Environment industries archive
Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.
Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.
Lee and Thomas Auto Electrics received a nasty surprise when it discovered that it had violated environmental regulations. An even nastier surprise was the $10,000 quote for installing a commercial separator to remove the offending oils and waste from the wash water it used on the auto parts it serviced. But the company staff put on their thinking caps and built an alternative system that met the regulations. It cost only $500, paid for itself in less than a year in materials savings and made everyone in the company feel better about eliminating an adverse environmental impact.
Lee and Thomas Auto Electrics specialises in auto electrical and air conditioning repairs to cars and light commercial vehicles. The company has a staff of nine and is located in Phillip, Canberra. The present owners have operated the workshop since 1986.
Following a fire in an adjacent bakery, ACT Electricity and Water (ACTEW) inspected Lee and Thomas’ premises. ACTEW advised the company that its wash tub and hose-down sink were not in compliance with ACTEW and ACT Environment Protection Authority (EPA) guidelines, and that unless the company changed the manner in which it washed and hosed down car parts, it could be liable for a hefty fine.
Lee and Thomas then looked at commercial separators installed in other workshops, which remove oils and waste from the water before discharging it into the sewer. After seeing the complexity of the plumbing involved with such systems, and having received a quote of almost $10,000 to have one installed, the company felt there had to be a better way to wash small parts such as alternators and starter motor components. A staff meeting was called and various ideas on how to solve the problem were discussed.
Lee and Thomas' primary aims were to:
The company tried a few ideas before arriving at a final design. It consulted ACTEW along the way to ensure the regulations were met.
The design put the washing and rinsing units side by side in one unit. The parts are first washed in kerosene just as they would be in a conventional parts washer. They are then transferred to the other half of the parts washer to be rinsed off with water before being air dried. The water is then transferred to a tank where it is separated from the kerosene. The kerosene is left to settle and is siphoned off from the impurities. The clean kerosene is then returned to the wash tank for reuse, and the clean water is left ready for reuse in the rinsing process. The kerosene separation process is performed each Monday as part of the staff routine.
The parts washer is being used with great success. Modifications are still being carried out to make it even more effective. The unit is self contained and can be moved easily.
The parts washer provides the following benefits:
The cost of building the unit was approximately $500 and incorporates some recycled materials. The savings made by not having to hire parts washing units (which had previously been the case), along with a reduction in kerosene purchases, has meant that the unit will have paid for itself after its first twelve months of operation.
Lee and Thomas were concerned to meet their environmental obligations but were also convinced that there must be a simpler, cheaper way of doing so. The common sense, cleaner production approach of reducing waste to benefit both the business and the environment provided the answer.
Lee and Thomas has continued to benefit from these initiatives. Although the company has since moved premises, the parts washer has been transportable.
It plans further development of the process.