Information Key to Prevention

It is more and more apparent as I make my living in the business of temporary bypass pumping that a pump station never fails at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday when it is sunny and 70°.
Many municipalities have a “pump guy”—that salesperson who calls on you from your local pump vendor who you can always call at 3 a.m. and trust that he will come to the pump station’s rescue.
Often as a salesman I found myself in a catch-22 situation where I had built enough of a relationship with my customer that he felt confident to call me to his or her rescue at 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve when it was raining sideways.
However, I was scrambling to get enough information to correct the problem effectively. As a sales manager, I see my sales staff fighting the same battles and not having enough information when they respond to an emergency. The situation could have a much happier ending with a little effort from both sides.
As a municipal manager your employees can assist your vendor in protecting you against lift station disasters by creating contingency plans. A contingency plan is an advantageous and simple tool to put into place.

Pump person
First, if you do not have the aforementioned pump person, find one. They are out there. Hopefully, they have been calling on you for your temporary bypass needs. There are several reputable companies with a long track record of successful bypass operations both large and small.
Second, pick five to eight pump stations to begin with. If your municipality has 30 or 40 stations, it is a lofty goal to think that you can visit all of them in one day. And many of them are small and can be handled with a vacuum truck. Many of you have a few problematic stations that are always going down. You want these to be first on your list. There are usually a couple of stations that may not cause a lot of trouble, but would be a huge problem if they went down.
Finally, schedule a day with your vendor to visit these stations and perform a job walk at each station, as if you were going to bypass it that day. Make sure your vendor takes extensive notes.
Here are some of the main questions to consider, some of which are often overlooked:

  • Access: how will I get the equipment to a remote site?
  • Can a tractor-trailer turn around if the pumps need to be transported in this manner?
  • Can I fit the required size of pumps through the gate?
  • If material handling equipment is required, are there utility lines in the way?
  • How will I connect the pumps into the force main? More often, stations are being designed with flange connections, but if your station has none where will you go? One does not want to be installing 2,000- 5,000 ft of pipe in the dark as the wet well level rises.
  • If the pumps will connect to a flange or fitting, what is the type and size?
  • What is the total discharge head on the force main? Ensure that your figure, even if it is in psi, includes both static head and friction losses in the force main piping.
  • What is the static suction lift? If it is greater than 25 ft, can I use a submersible pump head and what are the ramifications of surcharging the wetwell?
  • How much storage time does the wet well allow?
  • What is the peak flow on the station?
  • What is the horsepower rating of the installed pumps?
  • Are there homes nearby?
  • Will silenced pumps be required?
  • Who will set up the bypass?

When all of these questions have been addressed, your vendor should be able to size the pumps appropriately. Remember, it is much easier to attain most of this information during the day when no emergency is imminent.
Once your vendor has all of this information compiled, he or she can create a contingency plan for each station.
I require my sales force to assemble all the information in a notebook. It should have daily, weekly and monthly pricing. Each plan should also have delivery and setup rates during regular working hours and after hours. Each plan should specify who is responsible for material handling and setup labor.
Finally, each site should have complete directions. Many of your stations are off the beaten path, and your vendor will be looking for them in the dark. Mileages and good landmarks are imperative.
Give your vendor a little time—maybe a couple of weeks—to complete your plans. I always have my staff hand-deliver the notebook, and bring along the copy that was made for our shop.
This step is very important. Your pump person might live a couple of hours from the branch. My staff keeps these notebooks at the branch, so whoever arrives first can immediately begin loading the necessary equipment.
With these plans complete, you can sleep easier at night knowing that when that problem station goes down again, you already have a solution on the way.
Furthermore, you know what it will cost you up front to perform the operation. During an emergency, there is simply no substitute for good planning. Make contingency plans part of your workweek and rest easier knowing you are prepared for the inevitable emergency.

Doug Bartholomew is on the applications management team for MSP Rents. He can be reached at 704/201-9200 or by e-mail at d.bartholomew@msprents.com.

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