Settling on Sustainability
Wissota is also realizing significant savings in water and electricity use. The plant is served by a 600-foot-deep, high-capacity well and a large industrial pump that had always been needed to replenish wash water used and the resulting water loss due to traditional settling pond management. “We used to run our well pump 24/7 all summer long to keep up with that water loss. Last season, with the use of the clarifier, we ran the well pump for a total of only 166 hours (approximately seven days), which is a tremendous reduction in water and power resources,” Larson says.
Then there is the issue of improved product quality. “Consistently clean water means that it’s easier to remain in spec,” Larson says. Before the clarifier was installed, he stresses that, even when constantly replenishing the water to the required levels, within a week the water would become cloudy, thus running the risk of fines contaminating the end product.
“Once you get past the learning curve, the system is very easy to operate. A computerized system handles flocculant injection, and all we have to do is keep an occasional eye on water levels, cleanliness, and flocculant percentages. It’s pretty seamless,” he adds.
Once part of the settling pond cleanout crew, Plant Manager Daryl Schmidt worked with the Clearwater team to fine tune the clarification system during its first few months of operation. “I call it ‘Wissota-sizing.’ There are things we always like to tweak to make things easier to live with over the long term. But it’s a relatively maintenance-free machine, and it’s the ultimate machine to eliminate the labor and fuel costs of hauling that mud around. Now, we just pump it where we want it to go, and we’re done with it,” he says.
Schmidt remembers ponds from the past “that sat for two years and still looked the same as the day they were filled up. That’s how runny it was,” he says. Today, Schmidt points to a recently filled pond that is already solid. “This new clarification system is the only way to go,” he says, adding that the system will streamline future reclamation plans when mud will be pumped directly to additional remote locations, and will be used as a base under the top soil.
A regional leader
Established in 1916, Wissota Sand & Gravel is a successful third-generation, family-owned company which serves home builders, road builders, landscapers, developers – and “anyone else who needs quality sand and gravel,” says the company.
“We can bring more value to our customers and to our community by using systems that save on labor, fuel, water, and power,” Larson says. “It’s funny, but when I first purchased the clarifier, the crew said ‘oh, no, what did you do now?’ But once we got it up and running, everybody said, ‘Why didn’t you put this in 10 years ago?’”
As a regional leader, Wissota Sand & Gravel has certainly settled on sustainability.
Carol Wasson is a freelance writer for the aggregate, mining, and construction industries.