Increased Industry Cleaning Standards,Growth in IBCs Spur Ontario Tank Wash

March 1, 2000
TWO THINGS are occurring in the Ontario, Canada, food market that Thomas Emerson, president and CEO of Rapid Tank Cleaning Ltd, thinks will boost his

TWO THINGS are occurring in the Ontario, Canada, food market that Thomas Emerson, president and CEO of Rapid Tank Cleaning Ltd, thinks will boost his business. Food manufacturers are raising sanitary standards for carriers and are eyeing increased use of intermediate bulk containers (IBCs).

Therein lie opportunities for tank cleaning services that provide premium cleaning procedures for foodgrade tank trailers and have the capability to handle IBCs. Added to the food market projections is the sound chemical market, which already keeps the wash bays busy.

"We see a huge market for us out there," says Emerson. He is the owner of a new cleaning facility that opened in January 2000 in Georgetown near Toronto, Ontario. The new business replaces and expands on the first that was opened in Mississauga, also near Toronto, in 1988.

Emerson estimates that foodgrade cleaning is about 35% of the business and chemical cleaning is about 40%. The Georgetown wash rack is equipped for IBC cleaning, which accounts for 25% of that location's business. While currently the IBCs come from the chemical industry, plans are to add additional IBC foodgrade cleaning equipment as that market expands. Another wash rack is located in Sarnia, Ontario, just across the United States border from Port Huron, Michigan. The Sarnia facility is ISO 9002 certified, and Emerson expects the Georgetown wash rack to receive the certification in September.

The Georgetown and Sarnia wash racks are open Monday through Saturday around the clock and on Sunday by appointment. Emerson, formerly Canada Steamship Lines vice-president for operations, founded Rapid Tank Cleaning Ltd in 1988 on leased property in Mississauga. He left the steamship lines in 1993 to direct cleaning operations fulltime. In 1996, he opened the Sarnia facility.

By 1999, the business had grown to about 8,000 tank cleanings annually in the Toronto area so that Emerson felt he had a firm enough foundation to purchase property in Georgetown, build the new, larger tank wash, and close the Mississauga facility.

Not wishing to miss the chance for cleaning additional foodgrade trailers and IBCs, and to keep up with the chemical traffic, Emerson sought out the latest technological innovations for the new facility in Georgetown. He contracted YellowEng.Services, a Brampton, Ontario, firm, to oversee design and installation of both wash and wastewater functions.

"We want to stay a step ahead in the industry," says Emerson. Automatic Cleaning

YellowEng.Services chose an Allen Bradley Ltd computer program that automates the cleaning process and is expected to be 60% more efficient than a manual system. Codes are used to represent various tank trailer cargoes. The cargo code is entered into the computer, initiating preset wash cycles. With the exacting computerized measurements of caustic and detergent, Emerson anticipates a significant cost savings through reduced use of those products.

The cleaning system can generate 100 gallons of water per minute at 270 psi and supply hot water at 190 degrees F. Sellers Model 360 spinners are used at both the Georgetown and Sarnia tank washes.

In Georgetown, the foodgrade wash system has three tanks - one for cold water (2,000 gallons), one for caustic (2,000 gallons), and a third for hot water (3,000 gallons). The foodgrade wash has all stainless steel piping, pumps, air lines, steam lines, and spinner drums.

Five vats in the chemical bay are housed in a modular unit. Vats for hot water, caustic, detergent, and cold water have 3,000-gallon capacities, and the 50% caustic vat holds 2,500 gallons. Computer controllers inject the correct amount for the cleaning process, including the IBC wash.

Four IBCs at a time can be handled in a dedicated section of the facility. The cleaning system with Sellers spinners runs at 40 psi pressure and has a flow rate of 10 gallons per minute. Hoses are from Ontario Hoses Ltd.

For the wastewater system, an Omron Inc program was installed to control the process. In the operations office, a touch screen, wall-mounted monitor tracks each step in the wastewater treatment process as it occurs and will shut down the system in the event of a failure.

"The system controls all the pumps and all the processes," says Gordon Barley, who with Arnold Santos, owns YellowEng.Services. "Basically it's a hands-off procedure for the operator."

Treatment Rate Wastewater pumped into the system at 700 gallons per minute automatically is reduced to a steady flow of 20 gallons per minute. Wastewater moves from the floor drain into a sump tank where semisolids are removed and then into a second sump tank where sludge is removed. Part of the waste material is placed in a sludge compactor before disposal while other material goes into drums, depending on content. Two 20,000-gallon equalization tanks are the next destination for the wastewater. In these tanks, the wastewater is diluted and then passed on to an oil and water separator.

The system has a paper filter trough that additionally separates water solids from water, the solids following the disposal paths described above. Before the wastewater passes through the paper filter, pH has been adjusted with the automatic injection of sulfuric acid.

After passing through the paper filter, the water flows into two 15,000-gallon air-injected correction tanks to adjust levels of bacteria. More filters are waiting in two 250-gallon tanks, one with charcoal filters and one with sand filters. (The computerized system also automatically cleans the filters.) Finally, the water is released into the sewer system after samples have been taken for testing and the release volume has been measured.

In addition to the state-of-the-art computer systems are more conventional installations. Outside work areas are available to steam heat four trailers at one time. There are 13 electrical outlets in the parking area for vehicle block heaters.

Inside the 16,000-square-foot cleaning facility, work goes on in the 80-foot bays, one for foodgrade and two for chemicals. "We wanted more room for people to move around the vehicles," says Manny Camara, Georgetown manager. "It also makes it safer."

Floor Heating For floor heating, trenches were sunk in the concrete floor to hold piping for steam heat. The four-zone heating system is especially effective for the winter when vehicles are often laden with ice and snow, says Emerson.

Air quality is controlled by five exhaust fans with motorized louvers that can handle 7,000 cubic feet per minute.

A 150-horsepower Smith Inc boiler supplies plenty of steam and hot water for both chemical and foodgrade cleaning. A 25-horsepower DeVilbiss Inc air compressor powers pneumatic actuators and valves, and supplies air for the wastewater system.

Sarnia Facility In Sarnia, the 14,000-square-foot cleaning facility is located on four acres and handles about 6,000 tank trailers per year, about 90% chemical and 10% foodgrade. "We're seeing more dry bulk trailers, and more American carriers are coming into Canada," says Tilley.

Services include deionized water rinsing, drying and steam capabilities, hot or cold water wash, detergent or caustic wash, exterior wash, and product heating. A Conspec Systems Inc computerized program controls the wash system. Chemical and foodgrade bays all have vats with capacities of 3,000 imperial gallons (3,603 US gallons) each for cold water, hot water, detergent, and caustic.

The Sarnia facility uses a Miura Boiler Co Ltd boiler with 65 horsepower and a maximum working pressure of 150 psig. Pressure and return pumps are from Gould Ansi Inc.

Even with the high level of automation at the Sarnia and Georgetown wash racks, Emerson says that thorough employee training is essential if the wash racks are to meet customer cleaning demands. In addition to training for the computer system, employees must still have training for inserting spinners, inspecting tanks, entering data, and starting cycles.

Safety Training Along with equipment training, the company emphasizes safety. "We want our employees to stay up to date on the safety issues in this industry," Emerson says.

Safety training includes harness use, platform handling, hazardous materials familiarity, first-aid techniques, material safety data sheets (MSDS) comprehension, and confined space entry procedures.

Emerson's son, Thomas Emerson Jr, directs both the operations and safety training programs, including a safety meeting held every other month. "We want our employees to feel secure," says the younger Emerson.

Overhead cleaning platforms are surrounded by large hand rails designed to prevent falls. The platforms that go over the trailer can be lowered into place and then raised when the job is finished. To enhance safety while moving vehicles in and out of the bays, red and green lights have been installed to indicate when a bay is ready to accept a trailer. The lights are linked into the overhead platforms to assure they are raised into proper position so that vehicles won't collide with them.

Rapid Tank Cleaning also places emphasis on making drivers comfortable while they wait for trailers to be cleaned. The company has installed comfortable waiting areas with locker and shower facilities. If drivers wish to park the trailer, short-time parking can be arranged.

With state-of-the-art equipment in place, Emerson expects the business to grow. Having established two successful wash racks, he says he feels confident the company is poised to take on additional expansion in Canada. "We are looking at other provinces. But, I think we will do a market study to see where the opportunities lie before we make any final decisions about where we might locate another wash facility."

About the Author

Mary Davis