Although there are slight differences between clarifiers, oil/water separators, and grease interceptors, the general idea behind each of them is quite similar. These wastewater treatment systems are found in a variety of industries and are used to separate various oils and materials from wastewater prior to discharge (generally, to the sewer system).
In a typical oil/water separator, wastewater containing oils and/or solids enters the separator and the physical separation process begins. Dense solids tend to form a sediment layer along the bottom of the separator’s tank. Less dense oils rise to the surface of the water and water is positioned in between. Generally, there are multiple chambers of the separator called “stages”. As the wastewater passes through the multiple stages of the separator, wastewater effluent is separated from the water and eventually the water is discharged from the system to the sewer.
As the oil/water separator is used, oil and sediments build up and eventually need to be removed from the system to ensure its efficiency. There are various environmental firms that service oil/water separators in differing industries.
Oil/water separators come in many shapes, sizes, and complexities depending on the industry in which they are used. Typically, auto repair facilities, car washes, the food industry, oil industry, and mining industry utilize oil/water separators. Auto repair facilities may utilize a simple oil/water separator such as the one shown above, whereas the oil industry will likely use a much larger, more complex oil/water separator.
Due to the nature of wastewater treated through many oil/water separators, they have become a concern to the subsurface environment and pose a risk to many commercial properties. Generally, it is best to remove an oil/water separator that is no longer in use in accordance with local regulations. This usually requires the excavation of the oil/water separator and subsequent soil sampling on all sides and below the separator to ensure no soil has been impacted by the separator’s contents. If soil is found to be impacted, further excavation of surrounding soil is required followed by further soil sampling until all impacted soil is removed.
Please do not hesitate to contact McAlister GeoScience if you have any questions regarding an oil/water separator associated with a property you own or manage. McAlister GeoScience has experience removing oil/water separators in accordance with local regulations to ensure your property transaction goes smoothly.