Talking Pumps

The Sump & Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association (SSPMA) recently hosted its annual manufacturers meeting, featuring an industry experts forum comprised of five panel members: James Converse, Ph.D.; Richard Otis, Ph.D., P.E., DEE; Bruce Jaster, R.S.; Robert Rubin, Ph.D.; and David Gustafson, P.E.

Moderator Charles Cook, Liberty Pumps, read questions submitted anonymously by SSPMA members. For those of you who were unable to attend the forum, read on for dialogue highlights regarding industry challenges, endeavors and advancement.

Charles Cook: Discuss filamentous bacteria in wastewater systems, its causes and treatment.

Robert Rubin: Filamentous bacteria is one of many called acardia, which causes foaming in wastewater plants. It commonly occurs when several things happen. One is the food/mass ratio in treatment plants becomes imbalanced, especially where there are not enough nutrients present to feed microorganisms. Second, when sludge is old, sludge must be wasted from a facility routinely; sludge does not settle well, does not treat well and leads to formation of filamentous bacteria.

The problem is what to do once it grows—how to treat water if treatment in the soil absorption system is restricted because of bacteria. These bacteria can grow inside distribution systems, and that reduces the effectiveness of the distribution. Lines must be purged; cleaning, high-velocity flushing or chlorine treatment can reduce population of these bacteria in a distribution system.

David Gustafson: You’re dealing with it in an aerobic treatment unit, not an anaerobic or septic situation. The problem is you need to separate bacteria in all units and it doesn’t settle well or sink. Once you have bacteria established and growing, you need to pump and clean to kill bacteria…

Cook: How do you see the present and future need for controls that provide data logging or telemetry?

Gustafson: In Minnesota, the state rule requires water flow to be measured in all systems. A flowmeter is one option. We see more telemetry in properties and systems that are more expensive.

Bruce Jaster: In our jurisdiction, we can’t get people to put filters on. They have no concept of maintenance. When we ask how often they service the tank, they might say every 20 years. It’s a big problem educating [people] on what to do. Some turn off alarms when they sound and ignore any problem. We need to educate at the homeowner and pumper levels.

Rubin: I urge all of you to use opportunities to provide continuing education and, when providing training, to find a way to document it. If you have vendors who don’t take advantage of your training, I’d consider not keeping them as reps. We are seeing more and more advanced products today, and they need to keep up…

For more advanced systems, process monitors tell me how the system flow is working. It takes me five days to get results from samples of biochemical oxygen demand and coliform. I want to know what the pump dissolved oxygen (DO) is. There should be DO in the water, and there are devices to measure this. Monitoring depends on risk. The riskier the environment, the more intensive monitoring needs to be. The optimum design monitors would be flowmeters, pH meters and DO meters. This is the emerging area.

Cook: What can pump companies do differently to benefit the onsite industry?

Rubin: First, ask yourselves what you do in your own community to inform and educate about your intrinsic value to the community. In other words, how many jobs do you provide and what is your company worth in your community? Be more effective in knowing and working with legislators and other elected officials in communicating about your economic impact. Homebuilders do this all the time. Our industry needs such recognition.

Richard Otis: Participate in organizations such as the National Onsite Water Treatment Association (NOWTA). Get involved in committee work.

James Converse: Yes, while it’s important to provide tradeshow booths, start attending the lectures and learn what’s going on.

Cook: What is the best way to educate others in the onsite industry?

Rubin: One way is to find out what avenues exist in various states in which you’re interested. Do they have a National Environmental Health Association chapter? Do they have a state group affiliated with NOWTA? Do they have a water environment group or municipal water group? What credentials do they offer? Try to develop materials that will fit within existing educational programs offering credentials such as CEUs. Piggyback on existing training.

Gustafson: Communicate goals regarding issues. Determine the problem, then propose a solution. Develop a short handout that addresses specific problems and get it, eventually, to regulators and others active in code development. Have a recommended language that you propose. Use videos to get your training message across.

Rubin: Recognize that there are different kinds of training—intellectual and practical, or skill-based—and be sure to address both. Some people don’t respond well to knowledge-based information but do to skill-based.

Cook: Where do you see the future of onsite treatment in five to 10 years?

Gustafson: I see continued growth. People want land with their development, making advanced technologies more prevalent in handling land resources. I see more use of pumps and controls as part of this movement. Inadequate systems will need to be updated, also a market for pumps and controls. Another area of importance will be service—residual solids handling.

Jaster: Politically, there is a pro-growth movement in rural counties. More subdivisions are being approved out of farmland. For many, it’s much too expensive for central systems, so onsite or cluster alternatives will be common.

Converse: Also, municipal sewage systems will start to be maxed out, resulting in more treatment through onsite cluster systems.

Otis: I see the need for more accountability in the future. Things will be forced to happen to sustain water quality, right down to individual homeowners. There will be more management of systems implemented, taking responsibility away from property owners. This will result in management entities and newer technologies. I see a great future ahead for this industry.

Caitlin Cunningham is associate editor for Water & Wastes Digest. Cunningham can be reached at 847.391.1025 or by e-mail at ccunningham@sgcmail.com.

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