The 5 Why’s for Pumping Station Maintenance

Backed up toilets, overflowing manholes and rancid smells can all be signs of an electrical or mechanical failure of a pumping station.  Whilst annoying flashing warning lights and constant soundings of a fault alarm can be ignored the underlying problems won’t go away forever.  By getting a full understanding of these problems always helps towards forming a conclusion and a resulting decision on how to tackle this. 

In the early days of any development, the design of a private pump station ensures that in the event of an emergency situation there is a 24 hour period before any on site engineer needs to attend (also known as 24 hour storage).  While this may vary significantly between developments it means that when you hear or see the alarm it gives you just one day to sort.  If you are delayed in seeing the alarm the period gets even shorter, making the search for a solution even more urgent and, very likely, more costly.

We believe that pump station maintenance plans are important on all developments and below we go over the five main reasons as why we think this is so.

  1. Health Risks – with the constant flow of sewage through the system and old decaying pipework underground the presence of gases in the chamber can become quite significant.  One of the most dangerous is Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) which although heavier than air becomes dangerous at only five parts per million.  That’s like £5 per £1m!  The gas is both toxic and explosive and gives off a smell similar to rotten eggs, best kept underground and not in your bathroom.
  2. Flood Risks – even without the nasty smells and bath full of wastewater isn’t a sight most people relish.  If a flood occurs in a downstairs or basement room with a beautiful carpet it becomes a very expensive restoration project and can lead to persons becoming emotionally detached from the property or development.
  3. Call Out Costs – with the ever growing demand on on-site engineers time and resources trying to secure the right person in the time frame is exceedingly difficult.  When unsuccessful some house owners go for a plumber or electrician who may be able to assist to a certain extent or even call out a tanker company to give them a bit more time to solve the main issue.  In all these cases the problem is not solved but may be deferred giving the person responsible a little more time.  With a maintenance agreement all the details of the pump station including the address, billing details and costs are discussed beforehand making it short work to call out an engineer who carry a lot of equipment in an aim to solve the issue first time and advise on any potential issues or problems that are likely to arise in the future.
  4. Power Usage – the main power consumer in a pump system is the pumps.  In a lot of systems proposed energy efficiency can be as low as 20% with some systems performing well off their ideal range.  With a maintenance plan the constant visits show where the energy and hydraulic efficiencies can be maximised saving energy usage and costs.
  5. Life Span – regular maintenance addresses partial blockages and ensures the system is running as it should.  This prevents excessive wear and premature replacement of wearable parts and will reduce the risk of unexpected emergency call outs.

In the Private Drains and Sewers legislation all existing eligible private pump stations should now be the responsibility of the water authority.  In some cases where the water authorities have attended sites where maintenance has not been taken up, there has been a refusal of adoption until a full track record of the behaviours of the pump station(s) has been identified.