Apr 23, 2018

Get Out of the Chopper

Truck stop chopper pump replacement Reduces service calls

Kailey Habermann writes on reducing service calls through chopper pump replacement

The truck stops and travel centers dotted along North America’s highways have long been places of refuge for long-haul truck drivers and families alike as they traverse the continent. 

Beyond having the basics of fuel and bathrooms, many locations have accommodations to do laundry, take a shower, have a hot meal, use the business center or even visit an onsite urgent care clinic. Pilot Flying J is the largest travel center chain in North America. With more than 750 locations across the U.S., Pilot Flying J facilities cater to the needs of thousands of travelers every day. 

Eddie Slater, owner of Slater Plumbing & Mechanical, is most familiar with the Pilot facility located on State Route 99 in Bakersfield, Calif. Slater, whose company provides commercial and residential plumbing services, has been supporting the location for more than six years. If there was one thing that he could count on, it was that at least once a week, he would be called out to the Bakersfield location to clean and unclog the facility’s wastewater chopper pumps.

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The Monster manhole is a prefabricated fiberglass-reinforced polyester system that includes a grinder, guide rails, a ladder, piping and a hatch-type access lid.

Chopper Pump in Trouble

The Pilot had a lift station that was continuously being overrun with tough debris—rags, mop strings, diapers and sometimes even clothing. This was more than the station’s chopper pump was ever designed to handle. For more than six years, Slater was on call 24/7 and making trips regularly to unclog the pumps and ultimately prevent sewage spills. Each unscheduled maintenance trip was costing Pilot $500 to $2,000, depending on the severity of the clog, with a total bill that eclipsed $100,000 some years.

The grinder pump clogs were not only a massive expense, but also negatively affected the ongoing operations of the truck stop. Slater’s response time was always speedy, but he could not be on site instantaneously. On one busy day at the travel center, the pumps clogged while sewage continued into the lift station. Before normal pump operations could be restored, sewage overflowed the wet well and flooded the Pilot location as well as a connected restaurant. 

The health department forced both locations to close their doors until the cleaning and sanitation were complete. The incident was topped off with a fine imposed on Pilot related to the spill.

Desperate Times

Pilot Flying J was desperate to fix this problem and needed to find a solution fast. It had worked with JWC Environmental at other locations across the U.S. for sewage grinder solutions to protect pumps. 

“This one was killing us. We were spending tons of money to keep this lift station operating—we really needed JWC’s help,” said Joey Cupp, senior environmental manager for Pilot. The Bakersfield site was more difficult than the typical grinder installation because there was no room to install the grinder inside the wet well.

Tom Smith, JWC national accounts manager supporting Pilot, evaluated the situation and determined that the Monster Industrial Manhole was the best option to fight the chopper pump clogs. The prefabricated fiberglass-reinforced polyester manhole system includes the Monster Industrial Hydro grinder, guide rails, an access ladder, inlet and outline piping, and a manhole or hatch-type access lid. 

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The new chopper pump system reduced the number of service calls necessary to unclog the truck stop lift station.

Fix in a Flash

With the amount of money being spent weekly on maintenance, any delays were costing Pilot hundreds if not thousands of dollars, so expediting the unit was crucial. The manhole was shipped and arrived within days ready for installation. Slater and his crew were able to dig down to the inlet pipe, cut the sewage line, drop the manhole into place and make the connections. With the typical one-day-or-less setup, the manhole was installed and functioning.

Slater credits JWC’s industrial sewage grinder for solving the massive chopper pump clogs, downtime and expenses related to clearing the flushed debris. He has not been back to the site to unclog pumps since the grinder was installed. 

“We are big fans of the grinders. We have other customers with similar problems and have purchased three grinders since the Pilot installation,” Slater said.

About the author

Kailey Habermann is marketing associate for JWC Environmental LLC. Habermann can be reached at [email protected]

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