Week 5 – Onsite Demo Construction

Week 5 was about making the systems operational and dealing with cosmetic stuffs at the site. Like always, I had a ton of help.

Tim Stanley leveled the site and completed the installation of the Aerobic Treatment System and the Low Pressure Dosing System. These systems are now ready to be plugged to a power outlet.

James Lasquites helped me last Tuesday to complete the construction of the above-ground mock-ups.

mock-up1  James 1  covered mock-up

Above-ground mock-ups of trenches of the Chamber system, ET/Absorption System, Pressure Dosing System and the Conventional Systems were completed. We made wooden covers to protect them from the elements (it held up against the windy and stormy weather this week).

We also scored our first TV segment featuring the Demo Facility. Lyndall Stout of SUNUP TV interviewed me at the site. The 4-minute TV segment will air this Saturday.

Lyndall 1
With TV host Lyndall Stout after the interview.

On Thursday, I gathered my crew of grad students and high school student workers to deal with cosmetic stuffs – mowing and trimming the grass, laying more sod and lining-up bricks.

All working  Just pointing


My crew posing like Super Heroes with hand tools. We got to make this fun for them. After all… they are helping us for free.

Next week, Tim will place more gravel and pack the soil around the tanks. When I come back from a trip, we will install the various signage. Steve Murdock of Infiltrator systems  (Infiltratorwater.com) will then help us install the Septic Tank donated by their company. We will also request to have our own water line installed at the site.

After all of these, all that’s left is planning the “ribbon-cutting” event and then we’ll start using the facility for extension classes in August and September.



Demo/Training Site Construction: Week 3 and 4

Week three:

On week three, we focused on preparing for the tank and plumbing installation that will happen on Week 4. The wooden covers for the above-ground trench mock-ups were constructed. The soil that would be used in the trench mock-ups were collected, oven-dried and sieved. A few buckets of Class A gravel (0.5 to 2.5 inches) were also washed and oven dried. Thanks to Dana Raun and Austin Lucas for preparing the soil and gravel.

The signs we ordered also arrived in week three (from the OSU Sign Shop). They look good! They are made of polymetal and could stand extended, rough outdoor conditions.

Signs for the OSU Sign Shop.

Week 4

The forcast for Friday is “Sunny until 2 PM”. Because we have absolute confidence in the forecast, we went ahead with the plan of installing the tanks and the plumbing at the site. James Lasquites and myself started at 7 AM to make sure that we finish the installation of the trench mock-ups early. We were just starting when we noticed  rain clouds (and lightning). We were hoping that they would move east before hitting Stillwater…. but it didn’t. This started one messy, muddy day!

Raiclouds  mock-up
Preparing the trench mock-ups. Notice the rain clouds.

We have to pause for an hour because of the rain. The rain filled the excavations (dug the day before) with water but we have to proceed with the installation because two concrete tanks were already at the site (from Hausner’s Inc). They have to be installed on the same day. After pumping water out of the excavations, Tim Stanley fixed the walls to make them ready for the tanks.

water in hole Tim backhoe
The crew of Aerobic Systems of Stillwater in action

The holes were ready and the Hausner’s delivery guy (Richard -an Army veteran) went into action. He was such a pro!

Hausners 4  Hausners 1

Hausners 2 Hausners3 LPD 1
Action involved in the installation of two tanks at the site.

Hausner’s delivered and installed two tanks today: A 3-Compartment Areobic Treatment Unit (ATU -Donated by Clearstream Water Systems Inc.) and another tank for the Low Pressure Dosing (LPD) System.

The dispersal system for the ATU system (Spray Heads and Drip Lines) were then installed. The lateral lines for the LPD and Conventional Systems were also installed.

Drip lines   Spray    trenches
Drip lines, spray heads and lateral lines were installed.

After four hours of battling muddy conditions, we accomplished what we had planned for the day.

all   ATU

May thanks to Lonnie Welch of Clearstream (who is also an Army-Airborne veteran) for his technical advise today!Lonnie drove from Texas to help us. Thanks also to Clearstream and Hausner’ s for donating the three-chamber Clearstream 600NC3. (http://www.clearstreamsystems.com ; http://www.hausners.com)

If the weather permits, more earth-working will be done next week (Week 5). We also would will install all the trench mock-ups. We might also lay more sod.






Week 2 of the Construction: The Oklahoma Onsite Wastewater Training Facility:

We are into week 2 of our construction. “Construction” really sounds weird to me because none of us who are involved in the project have any construction experience. It is a crew of four soil scientists and two high school student workers.  But we got the job done! (and it was fund too).

We worked two days this week. We had to start at 7 AM to finish the day’s targets before it becomes unbearably hot.

The fertility group again provided awesome help this week. Four grad students from the group (Bruno, Daniel, Jagman and James) and two of their student workers (Dana and Austin) helped in the project. We could never have gone this far in two weeks without them. Thanks to Dr. Bill Raun for the support.

Erich Wehrenberg of the Agronomy Farm was also so kind to deliver three bucket loads of soil to the site which we used to further level the area. Bart Frie of the Botanic Garden operated his forklift to move 500 sq.ft. (1 ton) of sod for us.

This week, we hauled the gravel and the sod, we further leveled the site, laid gravel on the “above-ground trenches”, we laid the concrete slabs that will serve as platform for the trench mock-ups, established the stakes that will support the PVC pipes (lateral lines) and we laid sod. A lot of work but working with young people while listening to the Dave Matthews Band and Eric Clapton was really fun.

Below are this week’s pictures.

Picture1    Picture2
James, Austin, Jagman and Bruno laying the weed-prevention fabric and filling the “trenches” with Class A gravel.

Picture4       Picture3
James and Daniel marking leveled points on the stakes while Dana is laying the red Lava Rock. Jagman is cutting the stakes at the leveled points (he had a lot of fun with the Chainsaw!)

Everyone helping with the sod.

Picture6 Picture7
End of week two final product. It needs to be watered daily in the next two weeks to ensure that the grass will successfully establish.

Tim Stanley (the installer whom we commissioned to do parts of the project) will takeover next week. He will start installing the tanks and the pipes.


The Oklahoma Onsite Wastewater Training Facility: Week 1

It’s a good week for the Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) industry in Oklahoma. Our State will finally have its own OWTS demonstration/training facility! We got the approval to set it up at the location that we wanted and we immediately started working.

The location:

We decided to set-up the demonstration facility at the OSU Botanic Garden. The area is smaller than what was initially allocated to us at the Agronomy Farm (original proposed site) but the new location comes with a lot of advantages. It is only less than a hundred yards from the Botanic Garden Educational Center which would be very convenient when we conduct extension classes. Also, the Botanic Garden is visited by thousands of people every year which opens up the likelihood of exposing our display to a bigger and wider audience. But the biggest advantage is that, the new location could provide our trainees/visitors with possibilities for further learning. Meaning, people who would come to visit our demonstration/training facility would also have the opportunity to learn from other displays at the Botanic Garden which include: ornamental plants, landscaping designs, herb gardens, garden irrigation technologies, urban runoff management, the Mesonet, and even turf-related research trials.

Thanks to Dr. Lou Anella for helping us get settled and to the Department of Horticulture for allowing us to have a home within the Botanic Garden.

map wiew
Bird’s eye view of the general location of the demonstration site.

Week 1 Activities:

Week 1 was about getting started. We started hauling materials that we needed like sand, gravel and stones. Thanks to the Soil Fertility Group for letting use their truck to transport materials.

got stuck    hauling
I did manage to get the pick-up truck stuck while hauling sand (truck had to be pulled by a backhoe). We picked a not-so-good day to start hauling materials – it was 105 degrees that day.

We also started constructing the subsurface trench mock-ups. This was a bit tricky because I have very, very limited carpentry skills (I should have paid attention when my dad was trying to teach me carpentry a few decades ago). But thanks to some graduate student help, we finished the job with all my fingers in place.

box 2      box 1
Construction of mock-ups of the sub-surface trench of various systems (using flat PVC and polycarbonate). When finished, these will be above-ground representations of what trenches look like at the subsurface.

We also commissioned Mr. Tim Stanley, an experienced OWTS installer in Stillwater, Oklahoma to help us with the project. Tim leveled the area for us in week 1. This gave us the opportunity to start working on the above-ground representation of the lateral lines. Couldn’t have done this without James Lasquites (PhD student).

level2   james2
Tim Stanley  (in Bobcat) leveling the site and James Lasquites arranging the stones for the above-ground representation of the lateral lines.

final product week 1
Final product for week 1: Ready to be added with Class A gravel and installation of the PVC pipes (above-ground) in week 2.

You Flush It… We Treat It!

” You Flush It… We Treat It” I couldn’t think of a blog site title more fitting that this! It perfectly captures the very idea of what could be expected out this blog site. Blogs in this site aim to serve as a platform for constructive dialogue about the nasty stuffs that we flush in our toilets every day… all the way to their treatment and eventual disposal to the environment (including, of course, all the regulatory, engineering, biochemistry and maintenance issues in between). I intend to post at least one article each month.

So let us start with the basics… I will be writing a lot about “Onsite Wastewater Treatment System” or OWTS in this blog. What is an OWTS? OWTS (also called a “decentralized system”), refers to a system that treats and disperses wastewater at or near its source. Decentralized systems include those that serve individual homes (often known as a “Septic System”), a cluster of homes, a subdivision or small community as well as commercial and industrial complexes. A lot of these systems use proprietary technologies but most of them take advantage of the vast capacity of soil to remove or transform pollutants that are in the effluent as it percolates through the soil.

Let’s talk about why OWTSs are important in Oklahoma. Assuming that 40% of houses in Oklahoma have OWTS (I would argue that this is a conservative estimate) and that each of these houses produce 320 gallons of wastewater every day, this means that about 215 million gallons of wastewater have to be treated by various types of OWTS in Oklahoma EVERY DAY. To put this in perspective, this is equivalent to the volume of water needed to fill 326 Olympic-size pools or the volume needed to flood the entire land area Stillwater, OK (28 sq. miles) by around 0.4 inch of water. That is a LOT of wastewater that needs treatment by OWTSs in Oklahoma every day! Also, considering that onsite wastewater has (on average) 60 mg of nitrogen per liter, this also means that OWTSs in Oklahoma have to treat (or partially treat) 49 metric tons of total nitrogen every day. So are OWTSs important in Oklahoma? Absolutely!

So if OWTS’s are important in Oklahoma, why is it not front-and-center in mainstream state-level policy conversations, research initiatives and … the thoughts of citizens? I would throw in a guess and my guess is that not enough efforts have been devoted to inform policy makers, researchers and citizens in Oklahoma about OWTS. To give you an example, everyone knows the last time their car’s motor oil has been changed but when I ask homeowners the last time they had their septic tank checked, the answers I get include: “only when I bought my house 10 years ago”; “sometimes”; “never!”; “do we have to?” and worse – “I am not sure if my house has a septic tank”. This clearly demonstrates that we have to step-up our efforts to promote awareness about OWTS in the State.

This brings me to my extension program. I run an extension program (more accurately –a one-man state-wide extension program) focused on OWTS. My program primarily aims to develop and administer a professional education program that will equip industry professionals (installers, soil profilers, sanitarians and state regulators) with scientific background about OWTS. I got big dreams for this extension program but for the short-term, I just want to raise awareness among citizens about OWTS, strive to further professionalize the OWTS installers in the State and provide technical support to state regulators.

My extension program is now ~1.5 years old and I would be remiss if I fail to acknowledge the support that I am getting from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and partnerships forged with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the Oklahoma Certified Installer’s Association. Having such tremendous support and such awesome partners makes me optimistic that the goals of my extension program would be realized.