Pennsylvania utility emphasizes longevity and takes a proactive approach to system set-up and maintenance.
The southern border of York County, Pennsylvania, is the Mason-Dixon line, separating it from Maryland. Rich in history, the area saw more than a little action in the American Civil War, but now a different kind of skirmish is happening.
As the Washington, D.C., beltway region and Greater Philadelphia both expand, this rural area is becoming more densely populated. Now a bedroom community to these major metro areas, York County is experiencing a battle to maintain its traditional character against the onslaught of developers eager to profit from the current population boom.
Windsor Township is one of the communities here grappling with responsible development. While its board of supervisors sorts out ordinance issues and regulatory compliance, Director of Public Works Jeremy Trout feels a different kind of obligation. He sees the new infrastructure going into the ground to service burgeoning development as an opportunity to take a proactive approach to system setup and maintenance.
As new gravity lines and force mains are extended from existing systems, his department has the chance to rehabilitate sections of the old infrastructure that are failing due to age.
That’s to be expected, but Trout’s attitude about the new assets is what’s less common these days. Whereas many responsible for funding, planning and implementing maintenance are only concerned with what happens during their tenure, Trout doesn’t believe in kicking that can down the road.
“The guy in my position 45 years ago didn’t think of me and what I’d have to deal with,” he says. “But I am thinking of the guy 25 years from now, who will be having to deal with rehabbing these pipes.”
Trout came by his attitude naturally. He believes there’s a right way to do things, and is determined to do them that way. This view was nurtured by his experience repairing sewage systems, when he worked with his father’s construction company.
“I always wondered why people didn’t do a better job of planning ahead, to be more helpful in making repairs and maintenance not as hard. Why not do a better job designing, so it’s easier? There’s always a right way to do things and a way to just get it done. I wanted to do it right.”
When he was first hired by Windsor Township 14 years ago, Trout looked at all its infrastructure, underground and above. “There was the usual attitude of only fixing things as they broke,” he explains. “We had some lift stations that were 40 years old, and we were holding on to some dinosaurs that should have been replaced even before I got here.”
When he started to explore the condition of these pump stations, what he found disturbed him even more. “Our area is really hilly and causes a piggyback effect. Every time the force main dumps into a gravity system, it stirs up the sulfide gases, releasing them into the gravity lines, which are asbestos concrete. Anything above the waterline gets attacked by those gases and deteriorates. Over years of no one really looking into this, our system was being eaten alive.” It was then he decided to take a proactive approach to system maintenance.
So, when the township created its Act 537 Plan — a required local ordinance in Pennsylvania that addresses existing sewage disposal needs and planning to prevent future problems — in 2005, Trout brought his forward-looking stance to the table. They looked into what was needed to open up sewer capacity for coming development.
Bob Ward Companies, a builder from Maryland, owned 113 acres in Windsor Township and wanted to develop a mix of commercial properties and residential townhomes in an area of the Kreutz Creek Valley they named Panorama Hills. State DEP regulations require municipalities to provide service infrastructure to areas with potential for development, so the township had to initiate a capital improvement project in 2006-07.
“I worked closely with our township engineer, C.S. Davidson, on the whole project and was involved in its design,” Trout recalls. “We took a hard look at what we didn’t like about the old system, and were determined to change it.”
Things get real
The economic crash of 2008 put the project on hold until 2013, when it was resurrected. After reviewing the developer’s plans, it was determined that the township would need to install 2.5 miles of new gravity sewer main running to the Panorama Hills pump station, including 3,600 feet of 21-inch-diameter pipe, 6,500 feet of 18-inch, 3,000 feet of 15-inch, and a little over 700 feet of 8-inch. The latter connected existing lines to an existing interceptor, which was a combination of PVC and ductile iron, where the line runs under Kreutz Creek four or five times.
They also needed to upgrade the same length of 16-inch force main running out of the pump station, which would be laid parallel to the gravity line, 8 feet apart. Stubs for commercial properties and 26 laterals for several residential homes would need to be installed, with 58 manholes constructed to service these lines.
The aging pump station was already undersized, having been designed for rural farmland. It would provide woefully inadequate capacity for future service to the major retail shopping district that had been approved, and the higher-density housing that will ultimately surround it. The old station was abandoned, with the replacement built right across the street.
In total, the Panorama Hills Interceptor Venture project would cost $12 million. Trout wasn’t about to allow any of the value of that significant amount to be jeopardized on his watch.
He made sure the design included capacity in excess of 1 million gpd, far greater than the 100,000 gpd currently running, so that today’s investment could be counted on for service far into the future.
The design was tweaked to avoid problems they were having with two older stations. One large wet well was partitioned, so one side could be shut off for cleaning and repairs without having to shut down the whole station.
To ensure these 24-foot-long by 12-foot-wide and 11-foot-deep rectangular wells would last as long as the building housing them, they were lined with Sprayroq Spraywall to the top of the waterline, then with Sprayshield Green from the waterline to the top of the wall. The work was done by Abel Recon of Mountville, Pennsylvania, the project’s general contractor.
Down the road
Trout made sure several other improvements were made in this new pump station, which will pump sewage from the bottom of the valley up over a hill to a main trunk that takes it to the Springettsbury Township wastewater treatment plant.
“In the old stations, when we had to remove pumps from two stories down, we had to take the steps out to do it. In this one, we designed it so we could open a metal hatch outside and lift the pumps or motors out through the hatch, instead of having to move structures around inside of the vault.”
They also built in a pump port that allows pumping from the station directly into the force main if the station is shut down for any reason. A climate control system was included to keep humidity down, eliminating corrosion of controls and equipment caused by sweating inside the building. This represented more cost savings down the road.
Trout had long been using Sprayroq’s polyurethane foam liner products for other projects and knew he could count on its protective qualities for the pump station’s new wet wells, and he also wanted to use its Spraywall liner in all the new manholes both for its protective and structural qualities.
There was a logistical challenge to this part of the job: Flows couldn’t be interrupted. Performing a bypass would have required a very large, expensive pump, and would have been very time-consuming. This would have prolonged the entire project, which was already being slowed by the weather.
Abel Recon project manager Lowell Mummau decided that instead of trying to bypass, it made more sense to build a new manhole around the existing one, then remove the old one once the new one was finished. Because they only needed one day to build each manhole, this was accomplished using what Abel calls its “flow-through” method.
The crew put an inflatable plug in the upstream side of the manhole and allowed controlled flows through the bottom of it through a smaller pipe, restricting the flow into the outflow downhill. This allowed them to then continue with spray lining, since no water was collecting and creeping up the walls. “Exposure to failure and a bunch of other problems were nearly eliminated this way,” Mummau recalls.
Several bypass and pressure vaults on the force main — averaging 12 by 10 by 8 feet, with a few deeper — were injection pressure grouted, then also sprayed with 125 mils of Sprayshield Green.
Trout encountered no resistance when asking for funding for his more expensive, proactive construction program approach. “The supervisors didn’t really bat an eye. No one felt anything we asked was extravagant. We got no pushback out of the ordinary,” he says, believing that his bosses understood the wisdom of his long-term thinking.
“You might as well do (preventive lining) when it’s brand new, and the easiest time to do it. If you wait until later when you start having problems, it will be more expensive, difficult and disruptive … and it’s still going to need to be done.”