Environmental pollution is a hot topic in today’s society and the EPA is the primary body of regulation and enforcement in the United States. Due to an increase in enforcement efforts by the EPA, many compressed air systems are getting put under the microscope.

Compressed air systems produce condensate comprised of water, oil, chemicals, and other contaminants.  This condensate used to go straight into our sewer systems and then into larger bodies of water. In 1972 however, there was concern about water contamination caused by these systems, thus kicked off the expansion of the Clean Water Act and a slew of other regulations created by the EPA. While these regulations have been intermittently enforced over the years, we have seen an increase in enforcement efforts by the agency recently. One good way to ensure your system is in line with EPA regulation is to utilize oil separators.

#CompressedAirSystems are an important aspect of our environment. @RasMech explains how they can save our drinking water in their latest blog: Click To Tweet

Why Do You Need An Oil Separator?

Oil separators ensure our water supply is safe to use and drink. Condensate from compressed air systems releases toxins into our drain and sewer system that eventually end up in our lakes, rivers, and oceans. Oil separators are an easy and cost-effective way for us to keep our drinking water clean and usable.

Even if you’re not as concerned about the environment, you’ll want to make sure you have an oil separator to keep in-line with the EPA’s regulations. If your compressed air systems aren’t in regulation, you could be looking at criminal or civil lawsuits, a big fine, and the responsibility to fix what went wrong. It’s better to stay safe and install an oil separator than deal with the consequences in the long run.

Fines for violating EPA regulations include:

  • Negligent Violations: 1 year and/or $2,500 – $25,000 per day
  • Subsequent Convictions: 2 years and/or $50,000 per day
  • Knowing Violations: 3 years and/or $5,000 – $50,000 per day
  • Subsequent Convictions: 6 years and/or $100,000 per day

If your building is using a compressed air system, check around to make sure you’re doing everything you can to avoid fines.

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How Oil Separators Work

Oil separators all use an underlying principle of adsorption. Adsorption is the concept that something, usually liquid, will stick to the outside of something else.

Steps to Oil Adsorption:

  1. Separator directs condensate from the dryer and/or filtration into an oil-water separator.
  2. The separator collects the oil on polypropylene fibers and purifies the water through activated carbon media.
  3. The water dispells and drains into your usual water system.
  4. The oil will be collected and stabilized on the polypropylene fibers and disposed of during regular air compressor maintenance.
Oil separator graphic.

Not sure where to start in the oil separator search? Reach out to us at Rasmussen Mechanical.

Oil Separator Regulations

What’s the approximate amount of oil that can drain?

Title 40, Part 279 of the Code of Federal Regulations states there should be no more than 40 parts per million (ppm) oil in wastewater going into the sewer.

The average air compressor condensate contains well over that amount at 300 ppm of oil, which is why it’s essential to have an oil separator in place.

Staying in regulation and cleaning up the environment should be top of mind for every facility. If you’re not sure where you stand within the EPA guidelines, reach out to us at Rasmussen Mechanical for a consultation and your next steps to develop an action plan.

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