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 Removed from Wet Well

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 wet well, 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.

Confined Space Entry in the Wastewater Industry

A Solution to Limiting Confined Space Entry


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

USST crew members at work in aeration basin.

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

U.S. Submergent Technology’s (USST) 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

2018 “Wastewater Olympics” Regional Results

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 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. (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

“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 Fecal Matters from JEA

USST at FWRC in Daytona Beach, FL

USST at the Florida Water Resources Conference

Last week, U.S. Submergent Technologies (USST) exhibited for the 5th year running at this year’s 2018 Florida Water Resources Conference.  It was all hands on deck as we had the opportunity to meet and greet with customers, discuss their facility’s needs, and had fun spinning our prize wheel giveaway and snack station.  You could even charge your phone or tablet if you were running low by the end of the day.

There were 3,850 attendees this year and we enjoyed speaking with everyone who stopped by the booth.  In the middle of the Exhibit Hall, the Regional Ops Challenge was underway, where seven teams competed for a spot in the national challenge coming up this Fall at WEFTEC.   You can read about the results of the Challenge and how each team performed on our other blog post here.

If you missed us at FWRC, 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.

In The USST Spotlight: Chris Jones

Chris Jones, USST Service Tech.

Say Hello to Chris Jones,

one of our hardworking Service Technicians here at USST.  Following in the steps of his family, Chris has a background in trades work building powerlines before joining the U.S. Submergent team, while his grandfather worked as an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Airforce.  Having just hit his one-year mark with USST, Chris is a valued member of our team with a surprising love of soup lunches and gardening.  Read on to learn more about our up-and-coming team member.

Hometown:  Norfolk, Virginia.

What I Do as a Service Tech II:  Run equipment, think ahead and solve problems, and fix equipment in my downtime.

Describe Your Typical Day:  Travel to the jobsite, discuss what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it, as well as any challenges we may be facing, and then we get the job done.

Favorite Aspect of the Job:  Every day is a new learning experience for me, and I look forward to being able to prepare and motivate my own crew for the day

Work-Safe Checklist:  Safety Tailboard – we discuss our safety plan at least once a week.

My Inspiration:  My family.  My father was a trades man and built powerlines, while my grandfather worked as an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Airforce.  It’s in my blood.

My Friends Would Describe Me As: A positive person.

What is something you like to do the “old fashioned” way?  I’m a southern cook, like my mother.  I like to cook the way she did and use ingredients out of my own garden.

First Job: Grocery store bagger at 14-yrs old, although I’ve had more than 20-some odd jobs over the years, including studying and obtaining my EMT certification.

Hobbies: Cooking and gardening.  I also love spending time with my Husky, Parker Thomas.

#1 Place I’d Like to Visit: Well, I’m leaving for Japan in April!

Who I’d Want to be Stranded With on a Deserted Island:  My partner and dog, even though that may be selfish because they’d be stranded with me.  Maybe I’d pick my worst enemy instead!

Surprising Talent:  In my spare time, I like to carve chainsaw art such as bears, otters and turtles.  I like to create one every couple of months or so.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time and why?   I’m a homebody, so I’d spend it cooking, working in my large, expansive garden, cleaning and just generally being comfortable at home.

 Favorite Song?  I like to listen to whatever is on the radio.

One Word That Describes My Dancing Ability:  Terrible.

Favorite Snack:  Amy’s Organic Lentil soup.

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One Truck, One Tool

23-Foot Deep Lift Station Cleaned While in Operation

Tallahassee’s Summerbrooke lift station was due for scheduled maintenance, needing both FOGs on the surface and sand and grit on the bottom removed.  While this could have proved to be a challenging situation, the USST crew and equipment was able to restore capacity quickly and efficiently.

USST Truck cleaning a lift station.

USST performing wet well maintenance in Tallahassee, FL

USST’s Field Supervisor, Paul Del Favero, arrived with a team prepared to remove debris from wet or dry conditions.  Our patented Combination equipment allows our crew to remove debris from water surface and structure bottom without additional equipment or repositioning.

“Our truck is uniquely equipped to solve lift station challenges,” says Denver Stutler, Jr., Co-founder and CEO of USST.  “Oftentimes, you don’t know what to expect, and our equipment has the ability to perform like a Swiss Army Knife in the field.”

USST utilizes downhole pumping (in submerged or normal flow) or vacuum (in dry or low flow) as required and is equipped to switch between the two methods in any circumstance, with minimal downtime.

The USST crew first removed the FOG layer off the top of Tallahassee’s Summerbrooke lift station with the vacuum, and utilized the downhole pump to remove all residual material off the bottom of the lift station while it remained in full operation.

The Combination extended reach boom provided the reach required during the job, preventing hazardous work conditions.  Almost 8-cubic yards was removed from the 23-foot deep wet well, and the job was completed safely, efficiently, and ahead of schedule.

Have a lift station that needs attention?  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.

Learn about our GritGone Process®.

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20-Foot High Tank Cleaned While in Operation

180-CY Removed in Davie, Florida


Capacity was recently restored to the Town of Davie’s WWTP as part of their Capital Improvement Program, a facility which handles an average daily flow of around 3MGD.  More than 180-CY of sand and material was removed from Davie’s 20-foot high surge tank while it remained in full operation.  Using USST’s extended boom and Combination technology, the material removed was immediately ready for disposal.

USST’s Combination3® Technology at Davie’s WWTP

John McGeary has resided as Chief Operator of the Town of Davie’s WWTP for almost five years, and has 38 years’ experience in the wastewater industry.  He says “[I was] pleased with the professionalism and the efficiency of the operation. We also liked the initial dryness of debris removed during the process.”

With jetter, vacuum and downhole pumping with 49-foot knuckleboom fully integrated on one truck chassis, USST’s Combination technology delivers a powerful punch in the submergent cleaning industry.  No additional equipment or tools are needed to be brought in, saving time and resources for the client.

USST’s Extended Knuckleboom At Work in Davie’s 20-Foot Surge Tank

Paul Del Favero, USST’s Field Supervisor, lead our crew in completing the Davie project efficiently and on schedule.  Paul Stephenson, Michael Kisling and Donald Barnes were also part of our hardworking team onsite.  All crew members have completed more than 80(+) hours of safety compliance and on-the job training, and are valuble members of the USST team.

USST can quickly clean your facility while it remains in full operation.  Take a look at our process in action and give one of our knowledgeable representatives a call at (844) 765-7866.  They can assist in putting together a specialized plan for your facility to restore valuable capacity.

You May Have a Sand Problem and Not Even Realize It

Identifying and Managing Annual I&I Issues

Where does the sand in wastewater treatment plants come from?  The answer is the collection system.  Determining whether or not there is an I&I issue can be the real challenge.  Spring is just around the corner, and with it, the time of year when most of the country’s rainfall usually occurs.  Throughout the wet season, an increase in flow into a WWTP can be due to inflow and not an increase in domestic wastewater collected.  Increase in flow is also a potentially a reliable indicator that treatment capacity has been compromised and may need to be restored.

Over time, sand seeps into pipes and lift stations and is eventually transported to WWTP infrastructure.  Sand, unlike other debris such as rag material, FOGs, and grit, is an unintended consequence of increased inflow into collection systems.  During heavy rainfall, wastewater collection pipes receive an inflow of rainwater which seeps into the pipes transporting sand.  Seepage bringing sand usually occurs without notice until the associated problems have become acute and require immediate attention.

I&I Illustration showing water seeping into pipe underground, though seeping joints and manhole, accumulating sand in the bottom of a collection pipe.

I&I issues tend to be out of sight, out of mind.  The consequences of I&I tend to go undetected due to the fact that pipes are buried underground.  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. 

Consider instead the value of restoring capacity versus replacing capacity.  When the sand is removed, capacity is restored in the structure at the WWTP.  Consider also the capital cost to repair or replace pipe segments that may have high inflows.  Often, the first solution to solve I&I issues is to repair or replace the pipes.  However, the cost-benefit of removing sand from the WWTP may be more cost-effective than fixing the pipes.  For example, if the annual cost of maintenance is less than the cost of borrowing the capital to do the repair or replacement project, then removing sand at the WWTP may make more sense.  Finally, the benefit of reducing the amount of energy required to run blowers by removing sand can be significant.

When average daily wet season flows increase significantly compared to the dry season, then sand transported into the collection and treatment systems may be accumulating until it gets your attention. Don’t be taken by surprise; our dependable and knowledgeable team can assist in building your preventative maintenance plan to help.  Call (844) 765-7866 or contact us to customize a plan for your facility.

New Year, New Goals, New Plans

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year when we are tasked with setting plans in motion for the new year ahead.  For many, the new year means setting new goals.  Our business sets goals each year, and are only achieved when we have a written, realistic plan.

Our plans provide the tasks and activities required of the team and organization to achieve our goals.  The more thought given on unresolved issues while developing your plan, the fewer delays experienced during execution and implementation.

Given that some of our implementation or action plans are being finalized for 2018, it is a good time to revisit of some of the lessons learned that have reinforced the importance of measuring twice and cutting once.  Try institutionalizing the lessons learned so that they become best practices by all going forward

In order to develop a meaningful plan, an understanding or honest assessment of where we are, where we are headed, and what it will take to get there, is important.  The plan should be logical and rational so it makes sense to the people it is supposed to make sense to.

The person responsible or accountable to the organization for implementing the plan should also be responsible for developing the plan and given the authority to execute it.  Empowering responsibility, authority and accountability is necessary to achieve the goals.  Having ownership of the plan brings passion and pride to the effort.

During implementation, our execution or reactions may not play out as expected.  Oftentimes, expectations not unfolding as hoped can result in a human reaction of fear.  The fear that perhaps our judgement or the judgement of someone we have relied upon was wrong.  When this happens, stop, and remain focused on the plan.  The process of preparing our plans can anticipate likely or possible outcomes.

The new year is upon us.  Take the opportunity to give thought to your goals for 2018 and think about how best to get there. Remember, the plan is the ‘to-do’ list and steps required to achieve the goal which connects and reminds us of the bigger picture, or purpose of our work.  As we know, a picture is worth a thousand words, which brings us back to our goal, and is ultimately, our plan the whole time.
Denver Stutler, Jr.