DC Workers Breathe Better with Biobased


Headaches and nasal irritation were a common complaint among fleet maintenance staff at the District of Columbia’s Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) after using adhesive removers and other harsh chemicals.

That’s why they were pleased to learn about a soy-biobased alternative that not only got the job done well, but did it without the adverse side-effects. The United Soybean Board (USB) partnered with the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition to introduce soy-biobased products to DC Water through pilot projects.

DC Water employees report that the soy-based hydraulic fluid worked very well in their vac-cons – the large trucks used to clean out the sewer system – as well as skimmer boats used to pick-up debris from the Anacostia River.

“The adhesive remover we had been using can make you sick if you get downwind of it,” said Anthony Lancaster, fleet maintenance supervisor for DC Water. “The soy-based alternative is not only a green product, but it doesn’t cause headaches or nasal irritation.  And, it did a great job removing decals from our vehicles.”

DC Water tried a range of biobased products including greases, hydraulic fluids, hand cleaners, adhesive removers, cleaners and engine oil.  (See below for a full listing and info on each product.)

Soy-Based Grease Eliminates Major Problem

DC Water staff found another unexpected benefit with the soy-based EP grease they used on front-end loaders. Pin freeze-ups are a common problem after using grease on the loader hinges. When this happens, the loader has to be taken to the shop where the hinge is heated with a torch, or sometimes even cut, in order to remove the pin.

“Pin freeze-ups are a huge problem for us and a big time waster,” Lancaster said.  “We had no problems with pin freeze-ups while using the soy-based grease. On top of that, we experienced less waste because the lubricant didn’t fall off the loader like many other greases do.”

Similarly, DC Water’s maintenance staff found less waste with the soy-based hand cleaner, which also left their hands feeling smoother than other hand cleaners they have used.

Soy-Based Hydraulic Fluid Ensures Smooth Operation

Smooth operation is critical for DC Water’s vac-cons – the large trucks used to clean out the sewer system – and soy-based hydraulic fluid is up to the task. Maintenance staff added biobased hydraulic fluid to the vac-cons, and to their skimmer boats, which are equipped with a hydraulic lift and conveyor belt used to pick-up debris from the Anacostia River.

“The biobased hydraulic fluid has worked very well for us and has the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly and made from a renewable resource–American-grown soybeans,” said Lancaster.

Biobased Two-Cycle Oil Reduces Smoke & Fumes

Soy-based EnviroLogic 440 two-cycle engine oil was tested in weed trimmers, edgers and backpack blowers. Equipment operators reported that it stopped the inhalation problems they were having with their current product. “The exhaust fumes are not choking us…”

Another operator stated that “the amount of smoke during operation from the unit had decreased after the new oil and gas was added.”

Employees also reported that the biobased oil mixed well with the gasoline, lubricated well and there were no fuel circulation breakdowns after operators took breaks and had to restart the equipment.

Finally, DC Water employees reported that the Bio-Orange cleaner worked well for cleaning grease and dirt off both the outside and inside of vehicles.

DC Water’s Fleet Director Timothy Fitzgerald added, “I try to get my guys to work smarter, not harder. We have introduced these products a bit at a time, charting the use for comparison. I am ready to accept them and move on to test some more of these soy-based products.”

In addition to these soy-biobased products piloted by DC Water, all of their diesel vehicles and equipment (along with the rest of the D.C. government fleet) are powered by biodiesel.

DC Water has demonstrated success with the following products:

This case study is provided for information only. The United Soybean Board does not endorse, promote or make any representations regarding any specific suppliers mentioned herein.