CSG: Untrained Operators? Consider it Undone!

Posted on http://www.willacyoil.com on October 26th 2017

https://willacyoil.com/2017/10/26/untrained-operators-consider-undone/

We’re surrounded by technology from our smartphones we carry to the cars that we drive. Each new version knows it must out-perform its predecessor and therefore offers ever-greater levels of capability. We used to be amazed if our mobile ‘phone had a camera in it – or if our car told us what the outside temperature was but now it seems we feel cheated if we can’t check our front door camera from a train in a tunnel or set our SatNav to an airport of our choice within ten seconds.

Technology is great but it must be harnessed on order to be useful. Over the last couple of decades, we’ve all become accustomed, in varying degrees, to adopting strategies to make the most of the technology we use every day, whether that’s understanding which Google search terms are likely to provide the most success or discovering the fewest keystrokes necessary to set a microwave to cook on full power for sixty seconds. In our need to master our technology, we often have to adapt our very understanding of the world to its languages and protocols. It’s often said that the true test of being bilingual is the point when dreams take place in the second language. The tech equivalent of that is the moment after a mishap has taken place in the analogue world (like spilling a cup of coffee) if your first thought is ‘use the Undo command’.

The same is true with industrial technology. It’s one thing for Willacy Oil Services to design and build world-leading tank-cleaning machinery but all the capability in the world isn’t really worth having if it isn’t being used properly. There are many customers all over the world who have benefitted from buying our unrivalled technology and all the equipment we deliver is accompanied by a team of our staff to give on-the-job training to the customer for the first few days of its operation. Usually, by then, the customer’s team are keen to put their new purchase into action. At that point, everyone is happy. But what happens next?

A combination of a number of factors can soon lead to a usage problem. Our machinery is built to last and is invariably used for infrequently-performed tasks – some tanks may be cleaned only once every fifteen years. Meanwhile, recent research has shown that the average amount of time working for a single employer is now only five years in the UK – or four years in the US – and it’s soon apparent that the sophisticated Willacy hardware owned by a company is likely to have outlasted the personnel who last used it – let alone those whom Willacy initially trained. There are obvious implications on the correct usage of such machinery if those using it are trying to remember what they were shown, years ago or, worse still, simply trying their best because they never even met the person who last used it.

With this in mind, Willacy have decided to offer tailored training on all the technology we offer, as an after-sales service option. This is in addition to the wide variety of training available (such as working in confined spaces or working with breathing systems) to ensure the cleaning process itself is carried out as safely and effectively as possible.

“We have knowledge gained from the experience of doing hundreds of jobs and we try to apply as much of that know-how as we can into our training” said Gavin Lucas, Willacy’s General Manager. “The proper use of the machinery we’ve supplied not only ensures the jobs are done more effectively but it also reduces the chances of faults or performance issues occurring on the machinery itself.”

If your company has any Willacy-made technology on its books, whether you’re using it or not, we invite you to contact us to see how we can help you make the most of its capability. Sometimes, it seems you can apply an ‘Undo’ command in the analogue world, after all.

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CSG: Is Your Septic Tank 2020-Ready?

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on February 28th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/is-your-septic-tank-2020-ready/

If you have a property with a septic tank, there are some upcoming changes to the law that may affect you – and time is running out for you to comply with them.

By 1st January 2020, septic tanks will now longer be allowed to discharge directly to a surface water such as a river or a stream. Septic tanks that currently discharge via a drainage field into the ground are not expected to be affected.

If your septic tank is currently discharging directly into a surface water, doing nothing means you will find yourself in breach of the regulations from 2020. To stay on the right side of your legal requirement, you could choose any of the following alternatives (which may or may not be available to you):

  • Connect your existing septic tank to a mains sewer
  • Install a drainage field and divert your existing septic tank to discharge to ground
  • Replace your septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant

In each case, there are issues to consider and certain conditions to satisfy.

Connection to a mains sewer

Most people only opt to use a septic tank or similar because there isn’t a nearby mains sewer to connect to so it’s unlikely this will be a viable option to many. If you’re not familiar with the full history of the property, this could be an area to examine. Your local water company will be able to confirm whether or not connection to a mains sewer is a workable solution for you. For new developments, you may be compelled to use public sewers, if they’re close enough.

Install a drainage field

This is potentially the easiest way to get around the legislation, it’s an option if you have access to enough suitable land to provide the soakaway. You must also use a system that meets the BS 6297:2007 standard.

DSC_0178
If you have access to enough suitable land, you can install a drainage field to disperse your septic tank liquids.  Photo: Paul Bentham

Replace your septic tank with a treatment system

This is probably the most likely outcome for all owners of the soon-to-be-outlawed systems, which discharge to a surface water. Your new system will need to be specified correctly with the right capacity for the levels of usage you have and must meet the BS EN 12566 standard. Once installed, the new treatment system must be regularly emptied and maintained.

You may think that, once one of the above alternatives is in place, your obligations are met but if you go on to sell the property before 2020, you must disclose to the new owner/operator a written description of the way sewage from the property is removed – with details of the new drainage system or treatment plant – together with any manuals and maintenance records.

As always, there are a number of further restrictions and exemptions that may apply. If this rule change applies to your property, we’re happy to help you decide what to do next and, of course, The Environment Agency are always on hand to help.

CSG: How a Septic Tank Really Works

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on February 9th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/how-a-septic-tank-really-works/

You may not have given much thought to the way your septic tank works – which is fine as long as it is working – but knowing just a little can help you ensure that it remains in good order for many years to come.

Okay, here’s the really basic information, which most people already know:

  • Human waste contains harmful bacteria and can be a means of spreading viruses. Throughout human history – and in developing countries today – the source of some of the greatest threats to life has come from diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, which are transmitted via human waste.
  • Most houses or buildings with waste facilities like toilets discharge their waste directly into the main system of sewerage drains allowing the immediate removal of sewage to a place where it can be treated.
  • A relatively small proportion of properties are not sited closely enough to the network of drains and so have to discharge their waste in other ways. The most common alternative is to use a septic tank.
  • The septic tank’s main purpose is to receive substances such as human waste and hold them such that most of the resultant matter can be allowed to soak away into the surrounding area in a state which is less hazardous to the local environment.

So far, so good but this tends to be where, for most people, the knowledge ends. As we do with so many areas of technology, it’s tempting to see it as a ‘magic box’ that just does what it’s designed to do. How then does it actually work?

The process requires little more than time and what we may call ‘natural processes’ in a sealed environment, which ensures that there is no contamination of the wrong matter.

Essentially, the waste will sort into three states. It just needs to be given enough time to allow it to happen, unhindered. The three states are:

  • As they are denser, gravity dictates that they will settle at the bottom, where they will continue to decompose, which means break down further until they leave a dense sludge.
  • As the solids become denser, the liquid matter separates from it. The more solid separation that occurs, the more safely it can be returned to the surrounding area.
  • The crust is made up mostly of floating fats, oils and grease (and food). This matter collects at the surface of the liquid and should not be discharged with the liquid.

The design of the tank is such that, having enabled the separation of the liquor from the sludge, it allows the liquid matter just beneath the surface (the ‘cleanest’ bit, without the scum) to percolate back into the soil around the tank, the ‘soakaway’ area. Here the cleansing process continues, as the soil itself naturally removes coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients from the effluent or liquid waste.

For this reason, it’s necessary to see a septic tank as merely the first stage in a process and not the whole solution to the problem of waste processing. Equally, the availability of a suitable soakaway area is just as important as the tank itself.

As the whole process relies on natural decomposition and the power of the soil as a way to treat harmful substances, problems can occur if the waste it treats contains too many chemicals, biological agents or bleaches and with our temperate climate the anaerobic digestion rate is so slow that a septic tank functions much more as a sedimentation tank.

What happens to the three states of matter over time?

With an appropriate level of soakaway area, the liquids will continue to percolate into the soil and harmlessly back into the ecosystem. The chief threat to this may be after periods of extreme wet weather. If ground is already soaked with rainwater, it may lose the capacity to accept effluent, which may bring it to the surface or congest the system, leading to a ‘back-up’ of waste. This problem should never occur as long as the correct soakaway parameters were considered when the septic tank was first installed. Even so, it’s advisable to have a healthy suspicion about this threat whenever there is a sustained period of extremely wet weather.

The scum will remain trapped in the tank as the barrier pipe allows the dispersal of the liquid while stopping the scum or crust entering the soak-away.

Eventually, the level of sludge will build up and begin to compromise the ability of the septic tank to do its job. For optimum efficiency, we advise you to have your septic tank de-sludged regularly in accordance with variables such as how many people live in your household – as this may require you to have it serviced more frequently.

You might have wondered, at the beginning of this blogpost, why on earth you’d ever need to know the inner workings of something that many people may feel is an area best left unexplored but there are many reasons why it’s a good idea that you give some thought to the humble septic tank that spends its life anonymously doing the worst of jobs, hidden away underground.

A little knowledge on the part of every septic tank owner should ensure that it continues to work perfectly – but as many unfortunate people may attest, it’s only when a septic tank stops doing its job as well as it should that it becomes truly appreciated!

CSG: Confessions of a Septic Tank Novice

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on November 11th 2016

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/confessions-of-a-septic-tank-novice/

We’re often called to help when someone has had a problem with their septic tank. Our advice to know a little about your system and follow a few simple steps and you should never have to call anyone out to deal with a problem.

Here’s an example from one of our customers. Paul and his wife converted a barn into their home in 2005. With so much to be done, management of their new septic tank seemed like a low priority but sooner or later, it made sense to give more thought to it:

“A few years ago, my wife and I acquired a barn and set about converting it into a home for our young family. While I knew I’d be putting in a lot of hours on the project myself, dealing with all the joiners, the electricians, the plumbers and so on, one thing I barely gave any thought to was the sewage system. We are somewhat ‘off-grid’ so we knew we’d need our own septic tank. When the subject came up, we spoke to our builder, got a spec and bought one (a Klargester BioDisc, I believe). It was installed and it worked. ‘Great’, we thought, ‘job done’ – but we since came to understand that that’s not all there is to it.

You see, unlike the construction, electrics and internal plumbing, which are mostly visible and being consciously used every day, the sewage system is invisible and the, er, use it is put to is generally far removed from our conscious experience of it. That means that, as the years go on, it’s easy to spot any issues or give thought to making improvements to the ‘main’ build but you can be rather ill-prepared in the event of a problem with the sewage system.

Like any form of risk, when you actually start thinking about what can go wrong, bearing in mind the substances involved, you can quickly imagine a nightmare scenario – but that’s not helpful either. What then is the right level of concern to have – and how do you go from naive ignorance, by-pass pointless paranoia and arrive at a sensible level of understanding?

Predictably, common sense is a good start. There are plenty of helpful guides around on the internet to help you understand how septic tanks work and the more you read, the more comfortable you’ll become. Yes you can understand your septic tank’s design a little better but it actually helps most to appreciate that they even have a design – which is to say that they’re not worked by magic and that there are certain things they’re not really designed to do. I’ll avoid being too graphic but a good rule of thumb I’ve read is that “if it hasn’t come out of you, or wasn’t directly involved in the process, it probably shouldn’t go down there”. Sorry ladies, while it kind of sounds like sanitary items are included in that definition, nothing I’ve read has confirmed it – in fact, almost all advice is that they shouldn’t be.

Does that manage to sum up the basics without descending into unseemly technicality?

From there, the other ‘best practice’ aspects are a little more obvious:

  • Sludge will build up and should therefore be removed (every six months, ideally)
  • Bacteria is actually your friend and too much antibacterial matter down the sink will compromise your tank’s effectiveness
  • Liquids should be effectively dissipated over a large area but give some thought of the effects of extremely heavy rain if it ever manages to flood your drainage area. It’s not a nice thought to contemplate the possibility but it’s far better to do that (and have a plan) than to have to deal with the reality

Above all, the knowledge that help is at hand is a great way to remove the majority of the concern. We don’t just foolishly live in fear of ever getting tooth-ache; we appreciate we can’t ever completely remove the risk so we do what regular maintenance we can and engage a dentist to help us. The point is, once we’ve found a professional who can help, most of the concern can, like the waste itself, simply dilute itself away to nothing.”

Have you done a self-build and installed a septic tank just when you’re busy dealing with the rest of the project? If so, have you fully considered the maintenance of your system? As long as you’re not at the point of dealing with a problem, there’s never a bad time to start and remember – we’re here to help!