ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As the costs of owning and operating a business become more expensive, many owners are left to pinch pennies in certain areas of operation.
For industrial laundry operators, utilities continue to be one area that drain revenue, particularly water and sewer expenses. But, there are ways to mitigate costs, such as obtaining water evaporation credits.
Bill Mann, director of industry affairs for the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA), and Jessica Skerritt, TRSA manager of environmental affairs and counsel, recently hosted a webinar, Saving Money: Water Evaporation Credits/Dealing With Your POTW, which detailed ways in which operators can apply for credits that could lower their water and sewer expenses.
Because statutes and processes in obtaining an evaporation credit may vary, Skerritt advised operators to first consult with their legal counsel, or the TRSA, before following through with the process.
THE TRUE COST OF WATER
Mann cited TRSA’s Textile Industry Performance Report, which, tabulated by an independent party, details the general financials of a TRSA member. Mann says that the annual revenue of a typical laundry operation is about $8.5 million.
“Their water and sewer costs are about 1.5% of revenue, which would be $127,500,” says Mann. “If they could get some kind of an evaporation credit on that water and sewer bill, [they would] save an average of 11% [or a] savings of $14,000.”
DEFINING POTWs AND EVAPORATION CREDITS
Before outlining the process of applying for water evaporation credits, Skerritt first defined how POTWs—publicly owned treatment works—function.
“A POTW is a treatment plant required by federal law to develop and enforce limits to pollutants in the sewer system,” she says, adding that services include the removal of wastewater from the source to a discharge point; solids removal; and removal of organic biodegradable materials from the wastewater stream.
“In many cases, POTWs are operated as a public utility, where costs are recovered from users according to some sort of use,” she says. “Primarily, the fees generated … go to operating and maintaining the facilities and sewers in their localities.”
What distinguishes sewer usage from other utilities, Skerritt says, is that it generally involves a formula rather than actual use.
“Any sort of evaporation credit, or any water that is basically discharged from evaporation … through the sewer system is not taken into account because it’s not built into the formula. This evaporation loss is where the credit from the POTW can occur.”
GAUGING WATER USAGE
One tool that operators can utilize to gauge water loss is an effluent water meter, according to Mann and Skerritt.
However, such a tool can be costly to install and maintain, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, says Skerritt, who also advises operators to get in touch with their POTW regarding the installation of such a meter prior to presenting them with their plant’s water loss.
“Before you install and look at doing any sort of effluent meter discharge readings, make sure that you already discussed with your POTW what you plan on doing, making sure that the POTW will accept the effluent meter reading,” says Skerritt. “It should be something that you come into agreement with your POTW about, not just something that you install and let your POTW know that these are the readings that you have.”
She adds that some POTWs may require operators to use an effluent meter that’s area-specific, or one that the POTW’s tools are able to read.
“One of the short ways to do that is to weigh a load of clothes that came out of your tunnel washer or washer-extractor before going into the dryer, and then dry that load down to dry and cool and then weigh it again,” says Mann. “The difference in poundage is going to be the water that evaporated, then you just divide that by eight (because it’s roughly eight pounds per gallon of water) and that will give you the gallon of water. And then you could compare that to how many loads you do per volume of water.”
STEPS TO REQUEST
The first step in requesting an evaporation credit, according to Skerritt, is to make a general inquiry to a local POTW to see if it’s something the authority would be willing to do.
In getting support, Skerritt explains that TRSA offers a form online where operators can provide the contact information of their POTW. From there, TRSA can write a letter on the operator’s behalf requesting for the credit.
“That letter will identify you, the number of employees you have in your plant, how long you’ve been in that municipality, how you serve the community and support that community, economically and socially,” says Mann.
Also contained in the letter are facts and figures from engineering studies done on behalf of TRSA members that detail how equipment in many laundry facilities can provide a water evaporation loss.
TRSA can also supply members with estimates of evaporation credits that were given in the operator’s state to present to their POTW, Mann says.
With general information and the letter on hand, Mann explains the importance in making a second meeting with the POTW.
“We ask that you would have the highest-level executive from your plant make an appointment and return to that POTW and hand-deliver that letter. That has been the biggest success in the 10 years that I’ve been with TRSA,” says Mann. “Just mailing [the letter] doesn’t seem to get any result.”
“It really is that relationship building, that one-on-one contact with each other,” he adds. “So please make sure it’s the highest-level executive, or as close.”
Mann stressed the importance of confidence and fairness in the process.
“Don’t forget to ask for a decision. Be very direct; be very confident that they’re going to [give you the credit],” he says, adding that operators should be open to providing follow-up information.
“In all cases, please be confident. Be assertive. Don’t be demanding, but just ask for fairness because that’s what this is really all about. Windfall should not go to anybody.”
IS CREDIT A SURE THING?
“I’m sure there are a lot of people that have done it without TRSA’s help [but] our success has been primarily 75% successful,” says Mann. “In the cases where it was hand-delivered by an executive [from] the company, the success rate was about 75% to 80% that I’ve been involved with here at TRSA.”
However, Mann does admit that there can be “roadblocks.”
“A POTW does have a right to unilaterally say … they won’t give you an evaporation credit,” says Skerritt.
Both Mann and Skerritt explain that the cause behind a rejected request can vary from bad timing, to the POTW worrying that others may possibly come forward to claim an evaporation credit.
Regardless, both assured listeners that TRSA is able to help, and that operators should be vigilant in requesting an evaporation credit for their plant.
“You’re not successful if you don’t ask,” says Skerritt.