State DOT’s should let concrete batch plants use process water

January 13, 2012

As all of us know, the ability to use process water at a concrete plant is looked upon differently by state DOT’s. As an example, California’s DOT (Caltrans) allows the use of process water up to a specific gravity of 1.04 in some state mix designs while my home State Pennsylvania, along with several other states, bans its use entirely.

Picture courtesy of WADOT via Flicker

The USEPA has laws that prohibit the discharge of concrete wash out water into our waterways without proper treatment and for good reason. On the other hand, a majority of states won’t allow its use. So, you can’t discharge untreated process water AND you cannot use it in state work. It can be very frustrating to concrete producers whose QC departments have embraced workable solutions and paved the way for the safe use of process water at their companies’ ready mix facilities.

Thanks to the efforts of folks (industry experts) like Colin Lobo, Doug Ruhlin, Rich Szecsy and many others there are volumes of research, data and information out there regarding the proper use of wash out water when batching at a concrete plant. There are ASTM standards for our industry that explain how producers can use process water when batching concrete (ASTM C 94 and ASTM C 1602/C 1602M-04) and ASTM standards for measuring solids in water (ASTM C 1603/C 1603M-04). Europe seems to have embraced the re-use of such water so what is the hang-up with our state DOT’s?

No living organism on this planet, plant or animal, can exist without water. It’s been said that within the next 20 years that water will be the next gold. It’s quite possible that countries will go to war over water rights in the future. Controversy concerning our earth’s most precious commodity is in the headlines on a daily basis. Natural gas fracking, industrial waste, storm water runoff, nitrates from farming, and other sources of water pollution are well documented and known. So why are our states so slow to act to allow the use of process water at concrete plants? I don’t have a logical answer to that question but I’m certain that someone will be able to enlighten me.

You’d have to be that GEICO guy living under a rock not to have seen or heard about the huge movement the ready mix concrete industry it making toward sustainability, but what exactly does sustainability mean? My friend Doug Ruhlin at Resource Management Associates puts it best; “Sustainability is the ability to reduce, reuse, recycle…” It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Our industry needs to get serious about tackling the tough job of convincing our state DOT’s that we are able to reuse wash out water responsibly without jeopardizing the quality of concrete mix designs. Future generations are countin-g on us to fight the good fight. While this is no easy task, it’s one that must be accomplished. We simply have nowhere to go with the water. It’s been said that if all the water in the world could fit in a one gallon bucket, all of the water available to drink would barely fill one teaspoon. Think about that the next time your weir pits are at capacity and you have a big D.O.T. pour and cannot use any of that precious water…