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A pump station, otherwise known as a pumping station or a sewage pumping station, is a storage and collection chamber that lifts and distributes wastewater or sewage when it cannot naturally be carried by gravity.
This guide will look at pump stations in more detail, including how they work, why and when they are used, their pros and cons, and the types of pump stations available.
Where are Pump Stations Used & Why?
Pumping stations are used in a variety of applications. Housing estates, hospitals, commercial sites, schools, and other public and private establishments all use them.
They have several purposes, but primarily they:
- Transport sewage or wastewater to a sewage system in instances when gravity cannot naturally carry the sewage (such as up an incline); and
- Are a cost-effective alternative to a sewage system that uses gravity.
Why Might you Need a Pump Station?
You might need a pump station if:
- A sewer line travels up an incline or over a ridge.
- The cost of groundworks to allow gravity-based sewage flow is higher than the cost of installing a pump station.
- A gravity system has not been built.
- Sewage needs to travel from a basement floor, which is too low to allow flow by gravity.
How Pump Stations Work
A pump station works by collecting sewage or wastewater and storing it in a chamber. When the collected sewage reaches the maximum level, the sewage is lifted through a discharge system using a high-pressure integral pump. The liquid is then pumped into a sewage treatment works or gravity sewer.
A float switch or a liquid level sensor is used to closely monitor the levels. When the sensor or float switch is triggered, the pump station switches on. Once all the liquid has been carried away, the station switches off. Depending on the application, some stations use a single pump, while others use multiple.
Often times, a pump station operates entirely on its own, and does not need to be manually switched on and off thanks to automated design features.
The Two Categories of Pump Stations
There are two main categories of pump stations: private pump stations and adoptable pump stations.
Private Pump Stations
Private pump stations are installed at developments that are run privately, in both the commercial and residential sectors. These stations are used for removing wastewater or sewage from properties that do not have access to the main sewage systems.
Adoptable Pump Stations
Adoptable pump stations are installed at large-scale or public applications and must be compliant with all sewage, construction, and water company requirements. These stations are used for removing sewage or wastewater in public sewage systems.
Pros and Cons of Pump Stations
Pump Stations Pros
Some of the biggest advantages of installing a pump station are:
- Pump stations are convenient and (in some cases) cost-cutting when new sewage systems are installed.
- A pump station has a remote monitoring system, which means that operators can keep updated with the system’s functioning without being on site.
- Pump stations automatically pump sewage without needing manual intervention, reducing the risk of injury and health effects.
- A pumping station can be tailored to both commercial and domestic applications, with different pump sizes and capacities.
- Pumps typically have a wide intake to prevent blockages (although blockages are still a primary challenge in all pumping applications).
- Alarms are fitted in pumping stations to alert operators to functioning issues, reducing the risk of overflowing sewage.
Pump Stations Cons
The setbacks of pumping stations are:
- To ensure that they are fit for purpose and reliable, pump stations need to be expertly designed and installed, and the cost of hiring an expert to design and install a pumping station can be expensive.
- Although pump stations do not require a lot of electricity, power usage must be considered, especially if the system is overused.
- Sourcing parts for pump stations can sometimes be difficult.
- Buildups of grease and fat can affect the reliability of the system.
- While pumps are designed to avoid blockages, there is still a risk that the system could become blocked.
Selecting a Pumping Station
There are many types and sizes of pump stations, each designed for a specific purpose. When selecting a pumping station, a utility should consider:
- The size of a property;
- The consistency of the waste that needs to be transported away (i.e. is it water or sewage?);
- The amount of liquid that needs to be transported;
- The type of incline that is needed; and
- The distance that the liquid will need to travel before gravity can take over.
Pump stations are the best solution for transporting wastewater and sewage when gravity is not strong enough for the job (or a gravity system is not practical). Pump stations can be installed in public and private applications, and are automatic devices that do not require manual input. Although pumping stations are expensive and have a low risk of blockages, their long-term benefits usually make them worth the investment.