How to design and operate a wash bay effectively

Cleanawater on 8 October 2021

Installing a wash bay at your business is the first step towards protecting the environment from contaminants in the wastewater. A silt trap collects solids so that they don’t build up in the sewer network. Additionally, the collection pit allows for downstream processing using an oil water separator to ensure contaminants are removed before the wastewater is discharged.

There are some pitfalls to avoid when building or operating a wash bay. Taking action to mitigate these challenges can make the difference between smooth and compliant operation versus off-spec wastewater and costly fines.

Cleanawater is a trusted partner for installing and operating wash bays in Australia.

Regulations and local water authorities

Businesses that wash equipment or vehicles as part of their daily operation need a wash bay to manage their wastewater. However, having a wash bay is not necessarily enough to meet the requirements of local water authorities. It is vital to be informed about the potential water contaminants from your business and to comply with all the demands of local authorities.

Even with a wash bay, discharging water to the stormwater network is not permitted. This network is for rainwater that is free from chemical and hydrocarbon contaminants.

Local water authorities use permits to control the discharge of wastewater to the wastewater sewer network. When applying for a permit, the risk of contamination is reviewed as well as the nature of potential contaminants. Local water authorities may require downstream processing of wastewater before discharge. This could include an oil water separator to remove hydrocarbons.

Failure to comply with wastewater permit conditions is a serious offence. It could lead to fines or even a site shutdown until the condition is rectified. The best solution to the challenge of understanding and complying with regulations is to work with an experienced wash bay partner.

Planning for growth

wash bay roofed trucks

Another challenge businesses face when implementing wash bay solutions is to design a system that meets their current needs but not their future plans. This could be a very costly error because the expense to modify a wash bay is far higher than to build it differently in the first place. Here are some factors to consider when building a new wash bay:

  1. Is this a permanent location? If your business is growing and you are likely to move premises in the future, it is not advisable to build a permanent wash bay. A portable wash bay can be relocated in future and prevent the double cost of a second installation.
  2. Will you need more capacity in future? Wash bays are designed for the size of vehicles or equipment, number of washes per day, and the type of contaminants. Designing for your current usage patterns may meet the needs of today, but will the wash bay be large enough for future needs? It is more economical to build a bigger wash bay now than to enlarge a wash bay in future.

An experienced technical partner can help you overcome the challenges of wash bay design. They can calculate the capacity requirements for current and future needs as well as design the best solution for your requirements.

Maintenance and operations

Once your wash bay is installed and operational, there are still some challenges that could affect its performance. It is for this reason that local water authorities specify a routine maintenance schedule for wastewater treatment solutions. This helps to prevent unforeseen breakthrough events where contaminated wastewater enters the sewer. For wash bays, routine maintenance tasks include cleaning the silt trap and servicing downstream oil water separator.

Oil water separators remove oil from the wastewater before discharge into the sewer. They work on the principle that oil and water don’t mix, and that oil is lighter than water. When operating normally, they allow oil to float to the surface of the separator where it is skimmed into a container for disposal.

However, most wash bays use chemicals like degreasers and detergents to help with the cleaning process. These chemicals can cause oil to mix with water and form an emulsion, making it impossible for the oil water separator to work. The result is oil being carried over into the wastewater discharge and an environmental incident. The only way to avoid this scenario is to use quick break degreasers and detergents. This means that the chemicals quickly release the oil from emulsion and give the oil water separator time to do its work.

Talk to Cleanawater for expert wash bay advice

Contact Cleanawater for expert advice about your wash bay application. Our experts can answer you questions about a new design and which wash bay is best for your needs. We can also help solve wash bay problems so that your business can operate in a smooth and compliant way. Cleanawater supplies wash bays and also provides ongoing service and maintenance solutions.

Contact Cleanawater to find out more about our wash bays.