S’no Worries: Preparing Your Wastewater Plant For Winter

Is your plant ready for Old Man Winter? With just a little planning, you'll be well-prepared for any snowstorm.
S’no Worries: Preparing Your Wastewater Plant For Winter
When creating a winter plan for your plant, plan a logical order for snow removal and consider three basic methods: shoveling, snow blowing and plowing

The first snowfall shouldn’t surprise us, and yet often we’re left buried in a pile of lovely white stuff, wondering how the season of ice and cold rolled around so quickly. But never fear: A little advance work will clear your path when the world turns white.

Make a plan
Before the snow starts flying, make a site map for snow removal. Plot out which areas should be cleaned, which order they should be cleared and where snow should be piled. Consider gate-swing areas and emergency access. Mark borders for all areas to be plowed and clearly mark hydrants and other utilities. Consider whether you’ll need to remove snow from rooftops.

Plan a logical order for snow removal considering three basic methods: shoveling, snow blowing and plowing. For instance, it’s better for shoveling to increase the workload of the plow, rather than vice versa. Consider which areas get first traffic or consistent traffic because it’s harder to move snow that has been walked or driven on.

Always move snow far enough back to make space for subsequent storms. Trucking snow off site is inefficient, so it should be avoided if possible. Lawns are fine for piling snow, but beware that the lawn can be damaged by equipment if it’s not completely frozen. A parking lot corner is ideal for piling snow, but consider drainage of spring melt. Avoid a huge pile of packed, debris-laden snow atop a storm drain or culvert. Plan the most efficient plow passes. Heavy snow may allow only a few passes before the row becomes too heavy to push further. Windrows can be left in place, space permitting.

Choose your equipment
Shovels are made for two basic functions: plowing and scooping. When selecting one, choose based on strength for a plow shovel and weight for a scoop shovel.

Snow blowers are efficient but require basic maintenance. Always use fuel stabilizer in seasonal equipment and stock shear pins, belts, inner tubes, spark plugs and filters. Snow blowers come in two basic styles: single-stage and two-stage.

  • Single-stage snow blowers usually operate by an electric motor or a two-stroke engine and have a spinning rubber blade. They are effective on light snow. Blades wear pretty quickly and they can’t throw snow at much of an angle relative to the path. The wheels are not driven but the units are light.
  • Two-stage snow blowers are best but are more expensive. More parts equal more maintenance. Buy the biggest, most powerful unit with large-diameter tires that will fit your paths, if not, your budget.

Plows are used mainly for roads and parking areas. Specify heavy-duty trucks. Older rigs might have an engine-mounted hydraulic pump, but newer units have an electric pump on the plow frame. Half-ton trucks are fine for most snowy climates, but larger trucks are advised for harsher locales. Add weight to the back of pickup trucks, such as a plastic tarp or tub filled with sand and salt. A speed of 30 to 40 mph throws snow farther but might cause the plow to lift, packing snow below.

Loaders, though invaluable, are pricey. They can be fitted with huge buckets to remove windrows set up by plows and can clear as much in one pass as three pickups.

Consider small four-wheel drive tractors, which can be fitted with snow blowers, plows and loaders. They’re ideal for smaller facilities and areas. Changing attachments can be tedious, but the loader is the most versatile.

Large equipment care
A month before snow, mount plow frames and grease equipment. Stock wear blades, spare cylinders, hoses, fluids, skid shoes, wiper blades, belts, etc. Engine block heaters are a must for diesels and a bonus for gasoline engines.

Ice-melting products

  • Sodium chloride – NaCl is the least expensive ice-melting product, but it is only effective to 20 degrees F. It is corrosive to metals but fairly safe on concrete. Run-off will harm vegetation.
  • Calcium chloride – CaCl2 is very common and is useful to -25 degrees. It is corrosive and harmful to vegetation. Though CaCl2 is more expensive, it is quickly replacing NaCl.
  • Magnesium chloride – MgCl2 is very common and has similar properties to CaCl2, but it is not as harmful to vegetation and is less corrosive.
  • Urea – CO (NH 2) 2 has low corrosiveness. It is effective to 15 degrees. Urea is harmful to waterways due to a high biochemical oxygen demand.
  • Potassium acetate – CH3COOK is expensive but is the least corrosive of all and has a low BOD.
  • Calcium magnesium acetate – CMA is a low-corrosion product and is not harmful to vegetation. It is effective to 17.5 degrees.

Avoid corrosive products if concrete is less than a year old, is porous, poorly cured or precast. Avoid corrosive products on mortared surfaces, wood or metal steps. Treat concrete surfaces with a quality sealant before applying deicing chemicals. These chemicals are not meant to melt all the ice. Rather, they break the bond of ice to pavement, making removal easier. Trucks spreading deicing chemicals will quickly rust without protective coatings and frequent washing. Sand is useful when mixed with deicing products, providing traction.


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