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.