Environmental remediation, risk management
Oil change business quickly achieved compliance with the city's waste water discharge environmental requirements, streamlined daily operations, and gained a more motivated workforce.
A small, urban, rapid oil change enterprise in Northern California was identified by city authorities as discharging heavy metals from motor oil into the city's waste water system.
In this community, city waste water ultimately flowed into sensitive public waters and estuarine environments.
- The potential penalties for failure to comply with the city's waste water discharge requirements were severe.
The business owner, previously unaware of his oil contaminated waste water, called on Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC to determine the origin of the problem and to develop a solution.
- We not only solved the technical problem of heavy metals from motor oil in the waste water discharge, but recommended procedural changes that improved the overall efficiency and profitability of the enterprise while enhancing its environmental risk management plan.
The rapid oil change business employed approximately twenty people, most of them essentially unskilled and many of whom were non-English speaking.
The oil change facility was constructed much like other such businesses: customers drove onto an upper deck, positioning their cars over openings that gave the mechanics, who worked on a lower deck, access to drain plugs and oil filters. The lower deck was basically a large vault, approximately 30 feet square and six feet high. It housed the mechanics and their tools, as well as tanks storing used motor oil, fresh motor oil, and crushed oil filters. A sump in the floor of the deck pumped drain water up to an oil / water separator at ground level.
Because the lower deck itself was prone to leak groundwater, the sump operated frequently to keep water from accumulating in the work area. The daily clean-up operations included a complete hosing down of upper and lower decks, a practice common in gasoline stations for decades. This wash water flowed to the sump, was pumped up to the oil / water separator, and then was discharged into the city's waste water system.
A site investigation determined that the oil / water separator was insufficient to meet the demands of the business.
- This problem was easily fixed: Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC located a unit that was approved by the local regulatory agency and appropriate for the site, and had the unit installed.
To mitigate seepage of groundwater, Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC recommended sealing the interior of the lower deck with new concrete and epoxy resin. This improvement helped minimize the volume of water flowing through the facility's waste water system.
While these modifications to the motor oil change site reduced waste water discharge, separate efforts were needed to enhance the facility's oil management practices to cut down on the amount of motor oil entering the site's waste water stream, a significant element in managing its environmental risk.
Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC therefore developed new clean-up guidelines that included a requirement that workers immediately wipe up any spilled oil or remove it with an absorbent.
- These changes reduced the need to wash down the decks to no more than once per week. In addition, workers were instructed to empty the oil / water separator just before wash down, in order to minimize the potential of any oil entering the city's waste water system.
To stimulate workers' interest in the new clean-up practices and to clarify the importance of maintaining an oil-free workplace, Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC initiated a staff training program on the handling of toxic / hazardous materials and spilled motor oil. Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC supplied the technical information and located individuals to conduct the program.
- The trainings were so successful that the operation's efficiency and profitability dramatically improved.
Through application of these straightforward modifications to equipment and clean-up procedures, the rapid oil change business quickly achieved compliance with the city's waste water discharge requirements, streamlined daily operations, gained a more motivated workforce and lowered the business owner's risk of costly environmental contamination.
Harris & Lee awarded "2009 Best Environmental Firm"
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Harris & Lee Environmental Sciences, LLC
Based in Northern California with offices in Santa Rosa and San Francisco
Santa Rosa: (707) 571-8961