Breaking Endurance Records

Abanaki Multi-Belt Oil Skimmer still going strong after 22 years of service at a Chicago wastewater recycling treatment plant

Jose Caballos is Supervisor of a Union Pacific Railroad Wastewater Treatment Plant that handles the waste stream from a large locomotive cleaning shop in the heart of Chicago. He recently shared his experience with Abanaki as to how he has helped UPRR get the most out of their belt oil skimming process. First and Foremost he is proud of the record of clean water the plant has achieved for more than 20 years. By local law, treated water can contain no more than 200 ppm (parts per million) of suspended solids, oils, hydrocarbons, etc. to be allowed to go back into the city system. The return stream is carefully and consistently tested daily for proper pH levels and ppm. Mr. Ceballos’ test reports, which are kept and checked by the City of Chicago Water Authority, have always been less than 10 ppm of all pollutants combined. The plant has had an Abanaki Multi-Belt, 4 Belt Oil Skimmer system mounted on the main concrete treatment tank since 1976.

Initially, a lot of experimentation was needed to get the Belt Oil Skimmer working right, and Mr. Ceballos found that most problems could be solved by simply following the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. By using the exact type and grade of lubricating oil specified for the motor and gear reducer for instance, he was able to stop premature wear on the bearings and gears. By adjusting the mounting tilt of the oil belt skimmer and the hanging angle of the belts, he was able to reduce friction and wear on the drive rollers and belts to nearly zero. Says Mr. Ceballos, “I didn’t Want to have to be always repairing the belt oil skimmer by replacing worn our parts that were overburdened, not lubricated with the right oil, not set correctly, or matched with the right mating parts for this application. I made the proper modifications to relieve strain on the Belt Oil Skimmer in order to make the skimmer system work the way it was designed to with the least amount of maintenance. Machines and systems are like everything else on earth- Just like the human body. If you take care of the properly, let them work in their natural way, they will last a long time and serve you well.”

Mr. Ceballos says that the best feature of his original Multi-Belt Oil Skimmer was the material used in the manufacture of the belts. Because of the harsh and varied nature of the chemical makeup of the wastewater coming off the diesel locomotives, (heavy grease, lubricating oils, fuel, sand, dirt, chemical cleaners, and soaps), a high quality polyirubber composition was used on the first belts. Also chosen for their “oleophilic” surface, that is, their affinity for picking up a heavy film of oil from the surface of the water, each belt is 8 inches wide, about 8 feet in length, and are the original belts. They have been in service every day since 1976 and have NEVER BEEN REPLACED. They remove an average of 100 gallons per hour of oils, grease, diesel fuel, cleaners, and sludge from 65,000-75,000 gallons of waste wash water per day. The wiper blades, made of oil resistant material, remove the oil and channel it into a pumping system specially designed and installed to allow the Oil skimmer to skim at its maximum volume without overflowing. The waste products ultimately go to an underground holding tank where further separation of oil (to be recycled), grease, water, and sludge for final disposal occurs. He lets “birds nests and beaver dams” (small amounts of light debris) build up around the wipers. Instead of constantly removing all the unsightly but harmless debris, Mr. Ceballos has discovered that it makes an excellent protective cushion for the wipers (also originals) and extends their working life. He has never replaced them either.

Abanaki found out about this impressive performance and maintenance record when Mr. Ceballos suggested to the UPRR management that they order another similar system. For a new wastewater recycling treatment plant planned for another rail yard. At first, because he had not been in contact with Abanaki Corporation for years, (a result of not having to replace any parts other than the motor contact brushes) he thought the company might be no longer in business. He was happy to find that, although having long since moved to a new location, the original manufacturer of his Oil Skimmer was very much alive and well in the same general location. In planning the order for the new Multi-Belt Oil Grabber®, he talked to Ruth Crowle, in sales at Abanaki and provided this impressive case history: “The Abanaki Multi-Belt Oil Skimmer is still going strong. With the right maintenance, I think it could still be working in 2098!”

Published by Abanaki Corporation; Oil Skimmer Division