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With all the awareness that is being promoted in regards to environmentally friendly adhesives, green building, Sustainable forest management (SFM), LEED, Greenguard, Global warming, and many more too numerous to mention, we’re having a hard time keeping up! We all live on one planet so, are you as an installer, doing your part (Photo 1)? Let’s talk about thin-set, mortar, grout, and other Portland-based wastewater. As an installer, where are you disposing of your wastewater?

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You have the usual sink (Photo 2), toilet, (Photo 3), and the drain (Photo 4). You also have the outdoor factors, shrubbery (Photo 5), or anywhere you can hide or camouflage the wastewater from being too obvious. The fact that Portland-based products hydrate/cure and harden underwater is cause for concern when pouring wastewater down any sink, toilet, or drain. The sediments settle in the trap and begin to harden until the drain becomes clogged. At this time, a powerful plumbers snake or a good jackhammer comes in handy as that’s about the only way a completely clogged drain can be cleaned out. 

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  If you are not already using best practices for wastewater management, I highly recommend that you get started implementing a plan to be prepared when regulations will be required or enforced. In many parts of the country, Storm water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP), for Construction Activities are already in place and installers are having to comply with these regulations and having to go through a learning curve. Photo 6 shows a washout containment set up by tile setters and being used on a construction site in Arizona. The containment area has posted signage to designate it as a “washout pit” (Photo 7). Installers pour their wastewater into the containment area, let the water evaporate, and then dispose the container and debris into a trash receptacle. This eliminates any contaminants entering the soil and this is where the construction trades are making a positive impact on protecting the environment. The down side is that it does require time for any water to evaporate and that means that the containment must be in place until all the water has evaporated.

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For small jobs or where a wash out containment cannot be utilized, 30-gallon barrels with open tops/lids and handles are ideal (Photo 8). Make sure that you get the barrels that have the metal ring to hold the lid on tight for transporting.

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The 30-gallon barrels are not too big and can be easily lifted into the back of a truck with one or two people. You can generally find used barrels for a lot less than new ones. Pour your wastewater into the barrels and use this as your wash out also.

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If you’re going to be on the jobsite for more than one day, let the sediment settle overnight. The next day when you get ready to work, remove the clean water from the barrel without disturbing the sediment. You can use this water for your mixing water for thinset or mortar so you’re actually recycling your wastewater and keeping it to a minimum. When you’re all done, transport your wastewater back to your shop. Let the sediment settle, remove as much water as you can without disturbing the sediment and place into another barrel.

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Now you can take the barrel with water to your next job and use it for more thinset or mortar. You will want several barrels as it takes a couple of days for the sediment to settle and harden enough to where you can just scrape or knock it out off the bottom of the barrel. If you’re not going to be using the water that you removed from the waste water barrel within a day or two, you can now dispose it down your drain or lawn without having to worry about contaminants as they have already been removed. We have been using this process for several years and it is an ideal way of disposal and recycling of wastewater. It also makes you look more professional as you now have an actual wash out station. You will not be cleaning your tools on the customers lawn or in the five-gallon bucket that then gets poured out somewhere on the job site. For more information on the SWPPP log onto, http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater/swppp.cfm.