Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Job

I realized that I talk an awful lot about practical and functional exercise in my blog. I feel like I have some knowledge on the matter since, at times, my job demands that I do some hard labor. So, I have a lot of feedback on how well my training works based on how well I can move when my job demands a healthy dose of ass-busting. So, I thought I'd take the time to explain what it is I do for work.

I run a mobile wastewater treatment plant for a living. The plant is designed for one specific purpose: to remove solid waste from wastewater. Eventually, in any water or wastewater treatment process, treatment plants will accumulate a sludge that is anywhere from 1-15% solid waste. Larger plants will have the machinery on hand to remove this solid waste from the sludge. Smaller plants can't afford or justify the capital investment. They may only need to remove and dispose of this solid waste a few times a year.

That's where my company comes in. We have all of the equipment necessary to remove this solid waste contained into one trailer. We come in on a temporary basis and remove the solid waste from the wastewater. It's a process known in the business as dewatering. The bulk of our business is sewage treatment plants but we also provide this service to drinking water plants (great work, doesn't stink), food processing plants, paper mills, landfills, etc.

Here's a shot of my dewatering system running right now, on the job that I'm currently at. Inside the trailer, which is the heart of the system, is a centrifuge. It also contains pumps to move the wastewater sludge in and the treated water out. It also has chemical mixing and treatment system to mix a chemical called polyacrymide emulsion (Polymer, or poly, in the business) and inject it into the sludge. When it makes contact with the sludge, it provides the initial separation of the water and the solids. The centrifuge spins this slurry at a high rate of speed, completing the separation. The solids exit one end of the centrifuge by a series of augers and discharges into that dump trailer that you see here. The liberated water goes back to the plant for treatment.

From here, it's either hauled to a landfill or it can be composted, provided that it meets a set of criteria mandated by the state and federal governments. I travel all over the United States and Canada doing this. That dry solids going into that trailer is a key to our high demand across the country. Due to the increased costs of transporting this dewatered solids (which is charged by the ton), it's critically important to get the solids as dry as possible since the water is what weighs the most. Most of our competitors only get the dewatered solids 18-23% solids. That material that you see in the picture is around 30%. That extra dryness saves a lot of money in transportation costs over the course of a job.

My job usually involves process control and optimization, some mechanical work, and the set-up and shut down days are usually very busy for me. Then there are the days where I have to get crash courses in computer software programming and hardware installation and repair. Those are always fun times. Sometimes, this job has nearly no manual labor to it. All of the machinery is computerized and controlled from one main computer. If I'm dewatering a holding tank of sludge, and I don't have to do any work to get the sludge to me, then this job is very easy and slow. Then there are the wastewater treatment ponds and digester cleanings. Those are an entirely different story. I'll get into those in another blog entry though.


Anonymous said...

Another great blog, Justin. You have a gift for this sort of thing.

Franklin said...

Thanks for the very informative writeup regarding dewatering. I had no idea of this type of service and its mobility and I really look forward to reading more about it in a future blog post.