AFTER nearly 30 years at the same location, it was time for a new facility with more room and a more efficient tank wash system for Total Cleaning Power Inc in Richmond, Virginia. The company moved to its new location just off I-95 at exit 69 in late 1999.

The new three-bay wash rack is a clear improvement over the previous facility. More space is available for both exterior and interior wash operations, and capabilities were significantly upgraded. Cleaning of chemical tanks remains the focus for now, but the company plans to add foodgrade capability before the end of the year.

"We've got what we believe is one of the most modern tank washes in the region, and it is a full-service operation," says Jerry Baltes, president and founder of Total Cleaning Power. "Our customers seem to agree, because we're getting tanks from a couple hundred miles away. They know that we're available when they need us, we do a complete job, and we offer competitive prices.

"We got into the cleaning business in 1970 doing exterior truck washes at a leased location about a mile from our new facility. By 1984, we had opened a one-bay tank wash rack, which we expanded to two bays in 1986."

Chemical Focus Total Cleaning Power handles a wide range of chemical and petroleum products. A few foodgrade products are handled now, even without a dedicated section of the wash rack. Poisons top a short list of chemical products not accepted by Total Cleaning Power.

Customer convenience and comfort are prime considerations at the new eight-acre facility. There is plenty of room for customers to park tractors and trailers. Office space is available for customers who want to use the wash rack as a terminal location. Drivers have a comfortable lounge that includes showers, food vending machines, and free coffee.

Two teams with three wash workers keep the facility running six days a week. Operating hours are Monday through Thursday-7:30 am to 12 am, Friday-7:30 am to 9 pm, and Saturday-8 am to 4 pm. Typically, the wash rack is closed on Sunday, but customers can make special arrangements.

An up-to-date wash system ensures that cargo tanks are cleaned with a minimum of delay. Up to 40 tanks a day are being cleaned at this time, and the wash rack could do as many as 65 tanks a day. The exterior wash operation on the other side of the tank cleaning rack does about 40 trucks in a 10-hour shift.

The wash system in the new tank rack was designed by Danny Banister, the principal at D L Consulting. The vat-style unit is skid-mounted and is positioned between the two 25-ft-wide chemical bays. The third bay will be dedicated to foodgrade cleaning.

Four of the five 1,000-gallon vats are heated and contain ZEP detergent, caustic, Green Strip solvent, and hot water. The fifth vat holds cold water. The heated vats are insulated and sheeted with stainless steel. The ambient vat is uninsulated but is covered with stainless steel sheet.

The vats are heated by steam, which comes from a 100-horsepower, wet-back, triple-pass Hurst boiler. Individual temperature sensors regulate the heat in each vat.

Cleaning solutions are sent to the Gamajet and Chemdet spinners by pumps powered by 75-hp electric motors. The pumps enable spinner cleaning pressures of 250 psi at 140 gallons per minute. Return pumps with 7.5-hp motors send the cleaning solutions back to the vats.

"This is a clear improvement over the system at our previous facility," Baltes says. "There, our spinners were running 120 to 140 psi at roughly 160 gpm. We get superior impingement with the new system. Throughput has been increased, and the amount of tank entries for hand labor has dropped by up to 95%."

Most importantly, the system in the new wash rack was sized to enable simultaneous cleaning in three bays. Pipe connections for the third bay are already in place but have been blind flanged for the time being.

The skid assembly includes a catwalk with tipouts for access to the tops of tank trailers. During construction of the skid, the fabricator built the mezzanine and tipouts from carbon steel, disassembled the pieces, and had them hot-dip galvanized. This will ensure many years of corrosion-resistant service, Banister says.

The tipouts are raised when no tank is being cleaned. When lowered, each tipout becomes part of the fall-protection system, which includes handrails that completely surround the work platform on top of the tank.

Two steam bays are in a covered area between the wash rack and the building that contains the wastewater treatment plant. "We can steam four trailers at a time," Baltes says.

"We also provide degassing for petroleum tanks."

Passivation is not currently offered, but it is a service that Baltes is strongly considering. "We're evaluating a system that is an alternative to the traditional nitric acid process," he says. "We didn't offer passivation in the past because we felt nitric acid was too difficult to handle."

Wastewater Plant Next to the steam rack is the wastewater treatment plant. The dissolved air floatation system now in use can process 10,000 to 15,000 gallons per day, which is well within the parameters set down by the local sewer system.

Oil and grease are skimmed off the incoming wastewater, and solids settle out in the dissolved air filtration tank. The operator tests the waste stream during the treatment process and adds chemicals to adjust the pH level. Treated water is released to the sewer, and the solids are collected and dewatered in a 35-cubic-foot filter press.

Within the next 16 months, Total Cleaning Power plans to replace dissolved air floatation with a chemical/physical treatment system that can handle 50,000 gallons of wastewater a day. Besides improving treatment capabilities, the new system will have excess capacity. Local authorities already have given preliminary approval to the company's request to provide commercial wastewater treatment services.

Continuous improvement is a way of life at Total Cleaning Power. It is one of the keys to the company's success over the past 30 years.