Why Every Air Compressor Should Have An Oil/Water Separator

Why Every Air Compressor Needs An Oil Water Separator

Oil/water separators are often considered an optional add-on to an air compressor. However, oil/water separators are mandatory components for compressed air applications due to regulatory bodies, including the EPA. Failing to add an oil/water separator for air compressors not only hurts machine efficiency but can also result in costly fines. 


What Is an Oil/Water Separator?

A compressed air/oil separator does exactly as the name suggests; it separates oil from water through adsorption. Air compressors produce a significant amount of condensate during their lifecycle. The oil used to lubricate internal components in the air compressor contaminates the condensate, and if left to accumulate, this contaminated condensate will infiltrate the air compressor system, causing damage to the equipment. 

Further, if not properly handled, unseparated condensate can cause harm to the local natural ecosystem. With the expansion of the Clean Water Act and other federal and local regulations, condensate cannot be disposed of without first separating the oil and contaminants from the water to prevent toxins from entering sewer systems and eventually the nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans. 


Industry Regulations Surrounding Separation Systems

Environmental pollution is a widely discussed topic, and compressed air systems are closely monitored and regulated by governing bodies to ensure drinking water is kept clean and usable. In 1972, strict regulations were put in place as the concern about water contamination grew. In recent years, the EPA has increased its enforcement efforts for non-compliant companies further to cut down on environmental pollution caused by air compressor condensate. Therefore, using oil separators for air compressors will ensure your system is EPA compliant.


Why Is an Oil/Water Separator Regulated?

The EPA is the governing body of regulation and enforcement of environmental pollution caused by condensate and other hazardous materials. Without the requirements for including a compressor oil separator, many natural ecosystems could suffer significantly. Even a small volume of oil in wastewater can impact a large area after it enters large bodies of water. Oil/water separators are essential to protect the local plants and animals near your facility and improve production efficiency. 


What Oil/Water Separator Regulations are In Place?

With the condensate of the average air compressor containing approximately 300 parts per million (ppm) of oil, it is necessary to have an oil/water separator installed to keep your facility within EPA’s stringent regulations. In Title 40, Part 279 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Government states that oil levels should not surpass 40 ppm in wastewater sent to a sewer system. 


EPA Penalties

The penalties for not using an oil/water separator are significant and can impact the operator, company, or both. Violations for discharging oil or other hazardous substances can result in hefty fines or, in extreme cases, imprisonment. The EPA issues penalties based on the following guidelines: 

  • Negligent Violations: A fine of $2,500 to $25,000 per day of violation and/or imprisonment up to 1 year. While a second conviction is punishable by up to $50,000 per day of violation and/or imprisonment up to 2 years.
  • Knowing Violations: A fine of $5,000 to $50,000 per day of violation and/or imprisonment up to 3 years. For a second conviction, violators can pay up to a $100,000 fine per day of violation and/or imprisonment for up to 6 years.
  • Knowing Endangerment: Knowing violations of CWA requirements that put another person in danger of imminent death or serious bodily injury can be punished by up to a $250,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years.
  • False Statements: Making false material statements, representations, or certifications may be punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and/or by imprisonment of up to 2 years. If convicted of making false statements, it is punishable by up to a $20,000 fine per day of violation and/or imprisonment of up to 4 years.


How to Maintain EPA-Compliant Oil Separator Systems With Airmatic Compressor

The cost of installing an oil/water separator may seem significant. However, it does not even compare to the cost of an EPA violation or failure to comply with local regulations. If your facility uses air compressors, it should also have a compliant oil/water separator. Contact Airmatic Compressor to create an effective compressed air system with an EPA-compliant oil/water separator. Our control and monitoring capabilities for your compressor system will result in cost and energy savings for your facility while also avoiding costly fines or violations.