Maintenance: From Reactionary to Preventative

The cost of just a few unanticipated downtime events per year could quickly run into the tens of thousands of dollars. So, when it comes to maintenance, it’s better to be prepared and proactive with scheduled downtime than to be caught off guard.

Protect your investment, reduce maintenance expenses, and safeguard your plant’s reputation

By Jay Conroy

Unanticipated downtime is the enemy of water and wastewater treatment plant operators. Unplanned incidents can wreak havoc on maintenance budgets and negatively impact the overall equipment lifecycle and performance of the entire treatment plant. These unexpected interruptions can also catch the eye of local, state, and federal agencies that may impose financial penalties against wastewater treatment facilities that experience violations such as sanitary sewer overflow events. Other hard costs of unanticipated downtime include employee time to resolve issues, third-party repair fees, and equipment repair or replacement costs.

To guard against unexpected interruptions and additional expenses, experienced operators have historically implemented preventative maintenance routines. Whether conducted internally with dedicated staff or coordinated with wastewater equipment manufacturers, preventative maintenance activities can reduce overall maintenance costs and help extend the life of your facility’s equipment.

In-house Preventative Maintenance

When handled internally, preventative maintenance can yield positive results with little additional expense. Starting from the outside looking in, staff can inspect the physical condition of facility grounds, ponds, storage tanks, and buildings. As they move inward, staff should perform periodic inspections and maintenance tasks on equipment and components, including:

• Review of operation and maintenance manuals for equipment-specific tasks

• Visual inspection of equipment for proper function

• Inspection of controls to ensure they’re in good operating condition

• Checking the condition of emergency generators

• Clearing equipment of any accumulated debris

• Spraying off equipment to remove dirt and debris

• Applying rust inhibitor to exposed surfaces

• Greasing bearings with recommended lubricants

• Opening and testing valves throughout the plant

• Inspection and immediate repair of broken or leaking lines

When done properly by internal staff, just a few hours per month of preventative maintenance, conducted without equipment stoppage, can help reduce maintenance costs, improve plant performance, and extend the life of your equipment.

Comprehensive Manufacturer Service Programs

Large equipment and sophisticated components typically require higher levels of expertise in order to provide proper ongoing maintenance. Most reputable water and wastewater equipment manufacturers provide preventative maintenance service programs that can be tailored to fit unique needs and workflow processes across a variety of facilities. Be sure to gain a thorough understanding of your equipment manufacturer’s preventative maintenance offerings and skillsets by asking these important questions:

• Does your manufacturer employ factory-trained field technicians?

• Are they willing to train staff either on-site or at their headquarters?

• Do they offer remote and on-site technical support?

• Are they able to create custom training manuals specific to your plant’s configuration?

• Do they provide weather technical bulletins to address severe circumstances?

Communicate with your equipment providers to ensure they can provide field service technicians on-site at your facility to perform all necessary inspections, adjustments, and tests. Your manufacturers should also provide comprehensive after-service summary reports with information detailing all work completed and recommendations for performance improvements.

Benefits of Preventative Maintenance

It’s better to be prepared and proactive with scheduled downtime than to be caught off guard with unanticipated incidents. Scheduled downtime provides a softer landing than unanticipated downtime, as the cost of just a few unanticipated downtime events per year could quickly run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Whether conducted internally or with support from your equipment manufacturers, scheduled preventative maintenance programs help reduce downtime, minimize overall maintenance costs, and protect your plant’s reputation and customer confidence. WW

About the Author: Jay R. Conroy is founder and president of Hydro-Dyne Engineering and an active member of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), serving on the Board of Directors and as chair of the Marketing and Member Services Committee. For more information about WWEMA, visit

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