What is a Lift Station?

November 02, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Reliable lift station infrastructure is essential to human health, our environment, and comfort. Learn how cloud-based wastewater management can help you maximize profits, ensure regulatory compliance, and avoid unexpected maintenance costs.

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What is a lift station?

A wastewater lift station is a pump station designed to move wastewater, or sewage, from a lower to higher elevation using a collection system. These pump stations are often used to move wastewater from residential and commercial facilities to their final destination: wastewater treatment plants.

Sewage lift stations are primarily used to reduce the initial capital construction costs of gravity flow sewer systems. The advantage of this approach is the reduction in excessive excavation costs which involves digging for sewer pipe installation, also known as trench shoring. This often requires digging deeper than 10 feet below the surface to install a sewer line.

While lift stations within a wastewater treatment infrastructure provide inherent advantages over the high costs of underground gravity sewer systems, physically monitoring these lift station assets for equipment health can be labor and time intensive. By making use of SCADA and remote monitoring systems, there are new opportunities to efficiently reduce operating costs. 

In this article you will learn about the important components of a productive lift station, the different types of lift stations, and how to effectively manage your lift station using a cloud-based SCADA system.

What are the components of a lift station?

A lift station consists of several key mechanical components that may need to be monitored for efficiency, repair, or failure.

 Key components of a lift station include:

  • a wastewater receiving well

  • submersible pumps with piping and associated valves

  • motors

  • a power supply system

  • an equipment control and alarm system

  • an odor control system

Lift stations can have exceptional longevity as a functional asset.  Steel lift pumping stations have a typical functional life expectancy of 15-20 years, or possibly more with proactive maintenance. The expected life of the lift station can be attributed to the quality of the ongoing repairs over time. It is therefore important to perform proper maintenance on lift stations. Cloud-based SCADA systems can be very useful because they provide an automated method for ensuring high performance of your lift station regardless of its age.

What are the two types of lift stations?

There are two types of lift stations commonly used in wastewater operations, a dry well or a submersible lift station. A dry well pumping architecture uses a configuration of two collection areas. The wet well section, or pit, is used to collect the wastewater. A complementary dry well that contains the pumps, controls, and equipment is then used to move the water. 

In dry well lift stations, most of the equipment is situated in a separate underground location. This physical separation from the wet well means that it is easier to inspect and access for maintenance

The other type of lift station, a single submersible wet well, is now a more common implementation due to its cost structure. A submersible solids-handling pump is used within a single wet well which is designed to operate under water with an opening submerged inlet. All system components are installed within or contiguous to the single wet well.

Two key advantages of submersible lift stations are:

  1. They typically cost less than dry well stations and

  2. They operate with less frequent pump maintenance.

Submersible lift stations also do not usually include large above ground structures. Instead, they tend to blend in with their surrounding environment.

What are important features of a lift station?

A properly designed wet well is essential for efficient and trouble-free operation of the lift station. The purpose of the wet well is to trigger the pump to activate when there is sufficient water to pump. This can be done by allowing automatic operation of the lift station with a simple control loop. 

The use of the wet well for any other purpose, such as a storage reservoir for sewage, is not recommended. In fact, the wet well should be as small as possible in order to minimize the detention time of the sewage. If the wastewater remains too long in the wet well, septic action may occur. Conversely, the wet well should be large enough so that excessive starting and stopping of the lift station pump will not occur.

A wastewater lift station that is well designed will address several requirements to achieve maximum effectiveness:

  • Minimize human onsite inspection by using automated data acquisition

  • Avoid overflow by detection of high levels in advance

  • Pump capacity must exceed treated wastewater quantity

  • Maintenance and operation should be simplistic and tracked 

  • Future expansion capacity should not be encumbered

  • Odor release should be minimized  

  • Environmental impact of the station should be minimal

Cloud managed lift station

4 Benefits of a cloud-managed SCADA system for lift stations

While it is possible to gather periodic measurements on the equipment within a lift station manually, remote monitoring and control using a cloud-based SCADA system inherently provides more advantages. Cloud-based management is the best solution because it helps you:

1. Reduce maintenance costs and prevent power outages

Industrial wastewater solutions, such as Samsara, provide users with a full data history for efficiency analysis. Custom dashboards can be built for specific needs, and advanced formulas can be utilized to analyze data in real-time. Here, historical performance records can be compared against ideal operating conditions for determination of any equipment abnormalities. This allows proactive maintenance measures to be taken in advance of problems to avoid an unwanted outage situation.

Ben Murphy, the GM at Cobb Area Water, stated “We can go back and look at the history, see if things are looking different than they were a few days ago, catching problems before one of our pump’s motors burns out.”

2. Increase visibility to system performance.

Users of cloud-based wastewater solutions have access to their data from any mobile web browser or smartphone. This helps you minimize human on-site visits to the lift station for equipment inspection. It also ensures that operators can rely on secure and uninterrupted access to their data everywhere that mobile wireless access allows. 

Using the Samsara platform, an unlimited number of credentialed users can securely access the controls and data from any web browser or smartphone. There is no limit to the access provided by the platform that could hinder visibility

3. Ensure compatibility across incumbent platforms.

Cloud managed SCADA systems for lift stations allow you to connect existing programmable logic controllers (PLCs), instrumentation, or sensors already in place at your lift station. This is important as it ensures easy integration with your existing legacy systems. To address this need, Samsara offers controllers supporting multiple protocols and standard sensors common across industrial wastewater solutions.

4. Performance Record Logs for regulatory compliance 

An additional benefit of the Samsara industrial wastewater solution is that it provides historical reports on any piece of data that is important for compliance. This saves operators time since they don’t have to gather data remotely.  Accuracy and timeliness is improved as a result. Reporting can be done instantly without the delay to wait for someone to collect data manually and transpose it into a spreadsheet. Tracking this can be key for archive purposes and removes the human paperwork element from the process. While this is not only beneficial for business purposes, it is also a legal requirement for regulatory compliance. Historical performance data and repairs can be reviewed at any time to highlight past remediation of issues.

Samsara solutions in action

After implementing Samsara’s cloud-based SCADA software, customers can identify immediate benefits for their system operations. 

The city of Jersey Village partnered with Samsara to deploy SCADA with alarms and notifications across their network of lift stations.  They were easily able to measure the direct benefit of the implementation.  Roel Garcia, the operations manager for the city of Jersey Village indicated “Before Samara it was all a surprise. In one instance, we came across a dry well that was completely full of raw water.  It corroded all of our equipment and cost us over $70,000 to repair.”  

Easy implementation was also a concern for Roel. They upgraded some of their equipment and were concerned with the initial handshaking at the onset. However, his concerns were completely alleviated after experiencing the installation process. “With the Samsara, we just wired it in, and it was good to go. It was awesome.”

Cloud Solutions for Wastewater

Lift station pumps and support equipment can now be monitored remotely to deliver reliable service more efficiently. Cloud-based software and industrial controllers with cellular connectivity allow access nearly anywhere lift stations may be located. Multi-protocol support for incumbent solutions means that your current legacy systems will not inhibit your installation or data collection. 

Samsara’s leading industrial wastewater monitoring solutions allow you to manage distributed assets, reduce overtime, and respond to issues immediately.  This platform helps you minimize on-site visits and ensure that operators can prioritize their most important work from anywhere. The system allows you to track operational performance using these standard platform features:

  • Real-time alarms and notifications

  • Unlimited mobile visibility of operational parameters

  • Remote control of set points, pumps, and more.

Connect your system to your existing PLCs, instrumentation, and databases with ease. See why more customers are choosing to simplify SCADA, remote monitoring, and PLC-based control, helping water utilities of all sizes do more with less.

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