The Government Shutdown & the Effect It Has Had on Our Environment


By now, you have most likely heard about the temporary reopening of the government after a monthlong shutdown, the longest in US history.  In case you need a refresher on what has happened beginning December 22, 2018, the Washington Post1 has a great article summarizing everything you need to know.  But just how has the government shutdown impacted our environment so far, and what happens when the short-term deal ends on February 15th?

Front shot of the US Capitol building on a clear, cloudless day, home of United States Congress.
U.S. Capitol Building, Home of United States Congress

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a group dedicated to protecting America’s land, air, and water, is one of the major environmental agencies whose employees had been furloughed since late December.  According to the New York Times2 , inspections that EPA workers would normally have performed had been halted, including the inspections of wastewater treatment plants, chemical factories, power plants, oil refineries, and other industrial-type sites.  These inspections are meant to monitor pollution and ensure compliance.

“There are plants that discharge wastewater into streams and rivers, places that store hazardous chemicals in containers that could leak – we show up and test these places to see if they’re meeting pollution laws,” said Garth Connor, a furloughed EPA inspector in Philadelphia […].  “[There has been] nobody out there to check if they’re complying.”2

Now that the shutdown has been temporarily suspended, EPA employees may return to their jobs, but a backlog of inspections and work needing to be rescheduled most likely awaits them.  Eric Schaeffer, former EPA enforcer, reflects on the effects the shutdown from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996 had.

“That was one of the worst years ever at the EPA in terms of numbers and of inspections and enforcement,” Schaeffer said.  “Everything was ground to a halt, bogged down.  You can’t just restart at 100 miles per hour.  You have to reschedule everything.” 2

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is another environmental agency whose employees were furloughed, shutting down essential functions of the organization.  Newsweek3 recently reported that portions of their website were removed and not maintained.  During the shutdown, NOAA’s ability to perform primary functions such as ocean research and conservation, weather and climate observation, natural hazards alerts, water quality monitoring, species tracking, and more were affected.  It is unclear which NOAA functions will resume during the short-term reopening of the government.

Hurricane research4 is another important function of NOAA that has been on hold since late December.  Due to gaps in data tracking as a result of the shutdown, accurate forecasting models for the upcoming hurricane may be impacted.

White sign on black fence posted on front of government property reading "Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed."

Visited a national park in the last month?  You may have found that admission was free, but amenities such as campgrounds, restrooms and guard stations were closed.  Parks, historical sites, monuments, and battlefields were essentially wide open with no one left to maintain the lands, reported the Washington Post5.  The National Park Service issued a warning to use caution when entering a park or monument property.  With no one to staff and patrol these areas, visitors flocked to unattended parks leaving trash, walking off-trail, and causing potentially lasting damage to protected land and wildlife areas. 

Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith [said] that visitors [were] illegally off-roading, cutting down trees and spray-painting rocks, among other infractions. 
“Joshua trees were actually cut down to make new roads,” Smith said.5

While park employees were furloughed, volunteers stepped up across the country and donated their time to pick up trash, cleaned restrooms, donated supplies, and helped maintain the areas. 

“People are doing it because we love this place and we know how trashed it will get if we don’t,” said a volunteer helping at Joshua Tree National Park.6

Once the parks reopen, park employees will be responsible for cleaning up and repairing what remains of the mess left by visitors.

With the short-term reopening now in effect, government workers can look forward to a long-awaited paycheck that includes backpay during the shutdown.  The reopening is only scheduled to last until February 15th, 2019.  At that time, Congress will need to approve additional funds or another governement shutdown will ensue.  If another shutdown were to occur so soon, there’s no telling how much more lasting damage will affect our land, water, and wildlife.–heavily-populated-and-barely-supervised/2019/01/01/db51564e-0d3b-11e9-84fc-d58c33d6c8c7_story.html?utm_term=.6ef102eaee69

In the USST Spotlight: Michelle Roberts

Say hello to Michelle Roberts, our dedicated Client Liaison in North Florida.   Michelle is an expert when it comes to guiding our clients though the sometimes-challenging procurement process as well as assisting local utilities navigate communications with Florida government.

Having joined the USST team almost a year ago, we have come to know Michelle for her love of genealogy and enthusiasm to always take on a challenge.  She is a rare, native Floridian and parent to two cats, Lewis and Princess (who she says definitely lives up to her name).  Read on to learn some other surprising details about our team member.

Hometown:  Wakulla County.  I was ready to see the world as soon as I turned 18.  I appreciate growing up in Wakulla and having a small-town upbringing, but I prefer the city because I like the hustle and bustle that comes along with it.

Favorite Aspect of the Job:  I came from the world of petroleum and now I’m learning the world of wastewater.  This means that I am continuously learning a lot of things, and it’s very challenging, which I enjoy.

My Friends Would Describe Me As:  Funny, loyal, and trustworthy.

Lessons/Words From _____ That I Live By:  I decided 10-15 years ago that I’ve got 24-hours every day to get it right.  The “it” is broad because there’s your job, family, and friends to consider, and 24-hours in which to be a decent human being, and I try to succeed every day.

Favorite Movie/TV Show to Watch:  The Goonies.  It was the first movie I ever got to see on a VCR (which was a big deal back in the day).  It’s the adventure every kid wanted to have.

My Autobiography Would Be Called:  “Why are we still talking about this? I have to go snuggle my cats.”

First Job:  I started babysitting at 11-years old, but my first “real” job was as a Subway sandwich artist at 18-years old.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?  I don’t do karaoke.  Ever.

Hobbies:  I am very much into researching my genealogy and family history.  I also like to draw with oil pastels, although I’m super terrible at it, but I enjoy it very much because it’s messy.

#1 Place I’d Like to Visit:  Egypt.  I have always been fascinated with everything Egyptian.

What is your favorite pizza topping?  Olives, both green and black.  There can never be enough olives on a pizza.

If you could eliminate one food so that no one would eat it ever again, what would you pick to destroy?  Peas in a can.  They are disgusting.

One Surprising Thing About Me:  I have never been able to whistle.

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time and why?  I would spend all of my time working on my family genealogy.  It’s fascinating and amazing how lost you can get working on it, and then you realize it’s been 12-hours since you last ate.

If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what activity would you have a good chance at winning a medal for?  Organizing.

One Song That Would Play Every Time I Entered a Room:  Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey.  I used to drive my mother crazy singing this song over and over because I knew she really hated it.

One Word That Describes My Dancing Ability:  Enthusiastic

What would be your first question after waking up from being cryogenically frozen for 100-years?  Where can I get some mac ‘n cheese?

Favorite Snack:    Olives.

The Zombie Apocalypse is coming, who are 3 people you want on your team, real or fictional?  Wonder Woman, David (a friend of mine), and my sister, Erin.

3 Oxidation Ditches, 2 Wet Wells… and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Multiple Structures in Full Operation While 194-CY Removed

Five structures at a Northeast Florida Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) were experiencing reduced capacity due to a buildup of sand and grit.  The WWTF, which manages an average daily flow of nearly 5 MGD, had three oxidation ditches and two wet wells in need of maintenance.

Combination3® truck at work in Northeast Florida

Measuring 50-feet wide by 230-feet in length, the three oxidation ditches accumulated a significant amount of sand and grit material.  Aaron Hood, Field Supervisor at U.S. Submergent Technologies® (USST) mobilized the USST crew to the facility and was able to successfully clean all three structures while in full operation and without having to resort to confined space entry.

“Cleaning in submerged conditions is USST’s specialty,” said Aaron.  “Our Combination truck outfitted with extended boom, downhole pump, and jetter allows us to be extremely efficient in removing material without having to drain down the tank or require confined space entry.”

Not having to drain down a tank can save a client valuable time and resources in order to remove material.  USST’s equipment performs best in submerged and surcharged conditions, and tank height is almost never an issue for the Combination truck.

Field Supervisor, Aaron Hood with removed material

Two wet wells were also in need of sand and grit removal, and the USST crew accessed the material without issue and while in full operation.  USST’s unique, GritGone Process® generated approximately 194-cubic yards of sand and grit material removed from the five structures and the paint-filter dry material was deposited onsite.

Have a tank that needs attention?  Call one of our knowledgeable representatives for a free quote or to ask any questions by calling (844) 765-7866 or email

885-Tons Cleared Out from Storage Tank

That’s 118,000 Thanksgiving Turkeys!

A water reclamation facility in Central Florida was experiencing reduced capacity due to a buildup of sand, grit and rag material in their methane storage tank.  Due to the challenging nature of the 100-foot diameter, 24-foot domed structure, the facility’s tank, which had been converted to an overflow tank, hadn’t been cleaned in several years, resulting in the accumulation of a significant amount of material.

Material Accumulation in Methane Tank Pre-Cleaning

With the help of USST’s Combination truck, the USST crew removed an astonishing 885-tons, which accounted for a total of 18-feet of material, from the tank in a two-part plan of attack, led by USST’s experienced Field Supervisors, Paul Del Favero and Aaron Hood.

“The first part of the plan involved using our downhole pump to remove water and sludge by accessing the material from the roof of the tank,” explained Paul. “We were able to remove the sand and grit and decant an acceptable level of sludge and water back to the plant for treatment using our GritGone Process®, avoiding confined space entry for a majority of the project.”

Part-two of the plan involved accessing the remaining sand, grit, sludge, and rag material from an entry point located on the side of the tank.  The USST crew utilized the Combination truck’s high-pressured vacuum via confined space entry to safely and successfully remove the last of the material, and the facility has since gained back full capacity.

Methane Tank Post-Cleaning, Full Capacity Restored

“We follow all safety and compliance procedures when entering a confined space, taking extra care to monitor air quality levels, maintain proper ventilation, check gas meters and have SCBA’s (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) on hand at all times,” said Aaron.  “Our goal is to eliminate the need for confined space entry as much as possible, and our equipment allows us to do just that.”

USST’s ability to use a multifaceted approach to the project with one piece of equipment is unparalleled in the marketplace.  We can reach areas in tanks that other can’t, and we specialize in removing material from challenging environments.  If you think you have a structure that is inaccessible, we’d like the opportunity to assess your facility’s situation and provide a solution.  Call (844) 765-7866 or email to get started.

Cleaning For A Reason

You can’t miss the USST crew out in the field this October; we’ll be sporting bright pink shirts to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  This year, USST will be donating a percentage of all purchase orders during the month of October to support Breast Cancer Awareness and Research.

USST Crew Hard at Work

Donation will be made to the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Miami, FL and founded in 1993, dedicated to ending breast cancer through advocacy, education and research.  Give us a call to learn more find out how you can help us make a difference: (844)-765-7866.

USST Team Proudly Wearing Pink This October

8 Lift Stations in 6 Days


More than a year after Hurricane Irma came ashore, a city in northern Florida was still experiencing aftereffects of the storm throughout several of their facilities.  A buildup of sand and grit in multiple lift stations was causing reduced efficiency throughout their collection system and needed to be removed in order to restore capacity.

USST Crew with Combination3® truck at work on lift stations.
USST Crew with Combination3® truck at work on lift stations.

Paul Del Favero, Field Supervisor for U.S. Submergent Technologies® (USST), mobilized the USST crew to begin work on cleaning eight lift stations throughout several of facilities.  The wells were approximately 20-feet deep and were cleaned using USST’s Combination truck.

“We successfully removed material from eight lift stations in just six days,” said Paul.  “Each wet well had a buildup of sand and grit, and we removed rags as well.  Our equipment allows us to be extremely efficient in removing material without having to bypass pump, and crew members were able to avoid confined space entry.”

Wet well cleaning in process.
Wet well cleaning in process.

In addition to valuable capacity being restored, the sand and grit removed was paint-filter dry and was disposed of offsite using USST’s GritGone Process®.  All facilities remained online throughout the cleaning process, saving both time and energy for the client.

Whether you are experiencing reduced pumping capacity or extended pump run times in your collection system due to a buildup of material, storm aftereffects, or I&I, our knowledgeable team can assist in putting together a specialized plan for your facility to safely restore valuable capacity.  The premier restoration services of USST can help utilities extend the life of treatment and collection infrastructure, saving time, energy, and money.

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

GrowFL Announces 50 Florida Companies to Watch

Leader in Submergent Cleaning Selected as Top Second Stage Honoree


(Sarasota, Florida, September 24, 2018)
– U.S. Submergent Technologies® (USST), a premier service provider specializing in submergent cleaning of hard-to-reach environments, is among GrowFL’s Companies to Watch for 2018, having been selected from a group of more than 500 nominees.  An innovator in the waste removal industry, USST is the only company in its category to be recognized.

“We are thrilled and humbled to have been selected as a Florida Company to Watch and it is a privilege to share this honor with 49 prestigious companies,” said USST’s CEO, Denver Stutler, Jr.  “Our unique, patented Combination truck is the only one of its kind, coupled with our entire USST team, we stand ready to solve problems for our customers by restoring the capacity of wet infrastructure.”

Denver Stutler, Jr., CEO USST

The statewide competition aims to recognize second-stage companies who show steady growth in both revenue and employee counts, innovation in leadership and technology, demonstrate community support, have a strong corporate culture, and other factors.  Total economic impact of the finalists collectively represented $339 million in 2017 revenue and 1,750 employees across 31 cities in 18 different industries.

“These stand-out companies are all led by entrepreneurs, and have demonstrated their capacity and intent to grow,” said Dr. Tom O’Neal, GrowFL Executive Director.  “They also all have critical intellectual property or a niche position that gives them a competitive edge in their markets,” he said.

The 50 Honorees will be honored at the 8th Annual GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch event held at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida on February 24th, 2019.


 About U.S. Submergent Technologies

Founded in 2011, U.S. Submergent Technologies® (USST) is the premier service provider for restoring the capacity of wet infrastructure.   USST specializes in submergent cleaning from hard-to-clean environments such as tanks and pipes from the following industries: wastewater and stormwater, oil and gas, shipyards, power plants and more.

USST developed the Combination³® Truck to function as a standalone cleaning system powerful and versatile enough to remove accumulated sand, grit and rag material from a variety of submerged conditions.  The unique, GritGone Process® generates paint-filter dry sand, ready for disposal, while facilities remain in full operation, meaning no need for bypass pumping.

The proprietary capacity restoration services of USST helps utilities and companies extend the life of their infrastructure and increase efficiencies, saving time, energy, and money, while limiting the need for confined space entry.

With headquarters in Sarasota, Florida and operations based out of Central, Florida, USST is positioned to best service its customers across all areas of the state.  For more information, visit

 About GrowFL

Founded in 2009 as program focused on aiding second-stage growth companies succeed, GrowFL, in association with the Edward Lowe Foundation, celebrates growing companies who have demonstrated innovation in the marketplace by honoring them as a Florida Company to Watch.  The organization assists new Florida-based companies reach the next level by providing strategies, resources and tools typically only afforded by larger, Fortune 500 companies.  For more information, visit


Sand Gone, Capacity Restored

38-Tons Removed in Sebring, FL,
Facilities Remain Online

USST’s Combination3® truck removing sand & grit material

Two facilities in The City of Sebring, Florida were experiencing reduced capacity due to a buildup of sand and grit.  Paul Stephenson of U.S. Submergent Technologies (USST) mobilized the USST crew to Sebring and was able to efficiently clean all affected structures.

“Cleaning in submerged conditions is no problem for the USST crew,” said Paul.  “Our Combination truck outfitted with extended boom, downhole pump, and jetter allows us to be extremely efficient in removing material without having to drain down the tank or require confined space entry.”

“We can save a client valuable time and resources by not having to drain down tanks in order to remove material,” said Denver Stutler, Jr., CEO of USST.  “Our equipment is extremely efficient in submerged and surcharged conditions, and tank height is almost never an issue for us.”

USST Crew Members Corey Horsey & Dan Synan identifying areas with accumulated sand

A lack of an onsite water supply added complexity to the project, but the crew was able to successfully navigate the issue.  Approximately 24-tons of sand and grit material was removed from an aeration basin at the Country Club of Sebring Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), as well as nearly 14-tons removed from two SBR basins at the Airport Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF).  The 38 total tons of material was deposited to onsite drying beds, and both facilities remained in full operation during the removal process.

“I found your crew to be very professional and thorough in their cleaning of our aeration basins. Great Job!” said Jack Pollard, Superintendent for the City of Sebring Wastewater Utilities Department.

In addition to valuable capacity being restored, due to the quiet nature of the Combination truck which operates under 70-decibels, no noise complaints were reported from surrounding neighborhoods.

Have a tank 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

The Value of Restoring Capacity

A Cost-Savings Opportunity for Wastewater Treatment & Collection Facilities

You’ve heard it before and most likely experienced it firsthand – the buildup of sand and grit in wastewater treatment infrastructure resulting in reduced treatment volume and increased energy usage.  The questions to ask are, do you have a sand and grit problem, and how do you know?   If you can’t see it, it must not exist!  The water at a wastewater treatment plant is often too murky to see through, and sand and grit might or not might not be present.  If it is present, there is value in restoring capacity.

USST Combination3® truck removing sand from tank

Determining whether or not there is an issue can be the real challenge.  Over time, sand seeps into pipes and lift stations and is eventually transported to wastewater treatment infrastructure.  Since the water in tanks at facilities are not see-through, accumulated sand at the bottom of tanks remains unseen and unnoticed until the associated problems have become acute and require immediate attention.

Often, the first solution to restoring capacity is to build a new tank instead of cleaning existing tanks.  Consider instead the value of restoring capacity versus replacing capacity by cleaning; when the sand is removed, capacity is restored in the structure.  Removing sand from wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure has three potential benefits which may be worth considering if they apply:

  1. Restoring capacity may eliminate or defer a capital expense. The value of a cubic yard of restored capacity in a wastewater treatment structure at a facility of ≤5 MGD can be as high as $3,000 per cubic yard.  In other words, we see a savings of approximately $3,000 of bricks and mortar for every cubic yard of sand removed.
  2. Sand removal provides an alternative strategy to lining or replacing leaking pipes and lift stations.
  3. Removing sand can reduce energy demand when aeration performance has been impacted. The benefit of reducing the amount of energy required to run blower systems by removing sand can be significant.

Ultimately, when the annual cost of maintenance is less than the cost of borrowing the capital to build a new structure or even repair the existing structure, then removing sand at the treatment facility may make more sense.

This brings us back to the original question: Do you have a sand problem?  Our knowledgeable team can help you answer that question and assist in building a preventative maintenance plan for your facility.  If you are a facility ≤3 MGD, you may even qualify for state grant assistance.  Call (844) 765-7866 to learn more.

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.