Aeration Basin Cleaned of 724-Tons of Rags, Sand and Grit


Delray Beach aeration basin BEFORE removal of rag, sand and grit material.
Delray Beach aeration basin BEFORE removal of material.

An aeration basin at the Delray Beach South Central Regional Reclamation Facility was overdue for cleaning, having built up a significant amount of sand, grit, and rag material that needed to be removed.  The USST crew mobilized to the site armed with the versatile Combination Truck, well-prepared to handle the project.

Made up of three 60-foot by 60-foot bays, the aeration basin was drained down when the crew arrived.  To aid the cleaning and rehabilitation of the tank, diffusers were removed from the bottom of the bays and USST crew utilized a skid steer to assist in the removal of the high-density material from the structure. 

Delray Beach aeration basin AFTER removal of rag, sand and grit material.
Delray Beach aeration basin AFTER removal of material.

The Combination Truck’s powerful vacuum was used to remove sand, grit, rags, and sludge, and has the ability to get over high walls without losing power.  USST’s vacuum is powered by a blower capable of delivering nearly double the CFM of a standard vacuum truck, allowing the crew to remove large amounts of wastewater residuals and complete the job quickly. 

“Our years of experience provides us with the ability to adapt to unknown conditions and be prepared for obstacles we may face on the jobsite,” said Paul Del Favero, one of USST’s Operations Managers. 

In total, approximately 724-tons of rags and debris were removed from Delray’s structure and disposed of offsite, restoring valuable capacity to the treatment plant.

USST fleet at Delray Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant.
USST fleet at Delray Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Need a structure cleaned quickly or have a facility that must remain online?  USST is well-equipped to perform sand and grit removal from both wet or dry conditions and can do so at a higher production rate than most vacuum trucks.  Give one of our representatives a call for a free site assessment at (844) 765-7866 or reach out to us here to learn more.

Cleaning (and Swinging) for a Reason

USST Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
USST equipment operator wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
USST equipment operator wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

You may have spotted the USST crew in pink shirts this month. For the 2nd year in a row, USST will be donating a percentage of all purchase orders during the month of October to support Breast Cancer Awareness and Research.

From left, USST's Paul Meding, Paul Del Favero, and Michael Brantley Swinging for a Cause.
From left, USST’s Paul Meding, Paul Del Favero, and Michael Brantley Swinging for a Cause.

USST also had the pleasure of sponsoring and participating in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Golf Tournament in Miami, Florida. The organization raises money to help the American Cancer Society fund groundbreaking breast cancer research and provide patient services like free rides to chemo, free places to stay near treatment, and a live 24/7 cancer helpline.

Give us a call to learn how you can help us make a difference at (844)-765-7866 or by reaching out to us here.

Event trophies at Miami-Dade's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Golf Tournament.
Event trophies at Miami-Dade’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Golf Tournament.

How U.S. Submergent Technologies Helps You Minimize the Need for Confined Space Entry

Joen Torres, USST Service Technician, descends into a holding tank.
Joen Torres, USST Service Technician, descends into a holding tank.

The need for confined space entry, and particularly permit-required confined space entry, can considerably increase the cost of maintenance for wastewater collection and treatment systems, including pipes, tanks, lift stations, and stormwater drains. 

Access is one of the largest cost drivers in the removal of debris

U.S. Submergent Technologies’ GritGone Process® for sand and grit removal can be performed without any interruption to your normal plant operation. Most of the time, this means that our standalone cleaning systems can get to challenging, hard-to-clean environments without requiring confined space entry. 

Using our Combination Trucks and expertly trained crew, we specialize in accessing hard-to-reach infrastructure and can clean a wide variety of tanks and large-diameter pipe in both submerged and surcharged conditions. We’ve cleaned through a right angle and a syphon while it remained in operation, 1,000 feet of sanitary interceptor, accessed a manhole in a river, vacuumed over 25-feet high walls, and removed materials from 30-feet deep wells. Read our recent case study, covering how we removed 22-cubic yards of sand from a splitter box at a Central Florida wastewater treatment facility while it was in service and without the need for risky confined space entry.  

Confined space entry: when you need a permit and when you don’t

OSHA defines a confined space as one that has limited openings for entry or exit, is large enough for entering and working, and is not designed for continuous worker occupancy. 

Permit-required confined spaces are a subset of confined spaces that:

  • May contain a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere.
  • May contain a material which can engulf an entrant.
  • May contain walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant.
  • May contain other serious physical hazards such as unguarded machines or exposed live wires.
  • Must be identified by the employer who must inform exposed employees of the existence and location of such spaces and their hazards.

Taking measures to pull confined space permits and developing a written permit space program is time consuming and can extend the period of maintenance past what is feasible for a given lift station, pipe, or tank.

Alternative to a full permit entry is still costly and risky

Even under conditions that allow an alternative to full permit entry, there are still time-consuming and expensive hurdles to overcome. For example, if you can use monitoring and inspection data to demonstrate that a potentially hazardous atmosphere can be made safe for entry using continuous forced air ventilation, you need to test the internal atmosphere of the space for oxygen content, flammable gases and vapors, and the potential for toxic air contaminants before any employee enters it. You must also provide continuous ventilation and verify that the required measurements are performed before entry.

When confined space entry isn’t avoidable

In certain cases, confined space entry can’t be avoided. There could be a significant buildup of rag material or other debris that can’t be captured by other means, or maintenance needs that require hands-on expertise.

In cases like these, you can trust that every member of U.S. Submergent Technologies’ experienced field crew has completed more than 80 hours of safety and compliance training, with ongoing on-the-job instruction. 

If you’ve got a hard-to-access structure that needs to be cleaned, give one of our representatives a call for a free site assessment at (844) 765-7866 or contact us to learn more.

21-Tons Removed from Lift Station In Operation


Paint-filter dry material.
Paint-filter dry material.

FOGs, sand, grit, and rag material had accumulated over time in a Central Florida lift station, reducing its overall capacity.  A buildup of material in a wet well such as this has the potential to cause several issues, including increased pump run times and wear and tear on equipment.  USST was able to perform sand and grit removal from this 20-foot deep lift station in operation very quickly. 

Typically, multiple pieces of equipment would be needed to tackle this challenging issue.  Fortunately, USST’s Combination truck is more than just a vac truck.  Sporting a vacuum, downhole pump, jetter and extendable boom on one chassis, the Combination trucks have the ability to clean in wet or dry conditions in up to eight different setups.

“Lift stations are one of our specialties,” said Aaron Hood, one of USST’s knowledgeable Field Supervisors.  “Our equipment is designed to clean in a variety of ways, quickly and safely.  We can remove material at an increased rate without having to put the crew down in the tanks.”

The Combination3® Truck
The Combination Truck

In this case, the USST crew first removed FOGs and floating rags from the surface of the wet well using the Combination Truck’s powerful vacuum.  The downhole pump was then engaged to remove approximately a foot and a half of sand, grit, and rag material from the bottom of the structure.  All of this occurred while the lift station was in full operation.  Risky confined space entry was not needed, as is typical on a project of this kind, due to the efficiencies of our equipment.

In total, approximately 21-tons were removed from the structure with no issues.  Due to the GritGone Process®, the sand and grit material was paint-filter dry and ready for offsite disposal.

Have a lift station that needs attention?  The Combination Truck makes restoring lift station capacity easier than you think.  Call one of our knowledgeable representatives for a free quote or to ask any questions you may have at (844) 765-7866 or email Check out our video to learn more about the Combination technology.

In the USST Spotlight: Bobby Keyes

Bobby Keyes, USST Foreman.
Bobby Keyes, USST Foreman.


a key member of USST’s team for almost four years who was recently promoted to one of our Foreman positions.  With a background in construction for most of his career, Bobby moved to Florida from New Hampshire in 1988 to get away from the cold and has lived in the peaceful town of Osteen with his family and horses for the past 20-years. 

He enjoys tackling new challenges every day, can recite the theme song to Gilligan’s Island at a moment’s notice, and never passes up a snack of Oreo cookies and milk.  Read on to learn some other surprising details about our team member.

Hometown:  Osteen, Florida for the past 20-years.  It’s peaceful, quiet, and I have 5 acres for my 6 horses and pony to run free.

What I Do as a Foreman:  Oversee the job, morning setup, and make sure everything is running smoothly throughout the day.  

Favorite Aspect of the Job:  The challenges I get to solve – there is something new every day.

Proudest Accomplishment at USST:  I was recently promoted to Foreman, and I really enjoy the role.

Work Safe Checklist:  I have a safety meeting every morning with the crew where we go over that day’s job hazards and things to watch out for, make sure everyone is wearing proper PPE and make sure we keep the jobsite clean and safe.

My Inspiration:  My horses; they are my enjoyment at the end of the day.

My Friends Would Describe Me As:  I can’t tell you that!

Lesson That I Live By:  If you’re not sitting on the edge of your seat, you’re taking up too much room!

What is something you like to do the “old fashioned” way?  I like to have face-to-face conversations.  It’s much more personal than phones or texting.

My favorite Beatle:  Paul McCartney

Favorite Movies/TV Shows I like to Watch:  Tombstone, Unforgiven, or any of the old western movies.  I also like American Pickers, Counting Cars and other similar reality shows; they’re just fun to watch!

My Autobiography Would Be Called:  I’m Done, What’s Next?

First Job:  McDonalds; I made $1.65 an hour!

Hobbies:  Restoration of things like old tractors and classic cars.  Right now, I’m working on a 1966 Chevy Chevelle.

#1 Place I’d Like to Visit:  Australia

Who Would Win a Fight Between Superman and Batman?  Batman has all the gadgets but Superman would win because he has all the powers.  Unless Batman had some sort of bat-a-rang or something with kryptonite in it, then Batman would win.   But really Superman.

Who I’d Want to be Stranded With on a Deserted Island:  Dolly Parton

Surprising Talent:  I can make the Star Trek, “Live Long and Prosper” symbol.

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?  Red, because red means power.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time and why?  Spend the extra time with my family.

What song(s) do have completely memorized?  The theme song from Gilligan’s Island. I used to watch that so much as a kid!

One Word That Describes My Dancing Ability:  Absolutely none!  I know that’s two words, but I am really terrible.

If you could travel to any period in time, when would it be and why?  The Old West; I’d like to meet all the old-time gun slingers and lawmen like Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp.  They’d probably kill me, but it would be fascinating!

Favorite Snack:  Oreo cookies and milk.

Covered Splitter Box Cleaned Via Manhole While In Service


USST  Combination3® Truck at work on in service splitter box.
USST Combination Truck at work on splitter box while in service.

Access issues had prevented a covered splitter box at a Central Florida wastewater treatment facility from being cleaned.  A large amount of accumulated sand and grit had built up over time, and the structure was experiencing reduced capacity. So how was this splitter box cleaned while in service?

A splitter box serves to separate influent flow to various structures such as aeration basins or oxidation ditches and can be hard to shut down or bypass flow in order to perform regular maintenance. 

“Cleaning a structure while in operation is our specialty,” said Aaron Hood, experienced Field Supervisor at USST.  “This particular splitter box was also covered, adding a layer of complexity to the project, but didn’t prevent us from being able to remove the large quantity of material in a short amount of time.”

Aerial view of splitter box. at facility
Aerial view of splitter box at facility.

The 55-foot long by 7-foot wide structure had two access points on top of the tank.  USST crew, along with the powerful Combination Truck, was able to employ the jetter to jet material back to the downhole pump positioned at the manhole for removal.  The work was performed in submerged conditions, while remaining in operation, a challenge the facility had previously been unable to solve.  Since the splitter box was cleaned while in service, confined space entry was not required to complete the project.

USST utilized the unique GritGone Process® to remove 74-tons of sand and grit in total, generating paint-filter material ready for disposal.  Check out our video to get a more detailed explanation of how our GritGone Process® works.  The project was completed on time and the client saved valuable time and resources by not having to shut down operations or figure out a bypass solution.

If you find yourself with an issue that seems unsolvable, give us a call, we love a challenge!  Contact us by calling (844) 765-7866 with any questions you may have or give us a shout-out below in the comment section.

2019 FRWA Conference Recap


USST Crew at the 2019 FRWA Conference.
USST Crew at the 2019 FRWA Conference.

Another FRWA Conference has come to a close.  This was USST’s 6th year attending the conference, and we enjoyed visiting with customers and friends who stopped by our booth, as well as checking out the Best Tasting Water Contest and industry awards.  If you couldn’t make it, please feel free to reach out with any questions you have or issues you may need to address.  We’re happy to discuss your facility’s needs, help solve a problem, or even chat about your favorite sports team.  Contact us here. See you at next year’s 2020 conference!

Best Tasting Water Contest Results

Judges examining water samples at the 2019 Best Tasting Water Contest.
Judges examining water samples at the 2019 Best Tasting Water Contest.

Utilities from across the state of Florida gathered on August 5-7 at the 2019 FRWA Conference to compete for the title of Best Tasting Water.  The contest first took place in 1989, and contestants are judged on four factors:  taste, odor, color and quench factor. 

When judging the water samples, judges assign each sample a number, and it takes the panel about 30-45 minutes to complete the tastings, make their decisions, assign points, and determine a winner.

This year, the City of Stuart took first place in this year’s contest, making it the third time they have earned the regional title.  They will go on to compete in the 2020 National Rural Water Association’s Water Rally in Washington, D.C. for the prestigious title of Best Tasting Water in America.  Finalists are selected from a preliminary round of judging before advancing to the finals where a panel of experts will choose the winner. We wish the City of Stuart the best of luck as they advance to the next round!

Check out FRWA’s slide show of the 2019 judging process here.

FRWA Award Winners

Industry awards are also given out during the 2019 FRWA Conference, including Manager/Administrator of the Year, Operator of the Year, and System of the Year to name just a few.  All award winners can be viewed in FRWA’s slide show here.

Florida Braces for Flooding as Downpours Continue


Rainfall predictions across the state of Florida.
Rainfall forecast courtesy of The Weather Channel.

Heavy downpours continued over the weekend, making this summer one of the wettest some parts of Florida have seen in a long time.  Last week, drivers needed rescuing from their cars stranded in rising waters in Orange County when more than 4-inches of rain fell.  In Miami-Dade, nearly 6-inches fell in one hour, causing flash flooding while flood warnings were issued across most of West, Central and South Florida. What’s different about this type of flash flooding and rainfall and the impact it has on wastewater treatment infrastructure?

Most Floridians are familiar with daily summer thunderstorms, but these storms have been lingering longer and dumping heavy rains multiple days in a row.  When the ground becomes this saturated with water, it has nowhere to go. 

“What is most unusual about this pattern is that rain will be an all-day on-and-off rain rather than the once or twice a day severe thunderstorms,” meteorologist Jonathan Belles said.  Showers and storms will be possible in the middle of the night too, which is not typical of summer.”

Cars stranded in the middle of a flooded street in Miami-Dade, Florida.
Flash flooding in Miami-Dade. Image courtesy of Miami Herald.

So how does rainfall impact wastewater infrastructure? During periods of severe rainfall such as this, the rate of flow in a stormwater system increases and can exceed the treatment facility’s capacity, as well as potentially cause overflows.  The influx of water into a system also brings sand.  Sand, unlike other debris such as rag material, FOGs, and grit, is an unintended consequence of increased inflow into collection systems.

What can utilities do to prevent or address these issues when they occur?

One obvious solution is to rebuild or repair infrastructure.  But these projects can be costly to cities and taxpayers.  Employing barriers around key assets or diverting flow may also be a short-term solution. 

Another more cost-effective solution is to perform regular maintenance to ensure collection and treatment systems can operate at full capacity when needed.  When wet season flows increase significantly compared to dry season flows, sand can be transported into the collection and treatment systems and may be accumulating without anyone noticing.  Since the water in tanks at facilities are not see-through, accumulated sand at the bottom of these tanks remain unseen and unnoticed.  Eventually, the increase of sand into wastewater treatment infrastructure can reduce treatment volume and increase energy use.  Over time, this buildup can potentially cause overflows and other issues if the system is not able to operate at full capacity.

This is where regular maintenance can work to a facility’s advantage.  If the cost of annual maintenance is less than the amount it would take to rebuild or repair infrastructure, then removing sand at the treatment system may be the best option.

Is there an end in site for all this rain?

Rainy season in Florida typically lasts from Mid-May through Mid-October, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in June, July, and August.  We can expect the soggy weather to subside sometime late October, traditionally the beginning of Florida’s dry months. 

As for this week, forecasts show that parts of Florida may finally get the opportunity to dry out.  Scattered showers are shown across the state but are predicted to be more in line with a traditional Florida summer.  The wet weather West, Central and South Florida were experiencing last week is now headed to the panhandle where flood warnings have been issued.

Flash flooding risk warning issued for Florida Panhandle.
Panhandle forecast courtesy of WJCT.

Interested in learning more about instituting a maintenance plan at your facility?

One of our knowledgeable representatives would be happy to explore options to combat high flows, remove sand and grit, and restore valuable capacity to your collection or treatment infrastructure.  Contact us here or call (844) 765-7866.

Oxidation Ditches Cleaned of 630-Tons of Sand and Grit



Two structures at the Mount Dora Wastewater Treatment Plant were overdue for cleaning, having built up a significant amount of sand and grit as well as other debris over the last 15-years.  USST crew mobilized to the site armed with the versatile Combination Truck, well-prepared to handle the multiple setups needed to complete the project.

A large oxidation ditch measuring approximately 50-feet wide by 330-feet in length was the first structure the crew tackled.  While the structure was in full operation, USST utilized the Combination Truck’s downhole pump and 49-foot extendable boom combined with the GritGone Process® to remove approximately 287-tons of sand and grit material.  Because the tank did not have to be taken offline or drained down in this case, confined space entry was not required.

USST Extended Boom at work in oxidation tank in Mount Dora; blue extended boom reaching out over full tank of water in operation.

Next, the USST crew turned to the second structure needing to be cleaned, an oxidation ditch and grit removal chamber measuring approximately 40-feet wide by 130-feet in length.  A drain down was necessary to effectively reach the material, and all work was performed via confined space entry by the USST crew. 

The Combination Truck’s powerful vacuum technology was utilized to remove approximately 343-tons of sand, grit, biosolids, and rag material.  The vacuum is powered by a blower capable of delivering nearly double the CFM of a standard vacuum truck.  This allowed the crew to remove large amounts of material and complete the job quickly. 

Mount Dora oxidation ditch post-cleaning; an emtpy concrete structure.

“Every setup of USST’s Combination Truck was utilized on this project between the two structures,” said Paul Del Favero, one of USST’s seasoned Field Supervisors.  “Having the ability to switch between downhole pumping and vacuum modes depending on the situation allows us to always be prepared for what we find on a project.”

In total, approximately 630-tons were removed from the two Mount Dora structures and were disposed of offsite, restoring capacity to the treatment plant.

The city was also able to take advantage of Florida’s Sand and Grit Grant Program, which makes it possible for communities to address the ongoing issues of sand and grit accumulation in wastewater treatment facilities by reimbursing 50-100% of restoration costs.  If you are a publicly-owned, Florida municipality with an average daily flow of 3MGD or less, you may be eligible for state grant assistance.  Call (844) 765-7866 or email our knowledgeable representative, Michelle Roberts at to get details about Florida’s Sand and Grit Grant Program.


Need a structure cleaned quickly or have a facility that must remain online?  USST is well-equipped to perform sand and grit removal from both wet or dry conditions, while in operation, and can do so at a higher production rate than most vacuum trucks.  Give one of our representatives a call for a free site assessment at (844) 765-7866 or contact us to learn more.

Capacity Restored to Blocked 60-Inch Stormwater Pipe



U.S. Submergent Technologies (USST) recently performed sand and grit removal services for Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works on a 110-foot section of 60-inch surcharged stormwater pipe which was experiencing reduced capacity due to a buildup of sand.

Aaron Hood, one of USST’s veteran Field Supervisors, lead the USST crew through the Miami-Dade project from start to finish, beginning with a pre-cleaning inspection, the removal of sand, and wrapping up with a post-cleaning inspection to confirm the work performed. 

To prepare for the cleaning, an inspection was performed using USST’s pipe profiling sonar unit on their combined Sonar/CCTV truck with PACP Certified operator to give the crew visibility to conditions inside 60-inch pipe.  USST’s underwater sonar image provides a preview of sediment build up, visibility to sections of pipe that may be in need of maintenance, and better prepares the crew for the project ahead.

“The inspection was performed through an access point in the right of way requiring a Maintenance of Traffic permit, said Aaron.  “One lane of traffic was closed in order to access the upstream manhole.”

USST’s unique Combination Truck with extended boom, downhole pump, and jetter were utilized to travel the 110-foot length of pipe.  The crew accessed the pipe from the outfall in the Miami River and cleaned towards the upstream manhole, removing sand while under surcharged conditions.  Water from inside the pipe was used during the process and no outside water source or drain down was needed to complete the project.

A post-cleaning inspection was also completed by USST to confirm all material had been removed.

“Almost 32-tons of sand were removed from the surcharged stormwater pipe,” said Aaron, “restoring approximately 30% of its capacity and without having to drain it down or resort to confined space entry.” 

The Miami-Dade project was completely quickly, safely, and on schedule. 

Wondering what’s in your pipe or tank?  USST can deliver live inspection feeds providing comprehensive reports and video for both pre- and post- cleaning inspections.  Performing these inspections allow USST to deliver a more tailored solution and generates a quicker outcome due to having a clear understanding of the problem to solve.

Give one of our representatives a call to schedule an inspection to get visibility to an issue your facility may be facing or to learn more about USST’s specialties in hard-to-reach environments both in surcharged or submerged conditions.  Call (844) 765-7866 or email us at

Check out our video to learn more about the Combination Truck and GritGone Process®.