Guest Column | February 24, 2014

Peer Perspectives: Troubleshooting And Responsibly Serving The Water/Wastewater Market

GritWashingPlant

Water Online's Peer Perspectives article series provides unique insight into the issues facing water/wastewater professionals – and how to overcome them. We solicit and appreciate opinions from all perspectives, regardless of position or industry segment. The viewpoints expressed are not those of Water Online, but we do hope to generate thought and discussion around the topics covered. To share your perspective, email editor@wateronline.com.

The following was submitted by Dr. J.H. Wakefield, a consulting analytic chemist and environmental/materials engineer for more than 30 years.

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It is my opinion that a sales organization succeeds best when the needs of its customer base are the priority to be addressed.  Short sightedness for immediate profits versus a long-term gain is not the pattern for a growth organization. Therefore, please bear with me as I will attempt to “flesh out” my ideas regarding this orientation (and even some of my allegations).

In order to address the many technical issues that one encounters in this regard, it is incumbent upon the sales force to understand:

  1. the marketplace being served;
  2. the products being offered as solutions; and
  3. the basic principles of all the technologies involved, to the extent that all involved operate from the same general understanding of these issues.

In our (that is, my personal) situation, we are involved with natural products/processes, and these are notoriously variable and difficult to control, particularly in designing studies that yield truly “scientific” data. To cope with this properly, we must rely on deep understanding, experience, careful observation, and virtually a supernatural ability to communicate so many abstruse and difficult concepts.  “Common sense” is the great equalizer, and one is frequently bewildered in realizing that “common sense” is remarkably uncommon.

So, the emphasis should be placed on understanding and communication.  With this firmly in mind, please allow me the latitude to put forth some observations that I have made over the last several years in this arena. As a concrete example of this, let us examine a selected manufacturer of these products and their various iterations and applications.

First off, this particular manufacturer makes devices that deliver an oxygen “load” by means of different configurations and addressed to particular applications.  As such, these devices are called by different names, but they are all oxygen deliverers.  Normally, the company’s brochure lists them as aerators, digesters, mixers, air curtains, and other more specialized designations.  The commonality that they all share is the delivery of atmospheric oxygen at high volume and relatively low pressure to liquid recipients (usually wastestreams) and/or sludges for the purpose of oxygenation.  This oxygen is provided to oxidize impurities of one sort or another, an addend in the form of ozone (or a hybrid ozone with free-radical hydroxyl ions present) in some of these devices adds additional oxidation capability as well as sterilization potentiality in certain cases, and the utilization of the air-lift principle (Venturi effect) effects a micropulverization of suspended and/or entrained particles in several of these products. 

Consequentially, as these particles are made smaller, their surface area increases (often dramatically) and makes them more susceptible to further oxidation and degradation than they would normally be.  This manifests in the removal of FOG (fats, oils, and greases) deposits by the digesters in grease traps and lift stations and by the lowering of five-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) and chemical oxygen demand (COD5) levels in wastestreams where they are employed.

The degree of this removal depends on the types of compounds encountered, the concentrations of the reactive oxygen (or ozone or hybrid ozone) that is released, its location upon release, and other physical properties of the wastestream including temperature, viscosity, and even the velocity of the stream.

These devices can be used to eliminate nuisance components (FOG deposits and high BOD5/COD5 loadings), to remediate contaminated lagoons and polishing ponds, to aerate these same locations, and in many other applications.

The manufacturer’s representative, whether independent or a member of the manufacturing organization, should be prepared to understand and recommend the best of the represented products to meet whatever specific requirement is encountered.  This requires an understanding of not only the situation encountered but also a thorough understanding of the products, what they are designed to address, and the mechanism of their operation. Anyone can read from a brochure or catalog, but the manufacturer’s representative should have a much deeper knowledge of both the products and applications thereof.

The manufacturer’s responsibility is to deliver a quality product, well-designed, consistent, and with defined parameters of operation.  Furthermore, it is his responsibility to see that the representatives are made aware of the rationale for the design and how these fit into the various applications of the devices.

Image credit: "Overhead view of DMax grit washing plant," © 2010 CDEGlobal, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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