How U.S. Submergent Technologies Runs: An Interview with Operations Manager Aaron Hood

U.S. Submergent Technologies (USST) is well-known for taking on difficult — and often dirty — jobs, while making sure their clients’ production systems stay online. USST keeps entire wastewater systems up and running while cleaning system-clogging debris from lift stations, wet wells, tanks, and other structures. For other projects, USST restores important pipe infrastructure to its full capacity, while the system is still in operation.

We spoke with USST Operations Manager Aaron Hood to learn a little bit more about how the GritGone Process® using the Combination3® Technology removes hard-to-reach material from wet environments better than anyone else.

Aaron, how long have you been with USST?
I joined USST in 2014, and I’ve been with the company from the very beginning, helping the team learn and refine our GritGone Process® as well as operations for the Combination3® Truck. When I joined, we had one crew and we had the very first prototype truck. I came on to work as a foreman, which I was able to do once we got more equipment.

What did you do before you ran a crew for Submergent?
I grew up on a family farm in Fort Pierce, Florida — we grew and harvested oranges and grapefruit — so I knew a lot about how to run machinery, which is really the crux of this business. I also briefly worked on power lines before this.

How is USST’s operation different from others?
Well, it smells a lot different, I can tell you that! This kind of work required learning the tricks to removing debris from submerged areas. Everyone else has a vacuum and a jetter. We have those but also a downhole pump on the Combination3® Truck. I can take this truck to any job and get the job done. There’s no one else doing this in wet environments.

Sometimes I go to meetings with the sales team and explain how we can reach places that others can’t. I explain that we use our downhole pump to release water and remove the solids. Some people are hard to convince. I’ve been on jobs where people want to watch the first few boxes get emptied — it’s something that people haven’t seen before.

What do you love about your job? What is rewarding about it?
I like the challenge of doing work that hasn’t been done. I love getting something done with ease that other contractors haven’t been able to do at all.

The hardest part of a project is usually bad access. For example, some wells are in buildings underground and you have to maneuver around that, and it can be very hard to get equipment to the area that has to be cleaned. But we’ve been doing it for so long, we know how to get any job done, and it’s really rewarding to figure out a tricky setup.

What are your main priorities during a job?
My first priority is always to make sure everybody is safe. Second, I need to figure out how to set up to be most efficient and get the job done best. For trickier jobs, I like to try a couple of different things. That’s the interesting part.

What do most people not know about USST or the process? Is there anything that surprises new clients?
There are still a lot of municipalities and people that don’t understand what we do. When we show them, they’re blown away.

Another thing people don’t know is that we clean large diameter pipe, and we can clean the entire line and inspect it while it’s in operation. For cities, they’d otherwise have to bypass the line, which is very expensive and a big ordeal. There are more chances of overflow if something goes wrong with your pump. The way we do it is a lot faster and cleaner.

People are also surprised by what we pull out of tanks or lines: bike tires, PVC pipe, an old jetter nozzle from another company that tried to clean the line.

What does a day in your work life look like?
It’s an early start and a late finish and it’s busy everywhere in-between. I spend time making sure everyone gets to the site and that everyone is safe and working efficiently. I train new guys, help everyone with work, and I maintain good communication with clients. I give frequent updates on the project. The most common question I get at the end of the day is, “How much material did you get?”

Projects can last anywhere from three days to three months, but on average a project lasts about three weeks. We get material out that whole time; the goal is to move material every day.

Supporting Veterans by Playing Golf

TEAM TAKES 1ST & 2ND PLACE AT THE FIRST ANNUAL WARRIORS AT EASE GOLF TOURNAMENT

Taking 1st place at the Warriors at Ease Golf Tournament.  From left to right: Thomas Marcase (Veteran), Harry Fritz, Daniel Forehand,  Randy Cordrey (USST), with Christie Hickey.
Taking 1st place at the Warriors at Ease Golf Tournament. From left to right: Thomas Marcase (Veteran), Harry Fritz, Daniel Forehand, Randy Cordrey (USST), with Christie Hickey.

If you haven’t heard of the Warriors at Ease organization and the amazing support they provide to U.S. veterans, current service members, and families, please read on. Their vision is to “integrate yoga and meditation into military and civilian settings to support the health, resiliency, post-traumatic growth, and connection of service members, veterans and their families.

In addition to providing yoga and meditation classes on military installations, in VA facilities, and in the community, Warriors at Ease also organizes retreats and programs, provides training and certifications for teachers, and more.

This year, Warriors at Ease hosted their first charity golf tournament with military service members and veterans in attendance. USST and friends had the pleasure of being able to support and participate in the event that was held on Friday, November 15 at the Biltmore Golf Course in Miami. Our teams played well and had the honor of earning 1st and 2nd place. It was a fun day on the course, and we look forward to being a part of next year’s event!

On the course at the Warriors at Ease Golf Tournament.  From left to right:  Harry Fritz, Daniel Forehand, Mike Balen, Luis Montoya, Ian Yee (Veteran), Thomas Marcase (Veteran).
On the course at the Warriors at Ease Golf Tournament. From left to right: Harry Fritz, Daniel Forehand, Mike Balen, Luis Montoya, Ian Yee (Veteran), Thomas Marcase (Veteran).

And to all those who have served, and those who continue to serve, we thank you!

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Warriors at Ease (WAE); established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2011. The pioneering co-founders were involved in some of the first clinical studies funded by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) involving the use of yoga and meditation as an adjunct therapy for combat-related health conditions. The Warriors at Ease curriculum was created to train professionals in evidence-based techniques to support the health, resilience, and healing of our nation’s troops.

There are many organizations providing free yoga & mediation services to the military population. Warriors at Ease is focused on training those teachers on the unique aspects of military culture and on accessible and evidence-based techniques proved to support reintegration after combat.

Visit http://warriorsatease.org/ to learn more.

340-Tons of Sand and Grit Removed Using Multiple Cleaning Methods

30-YEARS OF MATERIAL REMOVED FROM BOTH WET & DRY CONDITIONS IN QUINCY

Combination3® Truck with 49-foot extended boom removed sand and grit from Quincy's Nitro Tank while in operation.
Combination Truck with 49-foot extended boom removed sand and grit from Quincy’s Nitro Tank while in operation.

Four structures at the City of Quincy’s Wastewater Treatment Plant were overdue for cleaning, due to a significant amount of sand and grit accumulation over the last 30-years.  With multiple setups needed to complete the project, the USST crew mobilized to the site armed with the versatile Combination Truck and removed the built-up sand and grit.

A 55-foot diameter digester and a 75-foot diameter nitro tank were the first two structures the crew tackled.  While the structures were in full operation, USST utilized the Combination Truck’s downhole pump combined with the GritGone Process® and removed sand and grit material.  The truck’s 49-foot extendable boom was utilized to reach over the 15-foot and 12-foot high walls of each structure, respectively.  Because the tanks did not have to be taken offline or drained down in either case, confined space entry was not required. 

Extended 49-foot knuckle boom with dripless tubes at work on Nitro Tank in Quincy.
Extended 49-foot knuckle boom with dripless tubes at work on Nitro Tank in Quincy.

Next, the USST crew turned to the third and fourth structures needing to be cleaned: two combined fermentation and anoxic tanks, both measuring approximately 24-feet wide by 80-feet in length.  These tanks needed to be taken offline due to capacity issues, and a drain down was necessary to effectively reach the material.  The work was performed via confined space entry by the USST crew utilizing the Combination Truck’s powerful vacuum technology.  Check out the project recently completed in Delray Beach to learn more about our vacuum capabilities. 

“Having the ability to clean both wet or dry conditions on a jobsite gives us an advantage in the field,” said USST Operations Manager, Paul Del Favero.  “We don’t have to bring multiple pieces of equipment to the site and we can accommodate clients who are unable to take structures offline.”

In total, approximately 340-tons of sand and grit were removed from Quincy’s four structures and disposed of onsite.  The project was completed ahead of schedule, restoring valuable capacity to the treatment plant.

“U.S. Submergent did a very professional job with little or no issues with the operation of the plant,” said Mo Cox, Assistant Director of Utilities for Quincy.

Combination3® Truck at work on Quincy's Digester while in service.
Combination Truck at work on Quincy’s Digester while in service.

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.  Contact our Program Administrator, Michelle Roberts, at mroberts@ussubmergent.com to get details about the State of 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 environments, while in operation, and can do so in both submerged and surcharged conditions.  Give one of our representatives a call for a free site assessment at (844) 765-7866 or email info@ussubmergent.com to learn more.

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

YEARS OF BUILT-UP RAG MATERIAL REMOVED IN DELRAY BEACH

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

ONE TRUCK, MULTIPLE SETUPS USED TO REMOVE MATERIAL, NO CONFINED SPACE ENTRY REQUIRED

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 info@ussubmergent.com. 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.

SAY HELLO TO BOBBY KEYES,

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

74-TONS OF SAND AND GRIT REMOVAL PERFORMED UNDER CHALLENGING CONDITIONS IN CENTRAL FLORIDA

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

AWARD WINNERS & BEST TASTING WATER CONTEST RESULTS

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.