Standby Generators Add Reliability To New Lift Stations

Like many expanding suburbs, Camas, WA, faced the problem of how to update an aging infrastructure -- in particular, its sewage collection system — to meet the needs of the city's growing population.

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Like many expanding suburbs, Camas, WA, faced the problem of how to update an aging infrastructure -- in particular, its sewage collection system — to meet the needs of the city's growing population.

Located on the north bank of the Columbia River, adjacent to Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., this ecologically sensitive town couldn't risk any kind of sewage backup, which was a real possibility if the electric utility serving its several lift stations failed. To increase reliability and safety, the city specified that each new lift station include a standby power generator.

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The pre-engineered lift station at Hunter Ridge in Camas, WA, includes a Cummins Power Generation standby power system. Wet well and other components are submersed under ground-level access doors (center).
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For most of its history, Camas (population: 15,000) relied on gravity-fed lift stations to propel sewage to the treatment plant. But by the 1970s, Camas had grown up, over and beyond Prune Hill, a ridge to the north, and pressure systems became a necessity.

"We had eight or nine older lift stations," said Jim Dickinson, wastewater operations supervisor for Camas, "and they had all been designed differently, making them time-consuming for our crews to maintain and repair. Since about 2003 we have been retrofitting existing lift stations and installing new ones in new subdivisions and developments. The new lift stations are pre-engineered and include a Cummins Power Generation standby power generator."

Pre-engineered Stations

Camas city engineers set several requirements when they began replacing the lift stations. Reliability, easy maintenance and consistency of design and performance were top of the list. Each lift station is pre-engineered by Romtec Utilities, Roseburg, OR, to meet those requirements.

A pre-engineered lift station includes a wet well, two or three submersible pumps, piping, liquid level sensors, underground valve vault, electric pump controls, standby power generator and automatic transfer switch, and communication equipment. All components, including structural, mechanical, electrical, power generation and communications are pre-engineered, delivered as one package and installed in about a week. The result is consistency of design and equipment.

The diesel-powered standby generator sets at the Camas lift stations range from 20 to 200 kW and are either permanently installed or are trailer-mounted units. The power output specification depends primarily on the size of the pump at each lift station, which ranges from 11 to 35 horsepower.

For example, at the Hunter Ridge lift station, twin pump motors require 39.6 kW for starting and 22.5 kW for running. All of the lift stations are required to run both pumps simultaneously if necessary. Besides pump motor horsepower and voltage, other critical performance parameters include starting current; motor efficiency rating; required auxiliary loads, such as generator set controls, lights, heaters and odor control; ambient temperature range; elevation above sea level; anticipated growth in the area served by the lift station; and pollution control requirements.

From these parameters, Jim Stalnaker, sales manager with Cummins Northwest LLC, Portland, OR, determines the engine, alternator and excitation system for each new lift station.

"Some generator sets need to be oversized to handle a motor's higher starting current," he said. "But oversizing can sometimes be avoided by specifying variable frequency drives or solid-state starters to reduce the inrush of current during starting."

All of the generator sets are installed in sound-attenuated enclosures so that they don't disturb the community. "In addition to a low-noise requirement, another ‘must' for the new lift stations is to use the smallest amount of space possible, sometimes just 1,000 square feet," said Sheldon.

Diesel-powered generator sets are installed where possible. Their efficiency reduces footprint and fuel storage requirements. However, natural gas and propane are also used as a fuel source if those fuels are readily available at the site.

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