The Importance of Lift Station Monitoring
Lift stations are a key asset and sometimes overlooked in plant process monitoring. A lift station, in theory, should be your first priority, your main line of defense. They are a principal component in your sewer system. They protect our customers from flooding, the environment from accidental overflows, and prevent lawsuits and claims. In most cases, we rarely think of them or they are an afterthought. We are always more concerned about our most costly facility, the main plant. This is where our employees spend most of their time, and we tend to overlook our remote stations. In today’s day and age of fast communication we need to have information as quickly as possible, to protect our most vital assets like our employees, infrastructure, and the environment. To achieve that, lift station monitoring is essential.
Protection of the Environment
This is what we signed up for when we took the job at our local city, village, county, Ohio EPA, US EPA or private company. “Protect” is the key word because it is all encompassing. How well do you think you are doing in the area of protection?
Do you have an early warning system when it comes to your remote monitoring of lift stations? Is your building or site protected? Do you know what your wet well level is at a moment’s notice? Are your pumps being monitored for run times, pump failure, pump rotation, or electrical current usage? Do you monitor the temperature in your building to make sure it is not too hot or too cold? If you answer no to any of these you are setting yourself up for a costly failure at some point.
You may think your system is protected but how do you really know?
Most times, trouble strikes when nobody is readily available to circumvent it. My example is simple, a real case scenario happened at a local lift station monitored by radio communication with a PLC on site. Communications went down one day around four o’clock in the afternoon. It seems this site was having radio problems from time to time due to conditions in the area. The time of day is significant, because most of the plant personnel end their shift around then. The operator reported the outage, and the supervisor wanted to have someone check it out. However, that would require a three hour call-in and overtime, which would cost approximately $120. It can wait until morning, he thought. As events unfolded, that lift station ended up malfunctioning overnight. The damage costs ran into thousands of dollars.
As it turns out, the communication failure was not due to site conditions, but a theft. The culprit had been tracking activity at the remote lift station and knew he would not be noticed on the property at that time of day. He was driving a truck, as many city workers do, and the lack of a city decal wouldn’t have been immediately apparent to any passersby. Within minutes he had broken in and removed everything of value from the station. Had remote monitoring been in place for the facility, alerts could have been sent that the door had been breached. Instead, it was written off as a radio comm fail and ignored.