Florida Environmental News

Red Tide: Is It Finally On Its Way Out?

If you’re currently living in the state of Florida, chances are you’ve been affected by red tide this summer.  The West Coast of Florida has been hit the hardest, with the first severe bloom of red tide spreading through the Gulf of Mexico this past June, pushing Gov. Rick Scott to declare a State of Emergency, making national headlines.  Dead fish and wildlife littered beaches, cloudy, toxic water lapped the shores, and residents suffered from upper respiratory and eye irritation.  Tourists have steered clear of the coasts and local businesses felt the loss this past Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s weekly report on current red tide status

As Floridians, we’ve experienced the effects of red tide in previous years, but what made this year’s bloom so much worse?  The first intense bloom of the year appeared off the coast of Sarasota in June, but scientists say it never really went away from October of last year, creating a convergence of old and new blooms.

“Scientists widely agree red tide, made up of Karenia brevis algae, gets seeded offshore at the bottom of the Florida shelf, then carried inshore by bottom currents.  As the algae gets close to coastal waters polluted by a host of sources, from farm and lawn fertilizer to leaky septic tanks, it [is believed] it can grow more intensely and create toxic blooms.”1

What is not clear is whether factors such as nutrient runoff, warmer waters tied to climate change, and man-made pollution is causing red tide, or simply feeding and prolonging the bloom, and more research is needed in order to fully answer this question.  Other contributing factors could include the impacts of hurricanes on deep water oscillations, Sahara dust, and heavy rainfall.

Recently, the bloom has begun to slowly move a few hundred yards off the coast, bringing a welcome relief.  The National Weather Service also dropped its hazardous beach conditions advisory for several Southwest Florida counties.2

There are a few valuable resources available if you’d like to monitor the progress of this year’s bloom.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission releases a weekly report on the current status of red tide, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issues Harmful Algae Bloom forecasts for Florida and Texas.  Mote Marine also dedicates resources to researching and monitoring red tide and developed the Beach Conditions Report, a useful source for the public to follow what’s happening on the shores of the 26 Gulf Coast beaches in Florida.

1  https://phys.org/news/2018-09-red-tide-natural-scientists-coastal.html

2  https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/local/environment/2018/09/05/tropical-storm-gordon-winds-help-break-up-red-tide-bloom/1206285002/

Under the River & Around the Corner

70-Cubic Yards of Material Creatively Removed from 660-Feet of Pipe, While in Operation

USST’s Combination3® truck at work under the Hillsborough River

U.S. Submergent Technologies (USST) recently completed work for the City of Tampa on a 300-foot section of interceptor sewer pipe running alongside the Hillsborough River which was experiencing reduced capacity due to a buildup of sand and grit.

Located in a neighborhood, USST setup downstream on the southeast bank of the Hillsborough River.  In order to access the 300-foot 48-inch diameter interceptor sewer pipe, the USST crew had to maneuver through a 360-foot 36-inch diameter siphon and parallel 20-inch diameter siphon under the river, with a 115-degree change in direction.

Close-up of Siphon

USST’s unique Combination truck with extended boom, dripless tube system, and jetter were utilized to travel the 360-foot length of siphon, navigate the 115-degree turn, and remove material from 300-feet of interceptor sewer pipe.  USST’s Field Supervisor, Aaron Hood lead the USST crew on the Tampa project, having been with the company since 2014, and has the most experience managing the capabilities of USST’s Combination truck and the GritGone Process®.

“While I was surprised at the amount of material that we encountered in the pipe, I wasn’t surprised that we had the capability to remove it,” said Aaron.

Almost 70-cubic yards of sand and grit was removed from the pipes, restoring more than 26% of its capacity, all while remaining in full operation.

Material removed from the Siphon

“The exceptional ability of our equipment to make a 115-degree turn in submerged conditions and remove a significant amount of material while remaining operational is what separates us from others in the market,” said Denver Stutler, Jr., co-founder and CEO of USST.  “I’m proud of our team and their effort to restore capacity, as well as our working relationship with the City of Tampa.”

Specializing in hard-to-reach environments in submerged conditions, USST can build a plan to safely and efficiently remove material from tanks, pipes, lift stations, and more.  Check out our video to learn more about the Combination technology and the GritGone Process® and give one of our representatives a call for a free site assessment at (844) 765-7866.

USST on the Tampa jobsite

Who’s Got the “Quench Factor?”

Best Tasting Water Contest Results,
FRWA Conference

18 utility companies serving customers in Florida came together at the FRWA Conference last week to compete in the Best Tasting Water Contest.  We spoke to Ben Lewis, State Water Trainer, and got the details about FRWA’s annual event.

Contestants are judged on four factors:  taste, odor, color and the quench factor.  The first three categories are easy to understand, but what exactly is “the quench factor?”  When asked Ben about this category, he explained that it is to observe how refreshed you feel after tasting the sample, the “ahhh” factor.

Up to 120 potential points per contestant are up for grabs from three judges.  Each judge can give up to 10 points per category, and the identity of the judges is anonymous.  The three judges are picked in the following way:

  • One judge must be from a regulatory body, such as the FDEP.
  • The second judge must be a vendor present at the conference.
  • The third judge is either the head chef from the hotel or can also be an individual from a water utility that is not participating in the contest.

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, Talquin Electric Cooperative, Meadows Regional Water took first place in this year’s contest by earning 106 out of 120 points.  They will go on to compete in the 2019 National Rural Water Association’s Water Rally in Washington, D.C.

USST at FRWA Conference in Daytona Beach, FL

USST team at 2018 FRWA COnference in Daytona Beach, Florida.
USST team at 2018 FRWA Conference in Daytona Beach, Florida.

For the 5th year in a row, USST exhibited at last week’s 2018 Florida Rural Water Association Conference (FRWA) in Daytona Beach, Florida.   Our team was excited to meet and greet with customers, discuss their facility’s needs, and had fun spinning the prize wheel giveaway.

More than 600 attendees traveled to Daytona Beach this year, and we enjoyed speaking with everyone who stopped by the booth.  The Best Tasting Water Contest was held at the conference where 18 utilities competed for a spot in next year’s National Rural Water Association’s Water Rally in Washington, D.C.  We’ve got details about how the contest works and who won here.

If you missed us at FRWA, you can catch us at the next event.  Keep an eye on our Conferences page which we’ll update as new events are scheduled, or simply give us a call to make an appointment at any time at (844) 765-7688.

72-Tons Sand and Grit Removed While Plant Remained in Operation

Lake Wales WWTP's Oxidation Ditch
Lake Wales WWTP’s Oxidation Ditch.

The City of Lake Wales Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) was due for maintenance on a large Oxidation Ditch and experiencing reduced plant capacity.  The facility’s treatment process is comprised of a Type 1 Oxidation Ditch operating as a conventional activated sludge treatment facility, and had built up a significant amount of sand and grit material, and needed to be cleaned while it remained in operation.

U.S. Submergent Technologies’ (USST) Paul Stephenson arrived with a team to the Lake Wales site prepared to remove material from submerged conditions.

“Using our unique Combination truck and GritGone Process®, we were able to efficiently remove about 72-tons of sand and grit while the plant remained in full operation,” said Paul.  “I knew our reliable equipment and exceptional crew would be able to get the job done quickly and on schedule.”

USST's Combination3® truck at work in Lake Wales.
USST’s Combination3® truck at work in Lake Wales.

The Combination truck’s extended boom, downhole pump, and jetter was utilized to safely remove sand and grit from the oxidation ditch.  No confined space entry was needed to complete the job, making it safer for the onsite crew and limiting costs for the client.

“When our solution reduces or eliminates the need for confined space entry and gets the job done, everybody wins,” says USST’s CEO, Denver J. Stutler, Jr.  “Less risk taken is always safer.”

Approximately 72-tons of material was successfully removed from the plant and deposited to onsite drying beds, increasing the effective treatment plant capacity to more than 9,000 gallons.

Lake Wales Oxidation Ditch
Lake Wales Oxidation Ditch.

Ted Long, Wastewater Superintendent and Chief Plant Operator for the City of Lake Wales for the past 9-years, has been in the wastewater treatment industry since 1979.  He said, “The process of grit and sand removal went very smooth with no interruptions of service. [USST’s] staff answered all questions and handled the task professionally.  I look forward to working with U.S. Submergent Technologies in the future […].”

Specializing in hard-to-reach environments in submerged conditions, USST can build a plan to safely and efficiently remove material from tanks, pipes, lift stations, and more.  Check out our video to learn more about the Combination technology and the GritGone Process® and give one of our representatives a call for a free site assessment at (844) 765-7866.

In the USST Spotlight: Michael Kisling

Michael Kisling, USST Crew member.
Michael Kisling, USST Crew member.

Say hello to Michael Kisling,

one of our hardworking Service Technicians here at USST.  Originally from Germany, Michael moved his family to America three and a half years ago with no home, no job, and couldn’t speak any English.  In just a short time, he has accomplished what some would call the American dream: his family has a home, become fully fluent in English, and has proven himself to be a valuable and reliable member of the USST crew.

Michael began his career two years ago with USST as a Tech II, moving up to the position of Tech 1 due to his leadership ability, attention to detail, and mechanical skills.  He even developed a training process for new team members needing to learn how to operate some of our equipment.

Read on to learn some other surprising details about our team member.

Hometown:  Landshut, Germany, located northeast of Munich in the Bavarian area.

What I Do as a Service Tech I:  Responsible for where the crew is going that day, organizing trucks and equipment for the project, maintaining contact with the client, monitoring progress and safety throughout the day, and basically making sure everything is straight.  I also train the new guys.

Favorite Aspect of the Job:  The possibility to learn a lot.  I have learned a lot about running a crew, the jobsites we visit, our equipment and I am still learning!

Proudest Accomplishment at USST:  My promotion to Tech I.  I am glad that USST is satisfied with my performance.

My Inspiration:  I do everything for my wife and two daughters.  Even when I have an extra busy day or have to work late, I know what I am doing it for and it is for my family.

My Friends Would Describe Me As:  An honest guy; a family man.

Words That I Live By:  Do the best that you can do.

Favorite Movie/TV Show to Watch:  I don’t really have time to watch anything!

First Job:  My first real job was a certified floor-layer.

Hobbies:  Cars and speakers!  I have a classic BMW that I like to work on if I have any spare time.  Although I haven’t done it in a while, I enjoy building speakers; I build them from wood and install all the electronic pieces myself.

#1 Place I’d Like to Visit:  Can I have more than one?!  I’d like to go to Australia, all of South America, China, Russia and even Antarctica.

Who I’d Want to be Stranded With on a Deserted Island:  My family.

Surprising Talent:  Cooking.  Before I moved to America, I had never cooked before.  I like to throw things together in a pan, making a dish from scratch, as well as schnitzel.

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what activity would you have a good chance at winning a medal for?  Foosball, or table football.  I’m pretty good at it!

Favorite Song:  Depends on the day.  Every day you feel a little bit different and you might like one song today and not like it tomorrow.

One Word That Describes My Dancing Ability:  Wild.

Favorite Snack:  Ice cream.

96-CY Removed from Two Structures

Crew Gets Creative to Remove Vegetation in Manatee County


removing cattails from sludge holding tank

USST recently completed work for Manatee County Utilities, who needed two tank structures cleaned at multiple facilities in order to restore valuable capacity.

The sludge holding tank at the North Water Reclamation Facility in Palmetto, Florida was overrun with cattails and rags.  At initial glance, it looked like a simple job of removing the 4-f00t high vegetation off the top.  However, once the project was underway, an 8-foot root system with rag material woven throughout was discovered underwater.

USST’s unique Combination trucks are equipped with a 49-foot extendable boom, along with vacuum, downhole pump and jetter.

“We used our 49-foot extended boom with hydraulic claw to remove the vegetation from the holding tank while it remained in operation,” says USST’s Field Supervisor, Paul Del Favero, who has been with the company since 2015.  Lead by Paul, the USST crew removed almost 60-CY of material from the structure and the project was completed on schedule.

USST’s Field Supervisor, Paul Del Favero

Meanwhile, a FOG tank at the Southeast Regional WWTP in Bradenton, Florida was also in need of cleaning.  We talked with Manatee’s Utilities Plant Maintenance Supervisor, Donny Adams regarding the FOG tank project, who has been with Manatee County since 2006.

“The 20-foot diameter by 15-foot high tank has a mixer that needed service, but we were unable to access it due to the large amount of grease that had solidified on the bottom,” said Donny.  Approximately 4-feet of FOGs lay on the bottom of the tank, and was removed by the USST crew via confined space entry.

“We used supplied air, life lines, blower fans, gas meters and more, following all protocols for confined space entry, and ended up removing 36-CY of material,” confirmed Paul Del Favero.  Despite the large amount of material needing to be removed from the tank as well as the difficult conditions, the project was completed ahead of schedule, giving back valuable capacity to the facility.

“Storage capacity had been cut in half due to this tank being out of service.  The crew that was onsite did a tremendous job getting the tank cleaned out very quickly,” confirmed Donny, “[…] we really appreciated the fantastic job they did.”

Experiencing reduced tank capacity?  Our knowledgeable representatives can stop by your facility for a free site assessment and put together a specialized plan to safely restore valuable capacity.  All you have to do is give us a call at (844) 765-7866 or request a free, customized quote here.

USST’s extendable boom at Manatee’s facility

80-Cubic Yards of Sand and Grit Removal from Lift Station

Challenging Confined Space Entry in Anastasia Island

Anastasia Island’s Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) was experiencing reduced pumping capacity due to accumulated solids in their influent lift station, a facility with a permitted capacity of 4.95MGD.  Due to the challenging nature of the 35-foot deep structure, Anastasia Island’s wet well hadn’t been cleaned in several years, resulting in the accumulation of a significant amount of material.

“The pump station consists of four Gorman-Rupp self-priming solids handling centrifugal pumps,” explained James Overton, P.E., at the St. Johns County Utility Department (SJCUD).  “Due to grit and rags that accumulated, one pump was completely out of service and the pumping capacity of a second pump was greatly reduced and beginning to clog on a regular basis.  SJCUD was concerned about losing another pump and needed to take action.”

USST Crew member at work in Anastasia Island Wet Well.

With the help of USST’s Combination3® truck and equipment, the USST crew removed 80-CY of material from the wet well via confined space entry.  Due to high levels of H2S (hydrogen sulfide) gas, USST crew members were extremely cautious when entering the wet well during the project.

“We follow all safety and compliance procedures when entering a confined space, taking extra care when high levels of gas are present, including using supplied air with emergency backup tanks, explosion proof vent fans, LED lighting and more,” said USST Field Supervisor, Paul Del Favero.

The USST crew safely and successfully removed sand, grit and rag material from the bottom of the wet well, and the pump station has since gained back full pumping capacity.  By restoring capacity, pump station performance is improved, reducing pump run times and frequency of mechanical wear and tear.

“The project was a great success and we are very pleased with U.S. Submergent’s commitment to get it done given the extremely difficult conditions,” said James Overton, P.E.  “We are grateful that U.S. Submergent was able to act quickly and get it done.”

Experiencing reduced pumping capacity in your wet well or facility treatment efficiency?  Our knowledgeable representatives can assist in putting together a specialized plan for your facility to safely restore valuable capacity.  The premier capacity restoration services of USST can help utilities extend the life of infrastructure, saving time, energy, and money.

Give us a call at (844) 765-7866 or request a free, customized quote here.

Limiting Time in the Tank


Confined spaces can be deadly.  Each year, many people are seriously injured or killed while working or attempting to rescue those in confined spaces across a wide range of industries.

The term “permit-required confined space” is defined by OSHA as possessing one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area that could trap or asphyxiate an entrant
  • Contains other recognized safety or health hazards, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires or heat stress


In the wastewater maintenance industry, there are many situations that can require confined space entry, most commonly when structures have limited or no means of ingress or egress such as wet wells, digesters, or aeration basins with high tank walls.  The removal of rag material from wastewater structures is another circumstance where confined space entry is most likely required during maintenance routines.

Dangers of confined spaces within wastewater infrastructure can include:

  • Lack of oxygen
  • Poisonous gases, fumes or vapors
  • Liquids, solids or gases that can suddenly fill the space or release gases into it
  • Lack of buoyancy due to density of liquid
  • Fires and explosions from flammable vapors and excess oxygen
  • Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature

USST’s Combination3® truck is equipped with a 49-foot extendable crane which allows crew to access material that may be hard to reach over high tank walls or deep wet wells without the need for additional equipment while reducing the amount of confined space work.

“When our solution reduces the amount of confined space entry required and gets the job done, everybody wins,” says USST’s CEO, Denver J. Stutler, Jr.  “Less risk taken is always safer.”

Because of the capabilities of our patented Combination3® technology, potentially dangerous environments such as headworks, tanks, or manholes do not require confined space entry, reducing liabilities and costs for both ourselves and the customer.

Wet Well to be cleaned on USST Jobsite

All USST crew members have completed more than 80(+) hours of safety compliance and participate in continuous on-the-job training.

“Every USST crew member goes through extensive confined space entry training.  Proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and safety equipment is always used when confined space entry is necessary,” confirms Paul Del Favero, Field Supervisor at USST.  “Our confined space entry consists of a six-point harness, gas meter, lifeline, Tyvex suits, waders, steel toe boots, gloves, and PPE with a confined space entry permit, door attendant, and entry supervisor.  Safety is life.”

USST’s Field Supervisor, Paul Del Favero in Full Tyvek Suit

Utilizing PPE is only one aspect to consider when ensuring the health and safety of our workers.  USST creates a site-specific safety plan for each project, while our Field Supervisors hold daily pre-job meetings with crew members where they review the safety plan and protocols, impending weather conditions, scheduled work, and other day-to-day updates.

Have a hard-to-reach area and experiencing reduced treatment efficiency?  Our knowledgeable representatives can assist in putting together a specialized plan for your facility to safely restore valuable capacity.  Contact us at (844) 765-7866 or email info@ussubmergent.com.

Ops Challenge Takes Over FWRC

Ops Challenge scoreboard at FWRC.
Ops Challenge scoreboard at FWRC.

If you were one of the 3,850 attendees at the Florida Water Resources Conference last week, you may have had the privilege of checking out the some of the FWRC Ops Challenge events.  Known as the “Olympics of the Wastewater Industry,” the Ops Challenge follows teams of four as they compete in a series of events, including Process Control, Laboratory, Maintenance, Collections, and Safety in order to secure a spot at the national competition at WEFTEC.

This year, seven teams competed in the overall Ops Challenge, with clever team names such as Destin’s Positive Influents, JEA’s Fecal Matters, St. Petersburg’s Dirty Birds, GRU’s True Grit, St. Cloud’s Methane Madness, and Orange County’s Treatment Outlaws.

Team Positive Influents from Destin Water Users, Inc.
Team Positive Influents from Destin Water Users, Inc.

Team Positive Influents from Destin Water Users, Inc. (DWU) was one of the smallest and only private organization competing in the 2018 Ops Challenge, representing a total of 65 employees.  Lead by Logan Law, Destin’s Wastewater Operations Specialist, all members were Class A Operators, and this was their second year competing.  Positive Influents came in first in Process Control and placed second in Collections, having won both events last year in their first year competing.

During the Safety event, teams must respond to a worker that has collapsed inside a manhole while judges time the event and keep score of how the team performs.  Destin’s Positive Influents was able to improve their Safety time by more than two minutes compared to last year’s score.

Destin's Positive Influents competing in the Ops Challenge.
Destin’s Positive Influents competing in the Ops Challenge.

“At DWU, we try to do things the right way and our Operators carried that attitude into this year’s Ops Challenge,” said Logan.  “It’s a great way for Operators to keep up their training and we have a great bunch of guys in the group.”

Positive Influents ended up placing 3rd overall with a score of 408.02 in this year’s Ops Challenge at FWRC.

“We did leave some points on the table that we should have gotten, but overall I think [we] did an outstanding job,’ said Logan.  “While [we] did not win, we are very proud of the way [we] competed.” Orange County’s Treatment Outlaws took first, while JEA’s Fecal Matters took second.  Both teams will be moving on to represent Florida in the national competition at WEFTEC later this year.

Team Treatment Outlaws from Orange County.
Team Treatment Outlaws from Orange County.
Team Fecal Matters from JEA.
Team Fecal Matters from JEA.