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    Tonka Water’s Vice President of Sales Rick Mann interviews with Water Online at WEFTEC 2015

    The Underdrain System That Can Fit into Any Plant and is Built to Last

    Read our interview below or listen to the live interview.

    Water Online Radio: Rick, what do you do and how do you serve your market?

    Rick: We are a manufacturer of multiple lines of equipment for both the water and wastewater industry. As those industries merge, we are finding ourselves more focused on water reuse .

    Water Online Radio:  So, we are going to talk a little bit about B-L-E-U. Tell us what that stands for.

    Rick: BLEU™ is a blockless engineered underdrain. It is a stainless-steel lateral system used to replace either existing systems or new systems, as far as the underdrain design.

    Water Online Radio:  There are obviously other stain-less steel underdrains in the marketplace. How is BLEU™ different?

    Rick: There were a couple things we looked at when we began researching and designing our underdrain. The BLEU™ underdrain is the lowest-profile underdrain on the market. It’s only five and a half inches tall. For retrofits and new installations, we can reduce the underdrain height, allowing more media to be placed into the filter cell, giving you longer filter runs and better depth.

    The other distinguishing feature is that we take the air lateral out of that water lateral and have a separate air-wash grid. It’s very easy to retrofit, whether you want to do a water-only backwash or an air and water backwash. It becomes universally acceptable, no matter what process of backwash you’re trying to perform.

    Water Online Radio:  Is it a retro-fit product, a new construction product or both?

    Rick: It’s both. Depending on whether it’s an existing system for a retro-fit, it can be used in any system. We’ve already done multiple retro-fit on various filter cells. It’s very easy for the contractor once he busts up the underdrain and pulls it out, for us to go back in. We don’t necessarily need a plenum, we can come in through the end caps or up through the bottom through an existing system.

    Water Online Radio: If I’m a facility manager for a municipality one of the questions I am going to ask you is, what kind of challenges have you seen in the retro-fit process? Is there anything we can anticipate and overcome before the process or is it whatever I run into?

    Rick: When you do a rehab it’s always a can of worms because you are not sure what you are going to find once you get down there. Luckily for the BLEU™ underdrain, all you really need to do is get the footprint. Once we have the cell dimensions, we custom engineer the product anyway. Depending on length versus width, versus depth it doesn’t really matter – we can engineer the way the water comes into it multiple ways. Since it’s flexible, it takes away some of the mystery and complexities from a contractor’s point of view. As far as doing the actual  installation, there is no grout needed. There are very few hold down bars, so it becomes a very fast and economical way to retro-fit a system. With the advent of wastewater, you get more biological filtration and more cross-over. Guys are going with deeper filter beds, so any additional inches that you can get on a rehab is critical.  

    Water Online Radio: Talk about the culture of innovation at Tonka Water and how you continue to advance the ball on something like a stain-less steel underdrain.

    Rick: Once we got this product designed and installed, we began to look at what was coming down the pipeline next. In the California market it’s Chrome-IX™, removal of hexavalent chromium. We have a system that we are looking to treat the contaminate, hexavalent chromium.

    From a conventional wastewater point of view, we are also looking at sludge removal. That is going to be coming down the pipeline, it’s our next R&D project.

    We look at the market, determining what the customers’ needs are and where the holes are going to be. Not tomorrow, but five years down the road. We’ve been working on Chrome-IX™ now for three years and it’s just now becoming a targeted compliance in California. We’ve got to keep ahead of the game and understand what’s coming down the pipeline in order to figure out what we need to do as a manufacturer to be viable five years from now.

    Water Online Radio: This industry is extraordinarily innovative, and we have to bring a lot of ideas to very common problems. We are beginning to get to that point where improvements and incremental at this point. Is that fair to say or do you think there are still some big jumps to be had?

    Rick: It depends on which aspect of the market you are looking at. Some things are incremental, but all together adds a lot of value from an engineering stand point. The BLEU™ underdrain for example, yes there are a lot of underdrains you can go out and get right now. But there has been some historical change. Centered caps have come in and they plug up every once in a while, and they blow out. The cost to replace the media from a large filter disruption through an underdrain failure is huge. Getting that price up front, yes, we go to 304 stain-less and it’s more expensive than the plastic but it’s going to have a longer value as far as return on investment. Less chance of disruption, less chance of ripping out. So, if you look at it from that aspect, it’s an incremental engineering design increase but it can have massive impact in a marketplace that’s tired of having the retro-fit or an emergency fix on a filter system.             

    What drives this market is innovation, demographic and regulatory. You have those things coming at you, and as a manufacturer, you have to figure out when and where it’s going to hit. We then target our products around that market.

    Water Online Radio: Figuring that out helps you to be innovative.

    Rick: You have to be innovative, if you’re standing still, you’re not growing. We know we have to innovate, we have a long history of innovations from Simul-Wash™ in 1976 all the way until today.

    Water Online Radio: You are exhibiting here at the show. Anything else you are showcasing here at WEFTEC?

    Rick: The BLEU™ underdrain is really our primary focus right now. But we do so many cross-over products from media filters that just about anything is applicable. We’ve got large reuse installations in our back pocket, we’ve got new medias that we are coming out with on a yearly basis, so it really depends on what the client’s needs are going to be as they walk by the booth. We’ll have an answer for all of them.  

    Water Online Radio: The underdrain is part of a larger system, what are the other Tonka Water products that complete the system?

    Rick: Once you have the underdrain, you of course have media, and you have our backwash process, our Simul-Wash™ trough which saves in a conventional wastewater application up to 60% of wastewater. So even though the water gets recycled, the question is how much do you want to spend from a operations point of view to treat that water again and again and again. You can have a simple backwash process, innovation goes in and minimizes that waste volume. If you have that, we do all plant controls and have the ability to integrate the whole system and provide a single source responsibility vendor. That’s what we are marketing right now. Let us take care of your plant, you engineer it and let us take care of the process and guarantee A to Z.   

    Water Online Radio: How should people contact you if they have any questions or want to learn more?