You would think if an inspection of a water storage tank or tower shows a lot of nasty looking sediment in the floor, the tank would be cleaned.  But that is often not the case.  Our company performs water tank inspections with a custom made underwater video camera that enters the tank records the interior roof conditions and then makes its way to the floor of the tank.  The camera sends its video signal to the topside operator who records it on an HD recorder.

When our camera comes back with several inches of soft ugly sediment in the floor of a water storage tank or tower most people would assume that the utility manager would make sure that tank gets cleaned out ASAP.  The fact is most try, if it is a water tower the choice of doing it “In House” may not exist for many small utilities.  Water utility workers are just not trained or equipped to work 150 feet off the ground.  So the operator or utility manager request funds to get the tank cleaned.

Here is where the problem comes in, the city manager, city council or board of directors decide that spending money to clean the inside of a water storage tank or tower may not be a good use of the funds, often they  refuse to look at the inspection video.

While some utilities have good management, more and more are ignoring needed maintenance procedures because of shrinking budgets and bad priorities.  After all what is the most important priority for a water utility anyway?  We have several customers who hire us every year to inspect their water storage tanks & towers and every year we tell them their facilities need to be cleaned.

They tell us that they ask for the funds but are turned down for various reasons year after year.  In Texas, a rule in the Texas Administrative code 290.46 requires water utility operators to inspect their tanks & towers each year.  Many of our customers tell us because of that rule they can get funds to preform the tank inspection, but no requirements to clean the tank means its just not important.  I approach administrators as a contractor and they see me as a guy looking for work and somehow trying to trick them into looking at the inspection video.  This should not be a sales job.  Sediment Builds up in water storage tanks & towers over time,  it has already gone through the water treatment plant, its as clean as it is going to get.  The water goes from that water storage tank to your tap.  If the tank or tower is full of sediment bacteria, protazoa and even viruses can find a safe harbor where they get a foothold in the water system and grow.  Removing the sediment from the floor of the tank removes the habitat that contaminates can hide and thrive it.  Florida has one of the best rules in the country requiring that water storage tanks & towers be cleaned at least once every five years.  The American Water Works Association recommends that water tanks be cleaned every three to five years or as needed.  How long would you use a water glass in your house without washing it?  The City of Arlington Texas was recently ranked the # 1 water in the country.  I happen to know they clean their water storage tanks every year.

Nationally, there are approximately 170,000 public water systems (PWS). These public water systems range in size from large metropolitan areas to rest stops and campgrounds, provided that they meet the public water system definition. The definition of a public water system is a system for the provision to the public of water for human consumption through pipes or other constructed conveyances, if such system has at least 15 service connections or regularly serves at least 25 individuals. Nationally, 22% of the public water systems (approximately 37,000 pws) had violations of the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations in calendar year 1999.  I recently read an estimate that there were more than 400,000 water storage tanks and towers in the U.S.  The majority of them probable need to be inspected, cleaned or both right now.

Isn’t it time we demand clean water for everyone?  Isn’t it reasonable to demand that all water storage tanks & towers be cleaned at least once every five years?  What good is a multi million dollar water treatment plant if the clean pure water is pumped into a forty year old water tower that has never been cleaned?  It is just basic housekeeping, floors need to be cleaned from time to time water storage facilities are no different.  The difference is without a law, a rule a code too many of us are drinking from water tanks that rarely if ever get cleaned.  I think water tank inspections and cleanings should be part of the the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.  If we had some basic housekeeping in the rules, it may well be that the overall water quality violations greatly decrease because contaminates will routinely be removed from water systems before they become a threat.

For More information on EPA enforcement of the Safe Water Drinking Act Click here  EPA compliance and enforcement of the Safe Water Drinking Act.