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The ReCycled News

Carbon Filters Not Always the Right Thing to DO

     Carbon filters are well known in the water treatment field because they are a very effective filtering media and remove virtually everything from the water, but in applications requiring water recovery for industrial uses and vehicle washing, caution must be taken to consider carbons true effectiveness and cost, according to most experts in the field.

Technically Speaking

     Carbon does not adsorb at a given ratio, even if you have only one specific contaminant in the water that needs to be adsorbed.  For example, if you have one quart of a pesticide in a gallon of water, the carbon might adsorb up to 30% of its weight in pesticide because the attraction is high due to the high concentration of the contaminant.  However, if you only had one ounce of the pesticide in a gallon of water, the affinity of the contaminant for the carbon is less, so the carbon might only adsorb as little as 5-10% of its weight.

     Carbon’s ability to adsorb varies from contaminant to contaminant, and it also varies with the flow rate of the water.  It is also difficult to determine when carbon has been saturated without the use of expensive monitoring equipment or continual water testing.  Therefore, it is difficult to tell when the carbon must be changed.

     Attention must also be given to the cost when considering to use carbon.  A thousand pound fiberglass pressurized container could cost approximately $11,500 plus freight.   Replacement or service could be an initial $1,350 charge, plus a $400 monthly service fee, plus freight each time it is returned.  Freight charges will depend on whether or not the spent carbon is classified as a hazardous waste (usually it is).  In order to determine if it is a hazardous waste, a one time charge of $3,500 is required for testing and filling out EPA compliance paperwork.

     For these reasons, Western Water Products advises caution when considering selection of equipment by manufacturers who use carbon filters.  WWP prefers not to use carbon filters unless requirements of the application or job specifications dictate its usage.   Most people would agree that carbon is very effective for purifying water that is already clean.  Its’ effectiveness in cleaning up dirtier water, which is intended for recycling, prematurely impacts the carbon and increases operating costs.   Its true effectiveness is doubtful in these applications, and in the opinion of WWP may only be of value as a marketing ploy. 

Stormwater Regulation Impact

The following article contains excerpts from an article in Cleaner Times written by Pamela Ledesma.

One Answer to Stormwater Regulations

     The Federal Clean Water Act has been slow to be implemented on a proportionate basis state by state, but it has had an impact in many areas already especially in the business of Power washing.  Businesses which work outside and have waste water which drains onto the ground or into the storm sewer have been the first to be affected including:  painters, pool repair, construction workers, paving contractors, saw cut operators, carpet cleaners, golf courses, pesticide applicators and auto repair operations.

     For years storm drains on the street have been used as the personal sink of many power wash operators who have presumed their waste water would be cleaned up by someone else.  In truth the storm drain system is completely different from the sanitary sewer system.  Most storm drains empty directly into the ocean, bay, river, creek or other body of water with no treatment at all, eventually affecting our drinking or irrigation water supply

     Local businessmen involved in pressure washing sales or usage have been participating with government wastewater agencies to help with the development of emerging regulations.  The result has been the development of a Best Management Practices (BMPs) guide for the power washing industry.  Some of the guidelines are:

     Although the following BMPs were developed for the San Francisco Bay area, you can look to similar BMPs being implemented in your area as well.

BMP General Guidelines -- SF Bay Area

 Pollutants caused by Power washing jobs are:

*  Soaps, detergents and degreasers

*  Petroleum products including oil and grease

*  Any toxic compounds removed during washing

*  Heavy metals--especially copper, nickel, zinc and silver

*  Corrosive solutions 

*  Bacteria from food or animal waste

*  Sediment, sand, dirt and debris

     None of these pollutants can be washed onto the street or into the gutter, storm drain system or any body of water.  Waste water containing these pollutants must be captured, collected and ultimately treated.   If you eventually discharge the water to the sanitary sewer system you may be required to do some testing or use some pretreatment equipment such as an oil/water separator or a water recycling machine.  For further information on this subject,  please contact Western Water Products.

Effects of Pollutants Generated by Power Washing

*  Oils and Oil Emulsions.  Very Low concentrations can interfere with respiration and reproduction in fish and other aquatic life as well as destroy algae and plankton.  Oily films on water surfaces can interfere with aeration of the water and block needed sunlight required for photosynthesis.

*  Nutrients.  Cleaners containing nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen cause plant life to increase, which can cause oxygen depletion, causing plants to die and decay and thereby depriving fish of oxygen needed for survival.

*  Chlorine.  Even very low levels can be lethal to aquatic life.

*  Ammonia.  High levels can be lethal to fish and other aquatic life.  Ammonia contains nitrogen, which causes the results previously listed under nutrients.

*  Metals.  Cadmium, lead, copper and others can interfere with reproductive cycles of fish, invertebrates and other aquatic life.

*  Sodium Hydroxide.  This caustic agent found in some cleaners is toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

*  Phosphoric Acid.  Is toxic to aquatic organisms.  The nutrient phosphorous also causes the problems listed under nutrients.

*  Potassium Hydroxide and Nitriliacetic Acid.  These two agents found in cleaning detergents are harmful to aquatic life.

*  Meta, Para, Ortho-Xylenes.  Ingredients found in concentrate cleaners that are harmful to aquatic life in very low concentrations.

*  Hydroflouric Acid.  Also toxic to aquatic in very low concentrations.

     Liquids from cleaning operations can also cause water to become cloudy and turbid (foul).  Turbidity can effect aquatic plant growth by reducing available sunlight.  Solids can smother bottom dwelling aquatic organisms.

Source:  Cleaner Times and City of Austin, Environmental and Conservation Services Department.

WWP’s Total System Approach   


     Western Water Products recommends a total system approach, when it comes to selecting a water recovery system.  According to the company, it has seen far too many companies approach water recovery in a very simplistic manner.  WWP believes that many people think you can just throw a little money at the problem just to show the EPA you’re trying to do something and they will go away, but this is not the case.  Since you have to do it, you may as well do it the right way the first time.  One thing is for certain and that is that you usually get what you pay for in water recovery, and if you try to skimp, in the long-run, you will be sorry.  For these reasons when you must add a water recovery system to your cleaning operation, you need to think about the following considerations:

The design of the wash pad and collection sump(s).  It should be designed in such a way to promote drop out of dirt and sand and screen out other debris including rocks and floating objects.

Removal of sludge from the sump and other pits.  Sludge removal should be as automated as possible.  Nobody wants to clean out pits or sumps, so this should be minimized with an automated sludge removal system.

The filtering technologies incorporated in the equipment.  Cheap systems usually use fewer filters and cheaper technologies which will do a poor job cleaning the water to the quality you expect

The type of water quality you expect to achieve.  Do intend to produce “wash” or “rinse” quality water.  Note that there are completely different technologies involved.  The better the water quality the more expensive the water recovery system will be.

The time involved in maintenance to maintain peak water quality.  Maintenance is an often overlooked issue when selecting a water recovery system.  It is best to choose a system which is either partially or fully automated.  It is a fact that the system will be ignored until it breaks down, and in the meantime water quality will degrade and the machine will be blamed due to lack of proper routine maintenance.

* The cost of chemicals or other consumables required.  Another often overlooked issue when selecting the right system is the cost of chemicals or other consumable items.  Flocculating systems are notoriously expensive to operate and relatively inexpensive to purchase, but the cost of chemicals and the training of personnel to operate the equipment overshadows the cost of a cheap system price.  The cost of other chemicals including hazardous chemicals like chlorine and hydrogen peroxide can be extremely expensive and also pose a handling and health  problem.  Consider selecting a system that minimizes or eliminates the dependency on these types of chemicals.

The reputation of the company you intend to buy the system from.   Consider only a company with an established track record, one with several hundred systems in operation that sells nationally or internationally, has a minimum of 5 years in the water recovery business and has a satisfaction rating in excess of 90%.

Self Serve Carwash Reclaim Systems Now Available

   Western Water Products answer to self serve carwash applications can be considered two-fold.  Operators now have the option of selecting between either a “partial” or “complete” water recovery system utilizing WWP equipment. 

     A model BSR & SC system provides “wash” water quality water for use during the “wash” selections and also prepares the water for further processing to “rinse” water quality through a model RW, Nano-filtration system module.  Consult WWP for further details.

WWP Announces the Redesign of XL and WRC Series Systems

     Western Water Products has announced the introduction of the newly redesigned XL and WRC series water recovery systems.  Both of these systems are intended for use with high volume automatic washes, such as those found in automatic single bay car washes, commercial tunnel washes and in automatic truck and bus washes. 

     The XL series is designed to produce nominal 10 micron wash quality water and has free floating oil removal capabilities.  The ERC is designed to be a nominal 40 micron wash water recovery system and is designed for applications where floating oils and greases are not a concern. 

     These systems are normally operated in applications where a discharge to sewer for overflow water from a fresh water rinse exists, but they can also be operated in applications requiring complete closed-loop system where there is no overflow to sewer.  This is accomplished with the addition of a model RW rinse water Nano-filtration module and holding tanks.


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Last modified: 02/10/09