Safe and Clean

The right approach to lift station maintenance makes all the difference.

Safe and Clean

The Warren County (Ohio) Water and Sewer Department needed a new approach to cleaning a 30-foot-deep lift station. The solution was a high-pressure static nozzle attached to the ½-inch hydroexcavation hose on a Vactor 2100i.

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Lift stations are integral parts of wastewater collections systems and keeping them well maintained is critical for maintaining flow and preventing overflows.

Lift stations require routine maintenance, as there can be a significant buildup of trash, rags, towels and other items that do not decompose. Whatever enters the sewer system will be passed into the wet well where it is either removed, or it creates clogs or grease buildups.

One of the biggest obstacles operators of sanitary sewer systems face is fats, oils and grease in lift stations. A very heavy accumulation of grease can form a grease ring, which can be compared to a soap scum ring in a bathtub. If left unattended in a lift station, this ring of grease grows in size, hardens and requires cleaning methods that may cause particles of grease to break off, ultimately clogging the submersible pump and backing up the wet well.

Safety concerns

Adam Osterday and Connor Davis, foremen at the Warren County (Ohio) Water and Sewer Department, and their team monitor and clean more than 70 residential and commercial lift stations within their collections system. Some present more challenges than others.

In one case involving a 30-foot-deep lift station, the team encountered a 2-foot-thick, solid ring of grease blanketed in 2 feet of debris. The combination of grease and debris clogged a 5-foot-tall, 2,500-pound submersible pump, causing the need for immediate replacement.

Davis says the utility tried everything, from a basic garden hose to mixer pumps and spinner nozzles, but nothing was effective.

“The last thing we wanted was to put someone down into that confined space,” Osterday adds. “Safety is our top priority here and that was not safe.”

New approach

When the team encountered the grease issue, Osterday and Davis tapped into the knowledge of Brandon Mitchell, a Jack Doheny Cos. parts, sales and service representative. Mitchell worked with them on an equipment solution to tackle the lift station grease.

In late 2020, the team at Warren County took delivery of a Vactor 2100i from Doheny. The truck employs advanced technology that not only enhances the performance of the equipment but the individuals who operate it. It is designed for less fatigue, more comfort, push-button operation, greater precision and superior power.

To remain safely above and outside of the lift station, Mitchell recommended using the 1/2-inch high-pressure hydroexcavation hose (up to 20 gpm) that extends from the side of the Vactor 2100i, with a hydroexcavation gun and high-pressure nozzle.

It is important to select the proper nozzle to clean safely and efficiently. While standard sewer nozzles with a 10- to 90-degree spray angle and rear jets are ideal for cleaning sewer lines, they are not ideal for use in lift stations. Standard hydroexcavation nozzles — both rotary and static — are lightweight but have a limited reach and impingement force, so the water flow isn’t sufficient to cut through the grease at the bottom of a lift station. For efficient cleaning, a static, zero-degree nozzle delivers an accurate, concentrated water stream. With a high-pressure static nozzle, operators can cut through grease with ease.

To tackle the thick, solid grease ring in the 30-foot-deep lift station, the Warren County crew opted for a Marksman long-distance cleaning nozzle from Hydra-Flex. With a controlled flow that provides optimal cleaning impingement over 20 feet, the Marksman is an ideal fit for cleaning corrosive environments. The precise stream cleans accumulated solids and grease buildup, while its accuracy reduces the operator’s chances of damaging crucial lift station pumps and electrical components.

The Marksman requires the use of a 6-foot (minimum) lance equipped with a dead man switch, giving the operator more control while reducing potential danger. It eliminates the need for multiple lances to reach extended distances, and doesn’t require any confined-space entry for operators. This reduces time and effort on each job. With its low-flow (up to 20 gpm) design, the Marksman also reduces each job’s water consumption and duration.

“We were able to stand above and outside the lift station while cleaning,” Osterday says. “We’ve now eliminated having to put a person in a dangerous, confined space. Time and energy, as well as water use, have been dramatically reduced. Safety remains our top priority along with efficiency, and this has been achieved.”

The right combo

Good maintenance practices are critical for proper lift station performance. Ensuring that the system is free and clean of debris and FOG is the best way to keep the lift station in working order. When it comes to keeping lift stations clean, the right tools will go a long way. Like selecting the right tool from your toolbox — do you need a hammer, a wrench or a screwdriver? — there are proper tools for tackling the job in front of you.

By combining a Vactor 2100i with the Marksman long-distance cleaning nozzle, the team at the Warren County Water and Sewer Department was able to safely clean the lift station and replaced the clogged pump. The equipment helped them save time, energy and water. More important, it kept the crew safe and got the job done. 


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