Sewer and Water Season is Ramping Up

Summer is the time for solutions that will impact your utilities for decades to come.

We’re at the leading edge of summer, and your utilities are no doubt taking advantage of the season to dig into your biggest projects of the year. Or maybe you’re taking on your biggest projects of the year without doing any digging at all.

Regardless, everything ramps up this time of year. In Cape Fear, North Carolina, winter isn’t harsh enough to put much work on hold, but summer is still a busy time for the dedicated pump station maintenance crew at the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, featured in this issue of Municipal Sewer & Water.

The utility’s service area is very flat geographically, so the collections system is dependent on 142 pump stations. The utility has built a dedicated team of five pump station crews, each consisting of a foreman, mechanic and operator. Two electricians cover the entire system — one focusing on generator service and another on the telemetry and SCADA systems. The utility also operates a pump station repair and refurbishing shop.

Dedicating more resources to the pump station maintenance crew has shifted focus away from reactive emergency response. The crew is now devoting 60 percent of its time to preventive maintenance, and overtime has been cut in half. After-hours emergency calls are also way down.

The system continues to expand, and with four pump stations under construction and a fifth being upgraded, the crew is making sure the wastewater keeps flowing along these coastal flats.

Things are different in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, where the terrain is anything but flat. Between the topography and semi-arid conditions, infrequent but sometimes heavy rains can cause major problems, especially in San Ramon Canyon.

Imagine landslides along the canyon wall, soil and debris piling up in the canyon bottom, and water overflowing and taking out whole sections of the roadway in an important travel corridor. That’s the scenario that prompted the city’s Department of Public Works to take aggressive action.

The plan called for diverting stormwater through a series of pipes that discharge into the ocean through a new outfall structure designed and sculpted to match the bluff. At the same time, the award-winning project has restored the canyon’s original bottom elevation and rebuilt portions of the roadway — all of that under budget and with minimal traffic disruption.

Odds are you’re not in the midst of anything that dramatic, but sometimes it’s the lower-profile projects, the small successes, that provide the best examples for your peers.   

I’d like to hear about your projects. Whether you’re taking on a big replacement or rehabilitation project, mapping all your system assets or tackling a new process in-house, I’m always interested in hearing about the challenges you’re facing and what you’re doing to overcome them. Feel free to email me at

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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