Above Ground Pumping Improves Texas School District’s Operations

May 15, 2019

Klein ISD had 12 out of 20 lift stations replaced by wet well mounted pump stations by Smith & Loveless

The Challenge

Would it be hard to get good grades in school if you did not have the tools to succeed academically, such as textbooks, paper and computers? Likewise, for school district maintenance departments and small utilities that manage sewage systems, not having the right operator safety and maintenance tools or resources can make a significant difference on the bottom line. 

Steve Cox is the maintenance supervisor for mechanical, electrical and plumbing at Klein Independent School District near Houston. He is responsible for managing all facility maintenance for a burgeoning school district comprised of 50,000 students, 30 elementary, 9 intermediate and four high schools – and 20 wastewater lift stations. However, as time progressed and employee safety requirements tightened, the specialized maintenance and service protocols required for certain lift stations have become impossible for district staff to handle internally and become too costly.

“Unless it winds up being an electrical issue above ground, which is very rare, we are calling a contractor 95% of the time,” Cox said.

That is because the district has historically installed typical submersible pumping systems. These systems require protocols that can include multiple personnel and significant amounts of specialized equipment to meet OSHA and other Class 1 Div. 1 standards, such as hoists, safety harnesses, gas monitoring equipment and a vac truck.

These items are not feasible for Klein ISD to possess. Therefore, the district is forced to outsource submersible pumping system repairs to outside contractors at a considerable cost.

“When a submersible goes out, it’s contractor time,” said Cox. “My technician lets them in the gate and that’s about it. We don’t even have the equipment to pull the pump. In almost every instance, this has required the total draining and cleaning of the wet well with a vac truck, renting of a temporary pump, and a significant cost related to the repair or total replacement of the pump,” Cox said.

The Solution

To become more self-sufficient and minimize operations costs, Klein ISD is in the process of converting as many of these pumping systems to above-grade wet well mounted pump stations from Smith & Loveless. These systems feature all pumps, piping, valves and controls installed outside of the wet well, at grade level, making operation and maintenance simpler, safer and more economical than other systems. Wet Well Mounted Pump Stations require none of the tools or safety protocols associated with submersibles. Their pre-engineered standard designs promote superior operator knowledge and common troubleshooting practices. 12 of the district’s 20 lift stations have been converted to wet well Mounted Pump Stations so far, according to Cox.

The Results

Because of the above-grade pump stations, one single full-time lift station technician is now able to operate and maintain all of the district’s lift stations. The technician easily and safely inspects each of the district’s 12 above-grade stations on a regular basis by walking up and opening the lightweight enclosure. The technician has total access to all mechanical and electrical equipment—including the pump internals after removal of just four bolts. And when desired, remote monitoring and station communication is available.

This allows the technician to follow the manufacturer’s operation instructions and minimize downtime. With familiar designs and frequent inspection, the technician has developed a level of operational knowledge and it continues to improve with every new day and additional lift station conversion.

“With the S&L [above-ground] stations, we can do just about everything without a problem and with just one guy,” Cox said. “Problems are not a very common occurrence. The S&L stations run very well.”

In addition to reducing labor and contractor costs, there have been zero repairs or replacements by outside contractors to S&L pumps over the last decade. Klein has benefited from the level of project support provided by manufacturer Smith & Loveless. S&L has provided the district with direct engineering support, installation and field service training, and help reducing its spare parts inventory.

“It’s so much easier to just let them turnkey the whole thing,” Cox said. “Installation is easier, operation is easier, pretty much everything.”

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