Like much of the aging infrastructure throughout the U.S., it is critical to ensure pump stations are operating at full capacity. Yet they are often overlooked until a problem occurs. KCI is teaming up with towns, cities, counties and private utilities to improve the efficiency of pump stations by conducting audits.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the demand on our nation’s treatment plants is expected to grow by 23 percent in the next two decades. As new users are connected, it is important to make sure infrastructure is properly maintained to protect public health and the environment. By conducting a pump station audit, municipalities can pinpoint potential issues before they arise. KCI engineers take a holistic approach and look at everything from the drainage area to the discharge point. Based on their observations, our team provides solutions to help optimize pump station efficiency and in turn reduce operating and even renovation costs. Because each wastewater system’s needs are different, an audit can be customized to fit a specific schedule or budget.
Instead of focusing on just the pump station, we look upstream and downstream of the facility to see what other problems we can solve. Looking at the big picture allows us to find ways to avoid unnecessary capital improvements downstream and improve the efficiency of the station.
Jason L. McClafferty, PEProject Engineer
The first step involves gathering all available construction plans, as-builts and pumping and billing data. KCI uses this information to perform a preliminary desktop analysis. These documents help streamline the field work data collection process. Our team then interviews the operator, conducts draw down tests, gathers equipment information and performs an overall site assessment. These findings are used to compare how the pump station was designed to operate versus its actual current function. There can be a variety of reasons for a pump station not meeting expected operating specifications, including piping or valve issues, clogging, or poor equipment selection. The results can help reduce costs by improving pump efficiency, increasing station flexibility, and extending the lifespan of the pump.
“Rather than having to fix an issue that has already occurred, these audits truly involve a change in mentality,” said Water/Wastewater Practice Leader Ryan Flickinger, PE. “We’re helping our clients stay ahead of the curve by regularly analyzing what’s going on at the pump station.”
After our team conducts an audit, engineers compile a detailed report, along with a simple two-page overview that includes a summary of findings and recommendations for system improvements. This deliverable allows the most important information to be shared easily with stakeholders, while also providing all the necessary documents required to own and maintain the station. The data can also be bundled and delivered into a package that easily exports into an existing GIS and asset management system and serves as a useful tool to document compliance with federal and state energy conservation requirements.
After performing numerous assessments, our team has noticed two reoccurring trends. Often times a pump station is designed for anticipated future growth; however, for reasons such as conservative regulations or changing economic conditions, development may not have met original expectations. While it is important to accommodate low and peak flow periods, oversized pumps can lead to excessive electrical loads and downstream capacity issues. Conversely, undersized pump stations can’t support additional growth. In this case, pumps may be running continuously, resulting in excessive electrical costs.
In one instance, KCI was called out to analyze a town’s 30-year old pump station because a new development was being built upstream. Although well maintained, the 300 gallon-per-minute pump station was running for 14 hours per day, and according to the theoretical flows, the force main and pumps would need to be upgraded to accommodate the new houses. After completing the audit, our team discovered that the force main was clogged in many places, and the pump station was actually pumping at 27 gallons-per-minute, less than 10 percent of what it was designed for. After cleaning the force main, the pump station began pumping 280 per gallons-per-minute and pump run times decreased from 14 hours to about 60 to 70 minutes per day. This simple fix freed up enough capacity for the development and saved the town millions of dollars by eliminating the need for upgrades.
Although everything may look and sound fine, it’s worth making sure we know what we have in existence before pursuing the substantial upgrades.
J. Ryan Flickinger, PEPractice Leader
While regular maintenance can be time consuming, these efforts can dramatically increase the efficiency of a system. In the future, our team plans to create a mobile app that will give operators the ability to perform on-going audits themselves. With the station’s parameters already set up, a quick on-site audit could help address any red flags before they become a problem.