Storm water vaults play a key role in storm water management. Designed to keep trash and debris from entering waterways, these vaults require regular maintenance and cleanings to make sure they function as they should. 

When you don’t prioritize regular maintenance of your storm water vaults, your storm water system won’t be effective – which could result in clogs, floods, and pollution of waterways. It also would put your site out of compliance with California’s storm water regulations. 

Luckily, storm water vaults are easily maintained without major interruptions to business operations. 

Maintenance will depend on which one of three types of vaults your property has: 

1. Cartridge vaults

Cartridge vaults are the most common type of storm water vault. These vaults use rechargeable, media-filled cartridges to absorb and retain pollutants and microscopic substances from storm water runoff. They’re highly effective and versatile, and can meet the needs of a variety of sites. 

To clean these, a Confined-Space Certified SWIMS technician will enter the vault and extract the cartridges. Sometimes a forklift is used to lift these from the vault as they can weigh up to 200 pounds. The technician will then completely empty the cartridges, recharge them with brand new media, and pump out all of the sediment, trash, and debris from the vault floor. Lastly, they will pressure wash the entire vault and reinstall the recharged cartridges. 

Depending on the site, storm water vaults can have anywhere from 1 to 40+ cartridges.

2. Hydrodynamic Separators 

Hydrodynamic separators function like a vortex. Water is carried through the hydrodynamic separator in a swirling motion, where the force of gravity causes sediment to fall to the bottom. Trash and debris remains floating on top. 

To clean these, SWIMS will use a vactor (vacuum) truck to pump out the floatables, then the water, and lastly, the captured sediment.

3. Chamber vaults

These vaults separate trash and debris by holding and filtering storm water in chambers. Storm water will enter the first chamber, where it will leave floating debris and heavy sediment. It will then flow over the chamber wall into the second chamber, where it will leave behind less sediment and debris. It will repeat the process by flowing into the third chamber, which will have the least amount of sediment. Depending on the vault, there may be more than three chambers.

To clean these, SWIMS will decant the water, pump out the sediment, and then pressure wash the vault. 

Sometimes, the chambers will have media pillows – mesh sacks that absorb oil and hydrocarbons – floating on top that SWIMS will remove and recharge. 

Here are some common questions regarding storm water vault maintenance: 

How are materials disposed of after being removed from the vault? 

All materials are disposed of as class 2 non-hazardous waste. 

How does storm water vault maintenance/cleanings affect business operations? 

SWIMS works hard to make the process of maintaining your storm water system as smooth and non-disruptive as possible. Because vaults are usually located in parking lots, we will require a small section around the manhole to be blocked off plus space for our truck. We encourage our customers to take extra care to make sure access to the vaults and storm water devices remain clear for scheduled maintenance. 

The process of cleaning storm water vaults doesn’t normally take longer than 2-3 days. 

My site needs maintenance. How do I get started? 

After your initial (free!) consultation with SWIMS, we will provide you with a quote for an initial cleaning of your vault(s) as well as a quote for the annual cost of maintenance. Maintenance is usually required every 2-3 years, although more frequent service may be needed as determined by semi-annual inspections. 

SWIMS has the tools, skills, and experience necessary to keep your storm water system running smoothly and your site in compliance. 

Ready to get started? Schedule your free site inspection here.