is to move the discussion away from the fact that our prices are lower so that we can discuss results, reliability and design.  I have posted quite a few real-world, cold-weather results on this blog, and it is easy to see that Eliminite is not only a viable alternative to the Big Guys; Eliminite is, in many ways, the superior alternative. The treatment results are more consistent and reliable, the system is far less susceptible to upset, and the maintenance requirements are minimal.  Our more reasonable prices might be the first thing people notice about Eliminite, but it only gets better from there.  We're looking forward to another year of record growth.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Nitrogen in wastewater and more real world results

I spend quite a bit of time on this blog discussing nitrogen in wastewater and thought I would take a minute and explain a little about the species of nitrogen present in domestic wastewater.  

Nitrogen is present in wastewater in several forms:

Organic nitrogen, primarily as urea.  Urea is the end product of the metabolism of nitrogen-containing compounds in most mammals and is excreted in the urine (Solomons 1988)


Ammonia:  Ammonia is generated by ammonification of urea.  You can see the amino groups (NH2) in the urea that degrade to ammonia. (Grady, Daigger and Lim, 1999)

Ammonia (NH3)

If the pH of the wastewater is neutral to acidic the ammonia will be in the form of ammonium.

Ammonium Ion

Nitrate and Nitrite: The ammonium is converted to nitrite and then nitrate in the presence of oxygen.

Nitrate (NO3)

Nitrite (NO2)

Those are the main forms of nitrogen in domestic wastewater.  Total nitrogen (TN) is the sum of all species:

Total nitrogen (TN) = Organic nitrogen (urea) + Ammonia/Ammonium + Nitrate + Nitrite.

You may have heard of Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (TKN), this is not TN.  TKN is the sum of organic nitrogen (urea) + ammonia/ammonium.  TKN can be equal to TN if no nitrate or nitrite is present in the sample.  TKN cannot be greater than TN.  With the definition of TKN, total nitrogen can be expressed as: 
TN = TKN + nitrate +nitrite.

I spoke with an onsite maintenance provider who maintained a competing system and was responsible for collecting wastewater samples for analysis.  He was very proud of the fact that the total nitrogen for his systems was under 20 mg/L and felt the need to prove it to me by showing me a copy of his sample results.  The nitrogen analysis he was having run by the lab, however, was for total kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) not total nitrogen (TN).  He heard the word, "total" in TKN and assumed he was getting the correct sample analysis.  The problem was that once the nitrate and nitrite were added to the results, to obtain a true TN value, his systems were actually exceeding the state standard by a huge margin.  You can see it is important to understand what you are doing.

This brings up an interesting point.  We have all heard of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and most know that BOD is a measure of the amount of oxygen required to oxidize biologically degradable compounds completely to water and carbon dioxide.  The most common form of this test measures the dissolved oxygen concentration remaining in a sample over a period of 5 days, hence the BOD5 test.   What you will see fairly often are manufacturers presenting cBOD as BOD5.  a cBOD test is a different test though. 

In a cBOD test, the bacteria responsible for converting ammonia to nitrate and nitrite are killed. This effectively negates the oxygen demand imposed by the nitrogen species.  The cBOD test provides useful information but should not be confused with the standard BOD5 test.  I think manufacturers use cBOD because if you collect a sample from a treatment system and analyze it for BOD5 and cBOD5 you will see that the cBOD5 sample produces a lower value.  The reason the value is lower is because a significant portion of the oxygen-demanding species have been negated by killing the microorganisms that are responsible for oxidizing it.  

Real World, Cold Weather Results (Not Waco in the summer)

I am including some recent Eliminite samples from five residential systems in Montana.  These are cold weather samples taken from standard residential systems.  The nitrogen results represents an 80 to 90% removal.

Lot Total Nitrogen BOD
22 14 18
26 14 17
28 15 17
29 10 11
32 17 11
Average 14.00 14.80

Montana has had a long cold winter this year but as the results show, these values are superior to most systems best warm weather data.   Our nitrogen numbers are not the only values that are much lower than competing onsite systems; our prices are significantly lower also.  It's just a fact.

Highway Rest Areas
I'll be discussing the highway rest area systems in a day or two.  We are currently achieving about a 90% removal of nitrogen.  The influent nitrogen is a little higher than previously thought;  400 to 500 mg/L TN and the BOD is over 1000 mg/L.  We don't even have the system dialed in yet and are currently removing 93% TN.   Oh...these are cold weather results also!

Blog Traffic
Should I mention what company has visited this blog more in the last month than anyone...even me!?  If you guys would like to buy some systems, we can work something out.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Real World Results

A few years ago sand filters were being presented, very effectively I must add, by a company that manufactured sand filter kits, as a panacea that would solve the world's onsite wastewater treatment problems.  Engineers, contractors and regulators were offered "classes" in a traveling side show of sorts providing them everything they needed to specify, permit and build God's gift to mankind's need to treat onsite wastewater. 

Detailed gradation curves describing the size and composition of the sand were developed and distributed giving the illusion that a lot of hard thought went into the design of these sand filters. I remember the pages of plans that were made available to engineers so that they could simply make copies and insert them into their plan set.  Sand filters were sold as easy to install, easy to maintain, reliable and inexpensive. 

There were many problems with sand filters that resulted in them being a nightmare to install, impossible to maintain, expensive and when they failed....they went all at once.

In my opinion one first must look at the treatment media.  Sand works great, right up to the point where it doesn't.  Then you have this mess to deal with:

Any media with tiny pore spaces is far more likely to clog when wastewater is applied than media with large pore spaces. 

There was a poster presentation at a NOWRA conference a few years ago relating hydraulic conductivity of the media to clogging potential.  It was shown, and this should not come as a surprise, that low hydraulic conductivity media had a much greater probability of failing due to biological fouling than media with higher hydraulic conductivity. 

During a recent presentation, Tchobanoglous stated that the size of the particles in the wastewater being applied had a significant effect on the bio-fouling potential of the media.  If the particle size is close to the media pore size...clogging is likely.  This explains, in part, why manufacturers are requiring larger and larger primary tanks and recirculation tanks for their systems; to try to reduce the size of the suspended solids so their media does not foul.

The sand filter shown above has already been rebuilt and the owners have decided to install an Eliminite system in its place.  Our MetaRocks media has been proven over time and hundreds of installations to reduce the potential for biological clogging to near zero.  The extreme efficiency of the media allows us to use smaller and fewer tanks while dramatically improving reliability and treatment characteristics. 

Hydraulic acceptance rate of MetaRocks:  >250 gal/min/ft^2. 

Our goal has been to identify aspects of an onsite treatment system critical to its performance and optimize those aspects.  The fundamental starting point is the media.  If the media is not right, the system either will not work, or it will be a maintenance nightmare. 

Highly robust media allows the system operation to be varied and optimized because there is no concern that the media will be overloaded.  This fact leads to a variety of possible configurations and allows the designer to target constituents in the wastewater for treatment.  Rather than treating the system with kid gloves, it handles dynamic conditions to the point of abuse.  Isn't that what you really want in an onsite system?

We just received several Montana Cold Winter sample results for nitrogen, total nitrogen........The "worst" result was 12 mg/L TN.  Montana cold, dead of winter, inspection not maintenance, no telephone link, just great results.  

The best? was 4 mg/L TN.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If you need serious nitrogen removal....

Don't monkey around! 

Hidden camera catches monkey wiring control panel

These are cold weather results from a real Eliminite system serving a small restaurant.  And, it does not have a phone line connected to it. 

That whole phone line thing has real Big Brother feel to me anyway....Think about it.  Like, do they know how many times you use the toilet?  Or how long you stay in the shower? Is there anything in your home that is gathering and sending personal data night and day to some unknown person somewhere? 

Don't we generally refer to that as spyware, phishing, a virus? about an invasion of your privacy?

Eliminite is more reliable, has better results and is less expensive.   And, we respect your privacy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Real-World Eliminite Results

"Blind Samples" samples were collected by State Officials from three systems on the same day.  All three are single family residences in similar locations and have been in use for several years.  System N and System F both have NSF 40 and 245. Which system has the best total nitrogen results? 

System N effluent contains TWICE the nitrogen as the Eliminite system and System F effluent has THREE TIMES the nitrogen as the Eliminite.  This is not a one time occurrence, Eliminite consistently beats the others.  Keep in mind, these tests were taken in warm weather....once the temperature falls a bit, N and F results degrade steeply.  A recent cold weather (January in Montana) sample from a single family residence on Montana:  13 mg/L total nitrogen.  Even our inexpensive standard residential models in the long bitter cold of Montana winters run around 12-15 mg/L total nitrogen.  If you need it, we can easily obtain single digit results. Consistently and reliably.

Capital cost for all three are close but I have seen cost estimates for the others and we even beat them on price.  Electrical costs for the other two are probably 5-8 times higher than Eliminite and our systems require far less maintenance. 

So why are the other companies so big and well known?  One word:  Lobbyists.  They all have government relations departments that push and manipulate the regs to favor their particular stinkbox.  Just look it up on their websites.   Eliminite out performs most onsite systems and, if you factor in cost, it may be the best value in onsite treatment technology available, but we are at a competitive disadvantage because we don't have a team of lobbyists providing favors to the gullible government officials they were able to inveigle with their silver tongues.

I am working on obtaining an approval in Maryland (they have HUGE onsite problems there which are not being helped by the fact that the state is forced to water down their regs because the approved systems cannot meet the standards).  I was informed that the manufacturers of the existing systems there would likely sue the state if we were even allowed in for an test run.  Sounds like the work of lobbyists to me. 

In Montana, System N and F, last time I looked, do not have a single installation that even comes close to meeting our liberal standard of 24 mg/L TN. Not one.  In fact, most of the really fancy filter fabric contraptions can't meet that standard either (This leads to monkeying around with the samples so they can claim a 60% reduction in TN.  If I user their numbers for influent strength, Eliminite generally obtains an 80-90% reduction in guys can't beat us so put on some dry  "huggies", change the sheets and stop your whining.)  

If you are tired of hearing all their excuses about high cost, paying dearly for inferior results, putting up with all the maintenance expense, the smell, the noise, high electric bills, I you have "seven tons of toxic peat moss" rotting in your yard (I'll write more about that later. you can take a look at Leesburg Today 7/19/07 if you are interested), if "fluffing" little foam croutons sounds stupid to you too, if you can't stand having those guys in your backyard hosing off  fish tank filters full of feculent feces, if pumping sewage on sandboxes just does not seem to make sense, you can call or write to me, I'll tell it like it is.  I want to show you real world results that come from reliable designs and expert engineering.  I can show you our system that is biologically complex and mechanically simple. (Thanks to my good friend Richard for that line).  Whatever you do, don't commit intellectual suicide by swallowing anything these guys try to feed you without questioning it.  Ask them how their system compares to Eliminite and watch them pucker up...or say, "Oh..I never heard of them."   They have heard of us...they just don't want YOU to hear of us.