Proper operation and maintenance of onsite wastewater treatment systems is critical to ensure good performance. It is also an important way that you, the Owner, can protect a significant investment. Having a service contract with a professional trained in the operation and maintenance (O&M) of onsite wastewater treatment technologies is a sound approach to achieving proper maintenance of your system. Regular service visits can result in early detection of problems that could lead to a malfunction. Early detection makes it possible to take remedial action before a system becomes a public health hazard, detriment to the environment, or a liability for the Owner.
Our Operations Staff
No matter how small your system, the Operator in Responsible Charge (ORC) through Indigo will be a Class A certified operator. In Colorado, Class A is the highest certification level and indicates years of professional experience plus certification by written examination. We believe that all systems should receive the highest level of care even when the discharge permit or system type only requires a lower level of certification.
Discharge Permit Review
The discharge permit is a legal obligation between the Owner and the State of Colorado. The permit sets limits on effluent concentrations for various parameters and gives the rated capacity of the treatment plant. We operate all of our facilities to meet or exceed permit expectations.
At the same time, we believe that the Owner should understand their obligations under the permit. At the beginning of each new project, we meet with the Owner to review the discharge permit. We’ll explain any terms that are unfamiliar and establish a regular visitation and sampling schedule for the facility.
We’ll also review the previous three years of DMR and operating data. The review will determine the maximum month flow and load and compare them to the permitted capacity of the facility. We’ll confirm that flows, loads, generation rates, and ratios between parameters are within expected ranges.
Operations and Maintenance
Without exception, all onsite wastewater treatment systems require some level of service. However, the frequency of service activities is typically determined by five factors:
- Regulations (Discharge Permit)
- Required Sampling Frequency
- Site Conditions
- Technology / System Complexity
- Wastewater Source or Use
Regularly scheduled visits include routine maintenance, opening and checking all system components for proper operation, recording of sludge depths in septic and grease tanks, recording of flows, exercising valves as needed, collecting samples for permit compliance, and sending a short e-mail report to owner regarding system status. Site visit activities will vary depending on the type and complexity of wastewater technology installed.
Maintenance is the action of performing routine activities to keep the system operational. This may include making minor repairs or replacements to ensure continued proper performance of the system. Examples of maintenance activities include cleaning and/or replacement of filters, cleaning effluent screens, cleaning pump intakes, cleaning the air delivery system, and scheduling removal of residuals from tanks (pumping).
In a perfect world, all treatment plants would run smoothly all the time. Unfortunately, every treatment plant experiences emergency conditions from time to time that will require an immediate response by the ORC. Emergency conditions may include a clogged pump, high water level alarm, loss of power, or equipment failure. Between routine visits, the Owner must report all alarms to Indigo Water Group as soon as they are noticed.
We have staff stationed in Colorado Springs and Denver which allows us to respond quickly to an alarm condition.
Sampling and Analysis
Required sampling and analyses are listed in each facility’s discharge permit. For most small facilities, composite influent and effluent sampling is required once a month. We schedule sampling early in the month to ensure adequate time to resample if necessary. Indigo Water Group takes care of everything from ordering the sample bottles to ensuring collection of representative samples to delivering the samples to the laboratory for analysis. We are committed to delivering samples as soon as possible after collection to maintain sample integrity.
We contract with Evergreen Analytical Laboratories for sample analysis. Analysis costs are included in our O&M contracts.
Accurate and thorough record keeping is critical to success in wastewater treatment. Indigo Water Group maintains two copies of all records; a bound logbook at the wastewater treatment plant and a copy at our office. Maintaining a logbook on site ensures that necessary information is available for review by the Owner at all times. It makes emergency visits easier and faster because the operator responding won’t need to visit our office first.
Indigo Water Group will complete and file the monthly Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) with the State. In the event of an excursion or unusual event, we will prepare letters of explanation for the State. We review all communications with the State, including DMRs, with our Owners prior to submission.
Additional services that must be performed but are not included in our service contracts include: (1) Solids Removal and Hauling and (2) Annual Report. Over time, solid material will accumulate in the system and will eventually need to be removed by a licensed septic hauler. For most systems, Owners should plan to have solids removed once per year. Sludge blanket levels will dictate the required frequency. Solids hauling cannot be provided by Indigo Water Group; however, we can assist with finding and scheduling a hauler.
Many discharge permits require that an annual report of system operations be filed with the State of Colorado. If proper record keeping has been performed throughout the year, we anticipate the annual report requiring approximately four hours to complete.
Our Fee Structure
We are sensitive to our Client’s budgets and offer a variety of pricing plans to accommodate individual needs. Additionally, we will work with you to keep total costs down by training on-site personnel to perform some system checks which can reduce the frequency and length of our visits.
Clients may choose between an agreement based on time and materials, a fixed monthly base rate plus time and materials for emergency call-outs, or a fixed monthly base rate that includes one or more emergency call-outs per month. Contracts may be set up for one to five year periods which helps you, the Owner, to lock in our competitive rates. Contracts generally contain provisions for increases in mileage and analytical costs, but keep our hourly rates constant.
Capital expenditures such as spare parts, equipment replacements, and major maintenance activities such as draining and inspecting tanks are not included in our monthly base rates. Whenever possible, we will bring potential capital expenditures to the Owner’s attention early so they can be included in their overall budget.
How Can We Help?
- Long term contract operations for small wastewater facilities
- Short term or temporary contract operations
- Sample collection
- On-site laboratory testing for process control support and/or permit required reporting
- Free up existing staff for other tasks such as maintenance or special projects
Dr. Innerebner was the contract operator in responsible charge for Leprino Foods Company in Fort Morgan, Colorado for more than 18 months. During that time, she reduced chemical use, wrote standard operating procedures for process control, updated laboratory procedures and methods, and set upper and lower control limits for process control variables. She has also served as the ORC for the City of Northglenn, City of Louisville, and Copper Mountain Sanitation District.