Complying with environmental regulations for wastewater treatment and disposal is not only good for the environment, it's good for your bottom line, even if it doesn't seem like it at first glance.
The costs associated with capturing wastewater and dealing with it can be considerable for any business, but the fines that can result from noncompliance are even greater and easily justify the expense of installing a wastewater treatment system on your premises.
Systems range in size and scope to meet the needs of any rental business, but what do you need to know to make the right decision for your situation? The first step is understanding why a wastewater treatment system is needed.
From water to waste... and back again
Wastewater treatment and recycling/disposal methods exist in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air and Clean Water Act that sets maximum allowable limits for what can be released into the nation's water, air and ground. Depending on where you live, these limits are enforced by local and/or state authorities.
Wastewater from most rental centers results from the simple washing of equipment and can contain dirt, oils and greases, gasoline, hydraulic fluid and other chemicals. In most cases, this runs into the sanitary sewer and goes to the publicly owned treatment works (POTW) for treatment, after which it is emptied to a local waterway. Some industrial customers, like rental centers, must pretreat their wastewater to make it acceptable to the POTW. This is the least expensive and most convenient method of wastewater disposal.
In areas where a POTW is not available, or when the waste stream is such that the local POTW won't accept it, pretreatment might have to be more rigorous and water might need to be recycled for washing purposes. Some rental centers wash equipment with their recycled water and rinse with fresh water. Not only does this conserve water, but the process further dilutes wastewater and can make it acceptable for discharge to the POTW.
Each POTW must ensure that its industrial customers' discharge stays within its limits. If a customer is exceeding the limit, that customer can be fined or required to pay a surcharge based on what type of waste is generated. In some cases, noncompliance with local limits can result in a customer being completely shut off from the POTW.
There are different water containment/treatment systems available to help you meet local restrictions for wastewater. Among them are traditional in-ground pit systems and above-ground wash rack systems. Both incorporate three primary components: the containment pad or rack on which equipment is washed, a filtration system that cleans the water for reuse or disposal, and a holding tank for cleaned water.
What's right for your business?
There are several key questions that a rental center will need to answer before investing in a wastewater treatment system. The first, according to Bernie Larson, vice president and general manager at Water Maze Water Treatment Systems, is whether the city or other sewer authority will allow your business to dump any wastewater — laced with dirt and oil from cleaning motorized equipment — down the drain. If so, you'll need to find out what are the allowable limits of contaminants as well as the cost of permits.
According to Carla Iverson, marketing manager at EZ Environmental Solutions Corp., makers of Pressure Island products and systems, there are several options for dealing with wastewater. They include installing a pretreatment system to the municipal sewer, installing a closed-loop recycling system (mechanical or biological), having the water hauled to a heavy wastewater treatment facility by a licensed hauler, and having equipment cleaned at a commercial wash facility.
If you want to avoid permits and government oversight, you can recycle your wastewater. This can be an attractive option, but raises a host of questions such as how clean does your recycled water need to be to put it back through a pressure washer or how much dirt are you dealing with in your cleaning operation?