The Signal
Friday, August 22, 1997, Vol.17, No. 34
used with permission from U.S. Army Fort Gordon

Muck Munching Microbes:
New Bioremediation Process in Parts Cleaners
Reduces Hazardous Waste Production

By Marla Jones
DEPUTY PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER

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Ken Norris, directorate of Public Works Maintenance Division, Repair Facility, uses OzzyJuice to clean a sprayer.

Grease gobbling microbes will replace solvent solutions soon at Fort Gordon Maintenance shops.

"We submitted a purchase request for a bioremediating parts cleaner system called the SmartWasher," said Leigh Banks, an environmental support specialist for the environmental and Natural Resource Management office. SmartWasher is a trademark name for the system made by the ChemFree Corporation of Norcross, Ga.

Banks said Fort Gordon has requested 47 of the washers, to replace the cleaning systems presently in use, a parts washer that uses a solvent to rid parts of grease.

"Purchasing these SmartWasher will decrease the amount of hazardous waste generated at Fort Gordon, the amount of hazardous materials in our inventory, air emissions and health and safety risks to workers," Banks said. The directorate of Public Works has ordered two types of SmartWashers parts cleaners and brake and clutch cleaners.

She received information on the system from a colleague while they were both at a training class. Banks sought more information, and arranged for a lease of two SmartWashers so

Fort Gordon could try them out. "We looked at other technologies but this system was preferable."

The tryout was positive. Jim Kaefer, supervisor, tactical vehicle maintenance , said "the folks using them have had nothing but good things to say." He added the solutions are more "user friendly" than solvents. The cleaning solution has a pleasant lemon-like odor.

Banks said after one week the employees in special purposes workshop reported they really loved the SmartWashers.

The solution is a water-based substance that detaches the grease or paint from the part or equipment. The solution goes through a filter, and the microbes are embedded in the filter; as soon as the microbes are activated with heat, they consume the grease. ChemFree calls the microbe "Ozzy," a patented trademark of the company.

The washer keeps the solution and filter at constant 105 degrees; the ozzies thrive in that warm environment.

When they are given nutrients, or grease, they reproduce at a more rapid rate, and they eat more, Banks said.

Filters are changed once a month; depending on the concentration of accumulated wastes, these may require special disposal. The solution does not need to be changed, only more added as necessary.

Steve Willard, chief, Environmental and Natural Resource Management, estimates the post will receive a return on its investment in about 18 months. "That means $27,200 saved annually after the initial year and a half."

This simple system replaces one in which Fort Gordon paid to dispose of 8,183 gallons of solvent from parts cleaning equipment during 1996.

"It works," Kaefer said. "We’re glad that it is environmentally safe, and yet it cleans the parts as well."