Friday, November 16, 2012

New system design: Building a better mousetrap

I have been reluctant to showcase new systems on the web because a few years after we developed our popular "C-Series" system and added it to our website, a contractor friend told me that he strongly suspected our design had been closely copied by another (much larger) corporation.  He had just returned from the Pumper Cleaner show in Kentucky and told me another company, one who frequents this blog and our website, had just rolled out their "new" model...about a year after we publicly unveiled our C-Series models at national trade shows and online.  In retrospect, we probably should have known better than to post detailed technical drawings to our website for everyone to see (we've since taken them down, and we're holding our cards a lot closer these days).  The contractor immediately recognized our C-Series design as the other company's "new and improved" design, and he thought I should know.  I took a look at the new model, and he was right.  The similarities between our design and this company's "new" product line were uncanny.  denitrifying septic system
We don't invest enormous sums of money on marketing, lobbyists, government relations personnel and advertising.  Rather, we invest in research and development to offer better, more reliable and lower-cost onsite systems.  This is a calculated risk our company has taken, and it runs contrary to some advice I received from an idiot marketing company that was managed by an "expert" who, I later learned, had almost no formal education in marketing, despite charging hourly rates in excess of many attorneys and doctors in the area.
This "expert's" advice several years ago was, "Don't build a better mousetrap, build a better brand."  In other words, he was saying, nobody cares about the actual product because the public is so dumb that even if the product is unreliable and overpriced, as long as it is marginally effective and properly "positioned" in the industry, a well-greased marketing campaign will convince them that they really are receiving value for their money. 
I still can't believe I wasted tens of thousands of dollars (I'm too embarrassed to admit exactly how much) on this outrageously inept advice.  But, as an engineer and scientist, all of the marketing junk was so foreign to me at first, I just went along with it.  I trusted the "expert" and kept writing checks, assuming our company was getting some intangible benefit I'd never really understand, because I am a left-brained nerd, not a hand-waving artsy marketing type.  Finally, though, I learned my lesson.  The hard way. There wasn't any measurable benefit to the advice I'd received.  Plus, even if there was some truth to the whole "baffle them with B.S." approach, I didn't want to be the shyster who got ahead in the decentralized industry by fooling people with slick marketing.  There were enough of those companies already. 
I really wanted to create something that worked, something reliable that people could afford, that could be adapted to a variety of sites and applications, that would actually really work.  Something robust. I knew then that paying thousands each month for fluff ads and more "expert" marketing advice would come at the expense of my goals to innovate and improve our products and manufacturing processes.  So, our company went a different way.  We stopped investing huge sums in marketing.  We kept investing in R&D, and in expanding into markets where our services were needed.  Turns out, that was the right way to go.
Obviously, copying designs from smaller firms that (ostensibly) couldn't afford to file patent, trademark or copyright infringement lawsuits isn't exactly a new idea.  It's one well-established way to do business, and it definitely has its advantages.  For instance, if a company just copies a design or steals a good idea from a relatively unknown, smaller competitor, they free up a lot of time and money because, instead of investing money in developing a superior product, they can focus instead on "building a better brand."   The fact that we were selected as the source for another company's "new" system really speaks quite favorably about Eliminite, because you wouldn't copy a design that was anything but a really good idea.  Furthermore, they must genuinely trust our ability to design and develop new products because they simply took our drawings, adapted them to their needs and, of course, added their brand. 
The fact is, the Eliminite C-Series works better, costs less to buy and maintain, and uses our patented MetaRocks treatment media.   In this case, the original is far superior to the generic, because the heartbeat of the design is the media, and our media cannot be replicated. 
I am showcasing below a series of photos showing our recent new design. It is based on Infiltrator Systems' new polyethylene septic tank, which is an awesome addition to their product line.  This system arrives onsite completely assembled and ready to install.  In most instances, concrete tanks from local suppliers are the preferred option.  We like working with the local precasters and will continue to do so.  For this job in eastern Montana, however, the nearest local precaster was so busy that they could not meet the client's strict time frame, so we were glad we were able to offer an alternative.  We discussed options with the owner and engineer and they thought our new system was a great option.  Justin at E-On NW, built the system and was responsible for the expert installation. I think he also provided site design and permitting services to the owner at no charge.
The hole for the septic tank and Eliminite System is ready.
The excavator sets the poly septic tank.
The Eliminite system is completely assembled and ready to install.
Both tanks set, plumbed and ready to be put into service.  Advanced wastewater treatment in about two hours.
Thanks to Infiltrator Systems for manufacturing such a nice tank.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eliminite is providing wastewater treatment systems in the Bakken oil fields

We work with many engineering firms who have decided to use Eliminite exclusively for their clients. 
In the oil fields where time, price and function are important, Eliminite has been installing advanced treatment systems for a variety of facilities.  Our clients like our prices and our ability to meet tight project deadlines.  We were able to assemble a complete submittal package for an engineer working on four, five-unit clusters in one day.  This included design drawings, design report and specifications.  His client changed the deadline and the engineer called us to see if we could get a project out in an unreasonably short time frame.  Approval time for our projects are generally only a week or two because regulatory agencies trust the level of expertise we provide directly to the client.

Our competition in this field is usually someone with very little or no experience designing wastewater treatment systems.  They simply grab a bundle of brochures, memorize a few talking points and, viola, they are onsite experts.  We bring proven long term experience to the table and can assist the client in a meaningful way toward obtaining a solution that fits the needs of the project.

Friday, September 28, 2012

So easy to install, even a Schnauzer can do it

Sam is on her way to install another residential advanced treatment system.  It fits neatly inside the Eliminite trailer. 
We have been installing several systems a week and it seems that as people hear about us and have the opportunity to see the Eliminite system that they choose us over all other options.  An engineer  told me today that he has looked at the other advanced onsite systems and said that he prefers Eliminite because it makes sense and solves problems. 
 I have to say I appreciate hearing this from engineers, contractors, architects and homeowners because they have many systems to choose from and, after careful consideration, have repeatedly chosen Eliminte. 
On another topic...
It has been smoky here in Montana

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More Great Eliminite Results

We always get great results.

  Eliminte will beat their treatment results and their prices.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tertiary Treatment

Here is the most recent wastewater sample from the system I have been sharing with you.  First, let's look at the sample from three weeks ago before the Eliminite system was started.
Please click on the photo above and look carefully at this sample.  Our Eliminite system was added to the existing system and had to initially treat 10,000 gallons of what you see above plus the normal daily influent to the 10,000 gallon tank.   In just 24 hours, the Eliminite system was producing dramatically improved effluent.  After a few days the clarity continued to improve to the point where you could see through the sample.  Here we are three weeks later:
The one on the left, for comparison, is bottled drinking water. These results have been produced without the need to clean, fluff, wash, hose off or replace the MetaRocks treatment media.  I present this to you without fancy marketing, governmental lobbyists or slick talk;  these are the raw results, unedited, never photoshopped,  from a real system performing magnificently under real-world conditions. 
I'll post a photo of the MetaRocks tomorrow after Justin sets up the cellular telephone monitoring system.   What do you think they will look like?  
We have started our next Interstate Highway Rest Area Wastewater Treatment System
It's on I-90, near the Idaho line, stop by anytime.
I plan on providing updates on this system for you. Our other Interstate Highway Rest Area Systems are doing what "they" said can't be done.  Well, really, what "they" simply cannot do. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Did Not Think a Discussion About Riser Lids Could Be So Involved

Two of our 620 C models.  The competitors system would
have had approximately 15 times more exposed hatch area.

Elementary, one-dimensional, conductive heat transfer equations.

Integrating and rearranging, we obtain:

This is a simple conductive heat transfer equation stating that the transfer of energy as heat (q) : 

  • As the thickness of the transfer medium(insulation) increases. (x and x1)

  • as the temperature difference between the warm side and cold side increases (T and T1)
  • increases as thermal conductivity of the medium he increases (km), and
  • increases as the area of transfer surface increases (A)
Obviously the converse of each statement above is also true.  For example, the heat transferred will decrease if the area of transfer surface decreases.

The equations are simply a concise way of stating something we all know to be true based on our everyday experience. 

We all understand that, in general, bigger windows in our homes equate to higher heating bills in the winter because windows are not very thermally efficient and even the best windows allow much more heat to escape than well constructed walls.  We also understand that thicker insulation will result in less heat loss and that it requires more energy to keep the house warm when it is cold outside than when it is warm outside.

The equation above describes heat transfer by conduction.  For example, a metal spoon gets hot if you put one end in a fire because the heat from the fire is conducted along the length of the metal spoon.  I have not presented equations for other mechanisms of heat transfer, convective heat transfer, for instance.  Heat transfer by free or forced convection is why we blow on hot soup to cool it.  Moving air across the surface of the hot liquid results in convective transfer of heat from the soup to the air.

So, where am I going with all this, you ask......

If the other variables are kept equal, and we vary only the surface area of the access openings it is simple to show (lets bring this back to onsite treatment systems) that greater access hatch area results in greater heat loss from the treatment system and a resulting lower temperature inside.

 The effect of temperature on biological activity can be described by the Arrhenius Equation:

Here is the Arrhenius equation in graphical form.  I set all the variables to a constant so we could investigate k as a function of T,  k=f(T).   k is the temperature dependant rate coefficient.  As k goes up, microbial activity goes up.  As k goes down, microbial activity goes down.  This is why we refrigerate our food; colder temperatures slow the action of microorganisms that lead to food spoilage.  But, in a wastewater treatment system, we want the microorganisms active so they can break down the pollutants in the wastewater. 

In the graph above you can see that as the temperature increases, the value of the rate coefficient increases.  Keep in mind that to create the graph, I set all the variables on the right hand side of the Arrhenius equation to a constant. Therefore, the numerical values of temperature on the horizontal axis serve no practical purpose other than to show increasing or decreasing temperature.

Remember, wastewater treatment systems do their job because microorganisms utilize constituents in the wastewater as a food source.  The vast majority of wastewater treatment system are "biological wastewater treatment systems" that experience declines in efficiency as their internal temperature declines.

So what causes a decline in temperature?   Heat loss.  And, as the system loses heat, its temperature goes down; as its temperature goes down, microbial activity slows.  And, as microbial slows, the ability of the system to treat the wastewater diminishes.

With this in mind it is possible to understand the types of onsite systems not particularly well suited for cold climates.  By cold, I mean anywhere temperatures can be expected to drop below about 40 degrees F.

Suspended Growth Systems:  These types of onsite systems utilize an air blower to force outside air into a treatment tank.  If the outside air is cold, the efficiency of these systems decreases dramatically.  And, since most of the air-bubbler systems have no means of operational control other than blowing more air, the only thing the operator can do to affect treatment actually makes things worse because it just drives the temperature down further.  A big manufacturer of bubbler systems tried to take on Montana winters a few years ago.  As I recall the data, not a single one of their systems even came close to meeting Montana's nitrogen reduction standard.  Another large manufacturer was included in a long-term, govt-funded DNRC (Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation) field study in Montana, and that system was removed early by the manufacturer because it never worked and the results were pretty embarrassing.  Incidentally, that same system is now listed as a "Best Available Technology" in Maryland.  As far as I can tell, the factors inhibiting that particular system's ability to provide effective treatment results have not been resolved, which may partially explain why Maryland's current governor is calling for a moratorium on all onsite systems...apparently, the systems bestowed with the "Best Available Technology" qualifier aren't quite getting the job done in Maryland.  The onsite wastewater treatment industry is one of the few industries where, instead of regulatory agencies setting necessary water protection standards and industry rising to meet the challenge, industry dictates standards to regulatory agencies through a combination of lobbying, political maneuvering, over-involvement in the standard-setting processes, and, ultimately, downright inability to meet the higher standards.   But enough of my rant...let's get back to our regularly scheduled program

Fixed Film Systems (FFS):  Fixed film systems utilize some type of media where microorganisms can attach and grow.  Fixed film systems are widely regarded as being superior to suspended growth systems because they provide a higher degree of treatment more reliably than suspended growth systems. Not all FFS are created equal however.

The heartbeat of any FFS is the media it utilizes. Let's consider a few points about media because the type of media used often dictates the overall system design. 
I think most people would agree that because wastewater is going to be applied to the media, it should be resistant to decomposition.  Clearly, organic media like peat moss, straw, leaves, plant fiber, is not a good idea because over time these will begin to decompose and the owner will need to dig the system up, scoop out the old rotten media and replace it with new media.  Owners of these systems enjoy the luxury of getting to repeat this process over and over.  Heat transfer in these system may also be excessive because as the media becomes saturated, it loses its thermal efficiency.  Think about the difference in how you feel outside on a cold day in dry clothes versus wearing soaking wet clothes. 

Several FFS are based upon one type of fabric or another.  In a few of these the fabric is rolled up, in others it is hung in sheets, I have seen several that use little scraps of patchwork dumped into a tank.  They generally do not experience decomposition seen in organic media but may experience biological fouling due to the small pore spaces in the fabric.  What does this have to do with thermal efficiency?

If the media has an inherent potential to break down or clog, it will be necessary to remove the media from the tank in which it is installed and either clean it or replace it.  In your minds eye, picture a tank full of decomposed and/or clogged septic system media.  It's not pretty and removal is absolutely not a clean job.  But, in order to facilitate removal, manufacturers require large hatches on these tanks;  a person simply cannot remove a ton of septic-saturated peat moss through a 2 ft access opening. So, they use hatches that generally cover the entire surface area of the tank. These large hatches tell you something about the system:
  1. Heat transport out of the treatment unit will be greater in systems with large hatches compared to systems with smaller area hatches.
  2. Biological activity and hence,wastewater treatment, may be negatively impacted due to lower system temperature.
  3. Because tanks are more costly to construct with large hatches, their inclusion suggests that at some point the media will need to be removed or cleaned or both. 
  4. If it becomes necessary to inspect the system in cold weather, opening a huge cover will expose the entire treatment system to potentially damaging frigid air.  Anyone who has ever spent time in sub-zero temperatures knows what I am talking about.

I think the problematic nature of many fixed film systems stems from the fact that the treatment media was not specifically designed to treat wastewater but rather was borrowed from some other application(I am thinking aquarium filters, yard landscaping, clean water filters) and force-fit to onsite systems.  If the treatment media, the most critical component of the system, is not ideally suited for the task, then the system must be designed to manage the flaws of the media.  This has the result of treating symptoms rather than dealing with the root cause of the problem.  It reminds me when I was a kid and tried to build a go-kart from an old riding lawnmower.   It would "go" but it certainly wasn't a go-kart.
    MetaRocks were designed specifically to treat wastewater and they do this exceedingly well.  MetaRocks do not decompose and will easily treat wastewater that would quickly cause fabric, peat or plant fiber systems to fail hopelessly.  Since MetaRocks do not need to be removed or replaced , we can use smaller hatches and our systems stay warm even in brutal Rocky Mountain winter.  Furthermore, the robust design does not just make Eliminite a superior cold weather system.  Independent testing shows superior secondary and tertiary treatment levels in warm climates as well.  The bottom line is if you are looking for 80-90% nitrogen removal at the best price, we have your wastewater treatment system.

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Nine Days

    This was what it looked like nine days ago.

    Here is today's sample

    Except for some lingering color, the sample is clear and odor free.  The media is clean and is nowhere near its capacity.  It will never need to be pulled out, pressure washed, fluffed up or changed.  It will just do its job reliably because, unlike other manufacturers' media, it is designed and manufactured specifically for wastewater treatment.  

    When you compare initial equipment cost, installation cost, maintenance cost and treatment results,  you will find that Eliminite wins on all four points.  And don't you really want the best system for your money?
    Here is another song for you:

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    I Think the Groundwater is Getting Happy

    Day Zero

    Day Four

    MetaRocks on Day Four

    Eliminite is a small group of dedicated professionals based in Bozeman, Montana (The Last Best Place), Edwards, Colorado, and Ruidoso, New Mexico.   And, for your listening pleasure....

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

    You probably won't believe this. Before and after one day of Eliminite treatment

    We retro-fit an existing onsite community septic system with an Eliminite system.  The first photo shows the influent to the Eliminite system before startup.

    After  One Day (24 hours,) the effluent from the Eliminite system looks like this.....

    And the MetaRocks treatment media looks like this.....

     The MetaRocks are clean and, as usual, show no signs of fouling.  I can't imagine what a peat moss, foam cube or textile media might look like after receiving the wastewater shown in the first photo. 

    Honestly, I know Eliminite systems are great onsite wastewater treatment units but was not expecting such dramatic results after only one day of operation.  It gets better however, because only 1/2 of the treatment system had been turned on.  I can't wait to see the results after two days with the whole system in operation..

    Thursday, July 19, 2012

    Picturesque Montana Residential Community Installs Eliminite Onsite Treatment System

    I told you about this system back in December.!/2011/12/i-forgot-to-tell-you-about-this-one.html

    Justin Buchanan owner of  EonNW, installed an Eliminite advanced treatment system today.  It took about 3.5 hours to set the tanks and install the MetaRocks media. 

    Contractor: Jason Burk, Burk Excavating, Bozeman, Montana.
    Engineer:  Cordell Pool, P.E., Stahly Engineering and Associates, Helena, Montana.
    Precast Concrete Tanks:  Flathead Concrete Product, Kalispell, Montana and Three Forks Lumber and Ready Mix, Three Forks, Montana.

    The system will be equipped with automatic controls including a monitoring feature that captures alarms, pump conditions and level measurement and calls out on a cellular telephone to notify the operator in the event of any problem.

    Justin loading the tanks with MetaRocks:
    The photo aqbove shows the compact footprint, minimal visual impact and robust, cold-weather design. 

    Because Eliminite was developed in Monatana where winters can be brutally cold, we were compelled to figure out ways to protect the treatment system from  the likely -30 degree temperatures that can persist for weeks on end.  Notice the relatively small access hatches. 

    Patented (in the U.S. and Canada) Metarocks media are designed to last, without invasive maintenance.  We have many MetaRocks systems in operation which have been functioning for many years, and they all are functioning beyond expectations.  Consequently, we can focus our designs and maintenance program on site conditions and treatment requirements rather than media sensitivity.   We can utilize smaller (i.e., less conspicuous/visually obtrusive) access hatches because our media is rugged and robust, and will not require scouring, "fluffing" or other common (and nasty) rehabilitative measures that are common with other systems. 

    What makes smaller hatches better in a cold-weather design?   I direct your attention to the photos below:

    Warm weather design:

    Cold weather design:

    Get it? 

    Big ears are designed to lose heat, small ears conserve heat.  And, if you need to inspect a system during the winter and have to open a large hatch, the cold air can kill the entire treatment system.  Because MetaRocks do not need to be removed, there is no need for large access hatches that expose the entire treatment system to the elements.  The system stays warm and the treatment effficiency does not degrade. 

    And warm weather......It is common knowledge that higher temperatures  produce better results.  Our New Mexico systems average 7-8 mg/L total Nitrogen.  This has to be tempered against the fact that the NM systems are located in high altitude locations.  High altitude means lower oxygen concentration. Biological treatment systems are just like humans, they get out-of-breath hiking up the mountainside (You know what I am talking about). I can think of quite a few denitrifications systems designed and or tested in warm climates and low altitude conditions. 

    Also, the system in the photo above won a competive bid against two other manufacturers systems. 

    Eliminite was chosen as the best value over a textile system and a foam cube system.

    Next up......Telluride, Colorado. 

    Amanda and I  just spent a few days in Telluride.  If you have never been  It is perhaps one of tthe most magnificent places on earth.  I was there providing engineering expertise to the developer of a beautiful and unique residential community.  

    Great time. Great place.

    Friday, June 29, 2012

    Eliminite Bio-Film

    About two weeks ago I collected several MetaRocks from an Eliminite system that has been in operation for about seven years.   I have been meaning to take a bio-film sample from the surface and look at it under a microscope but have been busy and I forgot about the sample. 

    Today I got tired of doing what I have been doing and remembered the cup with MetaRocks sitting on my desk.  The video shows the biological activity in the tiny scrape I took from the surface of the MetaRocks. 

    I think it is important to note that, after two weeks of  sitting on my desk in a cup, the microorganisms are still alive and active.  This fact illustrates one reason why eliminite fixed-film systems are so robust and reliable.  The microorganisms stay alive, imbededded in the film, even though they are not receiving influent. 

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    Denitrifying Onsite Septic Systems

    Denitrify:  To remove nitrogen or nitrogen groups from a compound.

    It is surprising to me that so many newspaper stories are written about denitrification.  I see these articles every day and, considering that denitrification in onsite septic systems seems to be such a popular topic, I am equally surprised at the lack of knowledge regarding them.

    I see (and hear) all kinds of goofy statements about onsite systems and their ability to remove nitrogen. For example, when a leader in the field of onsite systems makes the statement that excellent nitrogen removal results are only possible if the occupants of the home are wearing diapers.....well, it's pretty clear to me that there is a problem in this industry.

    The subject is complicated by the fact that many health department regulators don't really understand these systems and have to rely on manufacturers representations.  Obviously, manufacturers exist to sell treatment systems and there are a couple of ways they can do this:

    1) Sell a good product at a fair price that produces the required results.

    2) Emphasize expensive marketing, government lobbyists and misinformation.

    To be sure, there is never a shortage of number two in this industry.

    For instance, I was reading comments from a newspaper article in Rhode Island where denitrification systems have become a regularly discussed topic.  These readers were quite concerned that they would have to spend somewhere between $30,000 to $50,000 to install a denitrifying septic system for their home.  I would have been shocked by this dollar amount if I had not had similar experiences with the cost I have seen charged for these systems. 

    If you need a denitrification system for you home or business, I can almost certainly help you get a better price.  Just mention the name, "Eliminite" to the person giving you the quote for Brand X.  Ask them about the nitrogen removal numbers from their systems and have them compare Brand X's numbers to Eliminite's numbers.  (I've included some recent sample results below)

    At this point you should see some concern in their eyes and body language.  Most will try to tell you they have never hear of us and, because they are such experts in the field, and have been doing this work for 30 years, that if they have never heard of Eliminite, well, you shouldn't even consider a system they have never heard of.  But, if you press them a little, I have seen the Brand X's drop their price by 20%, 30%, 50%  in one step because they know two very important facts about Eliminite.

    1) Our nitrogen removal numbers are far superior to theirs, and;
    2) The cost of an Eliminite system is generally half (1/2) the cost they are going to quote to you.

    Now you can imagine, these two facts can be quite disconcerting to suppliers of competing systems.  A common tactic is to try to talk over your head; tell you about BOD, COD and nitrogen ratios, give you a quick and dirty water chemistry lesson on pH and acid-base reactions.  They will tell you that you have to feed a septic dog food to get really good nitrogen removal numbers, or that you need to add sawdust, or wood chips, or upflow reactors or, that you need to wear diapers.  (I am not making this up!)

    My advice is generally to trust your intuition.  If something does not sound quite right, or if you think you may be on the receiving end of a well crafted script, don't immediately think you are wrong.  If something sounds screwy (you have to feed a septic system dog food, for instance) it probably is wrong and you probably are right.

    Here are some results I recently received from several Eliminite denitrification systems. The systems were installed by independent septic system contractors.  I was not onsite for any of the installations.  The samples were collected by a third party certified maintenance provider that services many other systems.  I had no role in collection or review of the samples other than to receive reports from the lab that conducted the analysis.

    System 1) TN = 12.9 mg/L
    System 2) TN= 6.4 mg/L
    System 3) TN= 1.71 mg/L
    System 4) TN =19.0 mg/L
    System 5) Ammonia + Nitrate =2.3 mg/L
    System 6) Ammonia + Nitrate =3.2 mg/L
    System 7) TN =7.7 mg/L
    System 8) Ammonia + Nitrate =9.9 mg/L

    Average of  all eight: 7.9 mg/L

    It is obvious that System 4 needs an adjustment.  It would take about 5 minutes to make this adjustment and I would expect its numbers to drop into the 5- 6 mg/L range.   These are real denitrification systems operating at real homes. 

    Samples were also recently collected from a subdivision in Montana with about 20 individual Eliminite denitrification systems.  The subdivision is configured with individual treatment systems discharging to a central drainfield.   The Eliminite units discharge to a central dose tank and the certified O&M provider collects a sample from the dose tank.  It is interesting to see the nitrogen numbers change as new homes are added to the system.  The last winter sample was TN= 11 mg/L.  Three new homes were added this spring and the spring sample was TN=13mg/L.  As the three new systems develop, the nitrogen numbers will come down again.  BOD for the two were like 4 and 5 mg/L. 

    These numbers represent about an 85% reduction in Nitrogen and about a 98% reduction in BOD and we do it with only one additional tank.  A normal residential system consists of one primary (septic) tank and one Eliminite tank. Every number above is from that simple configuration. 

    I want to tell you the price but, as you may imagine, I am reluctant to include it on this blog.  I am confident that we have about the best prices in the industry by a fairly wide margin.  In general, all the same system brands are available in Montana that are available in your state and we were not always the most popular advanced treatment system.  But, over the last few years it has become apparent that people are more cautious with their money and spend a little extra time shopping for the best value.   They do their homework and ask about the cost of state-required maintenance, energy costs, treatment results and visual impact of the system.  In this cost-analysis, as with the lab analysis, Eliminite comes out on top with most people who need an onsite denitrification system.

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    How exactlly does this work?

    I could post hundreds of these types of articles; county and state officials requiring people to pump septic tanks to protect groundwater.  . 

    Many homeowners in Chesterfield are shelling out big bucks to get rid of their waste under county law.
    Some think the rule stinks!
    Reminder letters went out to homeowners last month to pump their septic tanks, meaning a busy time at the wastewater treatment plant.
    While one homeowner sees the necessity, he thinks the requirement is a burden.
    As Stemmle Plumbing drops a hose into Mike Philips' septic tank, he writes a $250 check.
    "Another expense brought upon by a law that I believe needs to be reviewed and decided by the people it's affecting," said Philips.
    There are more than 22,000 septic tanks in Chesterfield.
    Since January, more than 6200 homeowners have received letters from the county health department to get them pumped.
    It's a requirement every five years.

    The county has the ordinance because of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which recommends pumping every five years to keep sewage from contaminating ground water.
    But Stemmle said it also prolongs the life of the septic system.

    Could someone please describe to me exactly how the act of removing sludge from a septic tank protects groundwater? It just makes no sense to me.  I am pretty sure that the county guy knows that pumping the septic does nothing to protect groundwater, so why do they actively force the proliferation of this myth?

    I have a feeling this silliness is part of a broader plan to firmly implant the thought in people's minds that onsite systems are bad.  The goal of course is for local and state governments to belly up to the federal trough and get their hands on tax dollars to build sewage treatment plants.   Big centralized sewage treatment plants bring in a ton of money to the county government and also transfer a lot of control to them.  So, if they can make you believe that your septic system is a polluter, they can also get you to fork over some money to connect to their system. 

    Do onsite system manufacturers share some of the responsibility that allows regulatory agencies to advance the notion that even advanced onsite systems are inadequate?  I think so. 

    Once an advanced system has received, for instance, NSF approval, it is simply rubber-stamped by most states as being approved for unlimited installation.  Most of the state programs never bother to test the systems being installed so, essentially, state-wide approval is granted based on a single data point, NSF approval. 

    Under the vastly different conditions encountered in the field, compared to NSF test conditions, most of these systems do not meet the numerical standards set by the state.  This is when the shenanigans begin.  Maryland, for instance, must have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing numerical nitrogen standards necessary, in their opinion, to protect and rehabilitate Chesapeake Bay. New onsite systems were required to meet these standards and Maryland selected several brand-name systems and identified them as "Best Available Technology."  These systems were paid for, at least in part, with tax dollars.  Well, apparently, the Best Available Technology could not meet the legal numeric standards for nitrogen in actual field conditions.  Did the state de-certify the manufacturer?  Did the state require the manufacturer to bring the systems into compliance?  Did the state require the manufacture to do anything?  No, No and No.  The state of maryland simply ignored, discarded or othewrwise turned a blind eye to the standards that they spent so much time, tax payer money and effort developing and simply raised the legal standard to one that manufacturer could meet.  Therefore, because the Best Available Technology could not meet the standard that was found to be necessary to protect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the state of Maryland simply adjusted the standard to allow the onsite system to discharge 50% more nitrogen.

    Because this system carries the designation BEST , it must be the best  onsite treatment technology available.  And, if the best available onsite technology cannot even come close to meeting the standard necessary to protect the Bay, then NO onsite technology exists that can meet the standard.  Right?

    Since no onsite technology is capable of meeting the standard.....the public gets to pay more and more money for big pipe sewers, massive lift stations, back-up generators, huge treatment plants and hundreds of additional personel to provide full time operation and maintenance.  Pretty clever, don't you think?

    This is why Maryland, and other states, are reluctant to consider systems that actually meet the regulations.  If they allow affordable onsite systems producing compliant effluent at an affordable price, they lose the argument that no systems can meet the standards and the only way to save the groundwater is to build expensive, revenue generating sewage treatment plants.

    I am not taking issue with a requirement to maintain an onsite system.  What bothers me is that the regulatory agencies choose to use fear as motivation.  If they can convince you that you are in danger, you are more likely to surrender to them in return for their protection.  Many manufacturers play directly into this opting for the quick buck rather than developing systems that will function reliably for long periods of time.

    The most favorable conditions for an advanced onsite system would be warm temperatures and elevation at or near sea level.  Warm temperatures increase the activity of the microorganisms that are responsible for treating the wastewater and, because these microorganisms need oxygen, lower elevations translate to higher oxygen concentration.  In contrast, the harshest conditions for an onsite system is cold temperature and high elevation.  I have compared Eliminite systems operating in Montana and Colorado(cold climate, high elevation) to Best Available Technology operating, for example in Maryland(warm climate, low elevation) and found that the Eliminite systems in the harsh conditions discharge less than half the nitrogen of the systems operating in the favorable climate. 
    With Eliminite systems operating in warmer climates, we see about five times less nitrogen being discharged.  Also, and this is important, the Eliminte system costs thousands less.

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    Recent News

    Highway Rest Areas
    The wastewater treatment systems at the rest areas are performing beyond expectations.  We pulled a sample on Memorial Day weekend and sent it off to the lab for analysis.  Influent from  these facilities is quite concentrated; Bod runs 1500 to 4000 mg/l, total nitrogen is 350 to 500 mg/l.   Here are the effluent results:
    Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen as N 11.0 mg/L
    Ammonia as N 8.07 mg/L
    Nitrate + Nitrite as N 20.5 mg/L
    Total Nitrogen 31 mg/L
    Carbonaceous BOD, mg/L 3.6 mg/L
    Total Suspended Solids, mg/L 12 mg/L
    These results are better than what most systems can achieve with residential wastewater.  The state of Maryland’s, Bay Restoration Fund, using what they refer to as “Best Available Technology” fails to produce results this good even though those systems are receiving household wastewater.   

    Back from Colorado
    We were in Colorado last week again working on a nice project.  We are providing  expertise helping the developer gain county approval for a small residential PUD.  It was interesting to hear from other members of the development about the last project they worked on that used onsite systems.  In a conscientious move, the developer committed to requiring  advanced treatment systems on each lot.  They selected a system and wrote the manufacturer into the guidelines.  Once the project was approved, once the manufacturer figured they were locked in, we were told by the development team that the manufacturer raised their prices to the homeowners dramatically.   I am sure we will be installing Eliminite systems at that development this summer because our initial cost is thousands of dollars less and our maintenance costs are much lower.

    West Yellowstone Montana
    It looks like an existing development in West Yellowstone, Montana, will continue to pollute groundwater with its failed sewage system for at least another year. This is in spite of the fact that it is under an administrative order to replace the system and that all the necessary funding is in place.  In my opinion this is a crime against the environment and is unequivocally due to the incompetence of the project engineer. 

     The engineer was determined to conduct an unfair RFP process by specifying only a single advanced treatement system manufacturer.  The Dept. of Environmental Quality had to force the engineer to hold a fair Request For Proposals.  However, the the engineer was so singularly focused on ommitting  other manufacturers from the bidding that they fouled up important aspects of the project such as the discharge permit.  In the end, I heard their preferred vendor backed out because they could not meet the final discharge permit limits.   The limits were not even that restrictive....we meet them all the time. 

    The whole thing was so clearly rigged that we did not even waste our time submitting a proposal.   The sad thing is we could have completed the project for ten of thousands of dollars less than the bid they selected and could have had it completed in about two months. But instead, the sewage lagoon continues to leak raw wastewater into the groundwater a few miles from Yellowstone National Park.   Wastewater isn't the only "dirty" aspect of this business.

    Sunday, June 3, 2012

    Money on the Table

    Thanks to our most active spring yet, it has been a few months since I put up a post. We have been busy in North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and California. As people hear of us, learn what we can do and compare our advanced wastewater treatment systems to competing systems, they recognize that Eliminite is the best onsite system available for their money.

    Last week we installed an Eliminite system at a college in a scenic mountain community in Colorado. Due to the general contractor’s tight deadline for completion, we started the Eliminite installation on a Friday afternoon and, by midday the next day, the system was completed, tested, and switched into automatic mode. The layout was one of our standard C-Series, the same design that is now being copied by other manufacturers. I guess we should have guessed that would happen since, for our clients’ convenience, we posted detailed technical drawings of our firm’s design online, and our Google Analytics showed that our competitors were accessing our site regularly around the time the copy-cat behavior began. In fact, one of the copy-cats bid this job originally, but ultimately lost it to us. Interestingly, once the job was complete, we were told by several professionals associated with the job that we “left too much money on the table.”

    Apparently, Eliminite ended up at half the cost of the competing technology; for an advanced onsite wastewater treatment system of this size, half represents a significant amount of money. However, the suggestion that we somehow inadvertently “left money on the table” is incorrect.

    We were provided specifications for the job and gave the owner a fair price for a reliable wastewater treatment system, without regard for what we thought our competition might have bid, or how much money the school might be able to scrape together to sink into their onsite system. Our firm doesn’t play those all-too-common “bidding games”, partly because (take note, competitors) manipulative bidding practices and price-fixing based on competitors’ pricing is ILLEGAL, but mostly because we believe that offering a high quality product for a fair price is the better long-term business model, and is the primary reason Eliminite has enjoyed consistent growth, even during this economic downturn. The project engineer for the college was protecting his client’s interests by looking beyond fancy marketing schemes and flashy brochures for a system that would match the needs of the school.

    That is an important consideration that is often ignored in the engineering community. Aggressive marketing campaigns, overly-attentive distributors (you know, the kind who “drop in” every few weeks to remind engineers not to consider competing technologies, and to drop off another $500 stack of brochures for the engineers to distribute to clients) require an enormous investment by the manufacturer; costs associated with marketing and advertising and multiple middlemen are necessarily passed along to consumers. So, it’s fair to say, the cost of a treatment technology rises proportionately with the costs of marketing; instead of paying more for a better treatment technology, consumers end up paying more for a better marketing campaign.

    Unfortunately, shiny binders and frequent visits to engineering firms won’t help ensure consistent compliance with permit requirements and, contrary to popular belief, slick marketing does not always translate into better business practices, better products, or better product support. Anyone out there remember the supremely well-marketed Ford Pinto? And how about those really cool magnetic bracelets that are supposed to cure almost every ailment? And last, but not least, how about Facebook stock? Millions in advertising for products that just plain failed to live up to the marketing hype. I’m not saying competing wastewater technologies that are well-marketed are all junk, I’m just suggesting that the wide-eyed adoration I’ve witnessed from certain members of the onsite wastewater treatment community toward manufacturers who “have great marketing” (I hear this constantly) might be misplaced, and certainly shouldn’t result in the irrational, single-track thinking and single-brand loyalty that characterizes this field…ESPECIALLY when consumers trust their engineers to inform them about ALL of their treatment options, not just the one the engineer happens to think of first because that brand’s vendor bought him lunch last week or flew him out to visit their plant and play a couple rounds of golf.

    Remember, in the end, the consumer pays for those lunches and “free” plant visits and classes and marketing materials, and, when those activities are taking place across the entire country, you can imagine how quickly those costs add up. That said, Eliminite staff is always happy to offer classes or take interested wastewater professionals out for lunch—we’re just more selective about where and when we participate in those activities, because we understand that consumers can’t always afford to pay the extra costs.

    If you, as the client, need an advanced wastewater treatment system for your home, business or other facility, and you have not been informed that Eliminite is one of your options, you can be sure nobody is going to leave too much money on YOUR table at the end of the day.

    I really want to put some photos of the system up but every time I show detailed photos, the competition comes out with a new model based on our design (not kidding). If you contact me, I will share the photos with you and answer any questions you may have about our engineering services and wastewater treatment products.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    Eliminite System Profile

    Update on these systems:
    The most recent Total Nitrogen result was
    11 mg/L