Less mess guarantee

Area man says wastewater tool cuts dirty work

Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 11:54 p.m.

Royal Jones is a sympathetic man. With his latest invention, Jones said, he's out to make life easier on workers who are forced to get down and dirty on the job.

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Royal Jones, president of Waste Tec Inc., stands next to a Pit Evacuator, a device Jones invented that assists in the filtration process of waste water treatment. The pump is already being used in Starke and orders are coming in from across the country.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun

Known as the Pit Evacuator, Jones' device is designed to eliminate the need for wastewater treatment workers to delve into depths of more than 30 feet to clean out sand, waste and other solid materials from "lift stations," or areas where wastewater is treated. The device was developed by Jones at his shop in Starke, and the product is being used by the city as well as a private company in Mississippi.

"The pumps that operate in wastewater pits usually don't pick everything up to be processed," said Jones, of Keystone Heights. Workers typically have to get down there and do the work manually using a vacuum, he explained.

Apart from the health risks associated with the work, the time spent doing the work manually can be costly to operators of wastewater treatment facilities. Since those excess materials aren't processed by the system, they have to be removed and transported to landfills, which doesn't guarantee they'll be treated properly and can pose risks to the environment.

The key to Jones' product is its employment of a Venturi tube, a device that often is used to regulate fluids in engines.

In this case, when the water in a pit reaches its high level position, the pump kicks on and forces the discharge water through the Venturi tube. The Venturi then sucks the floating sludge and solids down to the floor of the pit, causing everything in the pit to be thoroughly mixed while the pump sends the materials to the treatment plant.

"What makes me feel good is knowing someone doesn't have to go into that pit any more and clean that mess up," said Jones, 70.

"When we first tried this out in Mississippi, a man at the company came up to me and said, 'Do you mean I don't have to go down into that hole again?' And I told him, 'I guarantee it.' Then he said, 'Do you mind if I give you a hug?' "

Jones has a background as a developer of rendering plants throughout the Southeast and the world.

He has traveled all over the country, as well as South America, Mexico and Russia, and his business contacts prompted a meeting last year with a wastewater treatment firm in Mississippi that sought help with the maintenance of their systems.

"I had one guy tell me that it cost them an extra $1,000 a month just to collect and dispose of the extra material from the lift stations," Jones said. "This protects workers and saves people money."

Jones hasn't marketed the product too heavily to this point, and he said he wants to see how the Pit Evacuator performs over a three- or four-month period.

So far, he hasn't had any complaints from the company in Mississippi, and he also donated one of the devices to the city of Starke at one of its wastewater lift stations.

City officials selected "the worst lift station" out of 16 to try out the Pit Evacuator, City Manager Lee Vincent said. The device has been installed for about a month without any problems, Vincent said.

"I'd still like to see how it holds up for the long haul, but so far it's working," he said. "It's really keeping that station clean, and if it works there, it should work everywhere else."

Jones is selling the Pit Evacuators for about $3,000, which includes an installation that takes only about one hour, he said.

He said that he has gotten inquiries about the product from the city of Gainesville, University of Florida and entities in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and that he just sold five Pit Evacuators to a casino in Mississippi.

Joe Coombs can be reached at (352) 338-3102 or coombsj@gvillesun.com.

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