Multi-Screw Volumetric Feeder Simplifies Lime Feed

The 14 mgd Riverside Water Treatment Plant serving Johnstown, PA, has been in operation since 1985.

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by Paul Harnish & Dan Helms

The 14 mgd Riverside Water Treatment Plant serving Johnstown, PA, has been in operation since 1985. The plant, together with its 5 mgd sister facility, the Saltlick treatment plant in Mineral Point, provides drinking water for approximately 21,700 customers in Cambria and Somerset counties, including 15 boroughs and townships.

In addition to the two water filtration plants, the Greater Johnstown Water Authority (GJWA), managed by RDM, has more than 300 miles of water main lines, 17 pumping stations and 33 water storage facilities with more than 25 million gallons of water storage, which represents approximately 400 percent of daily demand. Average water consumption is around 6.5 mgd, with 10 mgd peak consumption in the summer.

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In January 2011, the plant retrofitted its post filtration lime system with a Type 405 Volumetric Multiscrew Feeder from ProMinent USA. Photo by Hannah Phillips.

Although a number of expansions and improvements have been made to the direct filtration facility over the years, the Riverside plant operates today essentially as it was originally designed. Treatment processes include rapid mix, flocculation, direct filtration and chlorination. The plant operates eight dual media filters. Lime is added both pre- and post-filtration for pH adjustment.

Pre-filtration pH is maintained at approximately 6.5. The plant draws from three reservoirs at various times of the year, and raw water pH dictates lime feed rates. Target post-filtration pH is 7.3 to 7.5. Three lime feeders are used; one for pre-filtration, one for post-filtration and the third unit is typically used as a back-up unit when one of the other two are being serviced.

Recently, the plant needed to identify less maintenance-intensive replacements for its three lime feed units that had been in operation since the facility first came on line. The design of the gear-driven feed units were more than acceptable 25 years ago, but over time the units had become labor intensive and growing problems with the feeders resulted in excessive operating and maintenance costs.

In January 2011, the plant retrofitted its post-filtration lime feed system with a Type 405 Volumetric Multi-screw Feeder from ProMinent USA. The unit was installed directly underneath the original system's 1,500-lb capacity hopper. After a local welding/fabricating shop fabricated the stand and necessary fittings for the retrofit, plant personnel had the system up and running in about a day.

Unlike the previous feeder, which rotated a single wound pigtail to push the lime, the new unit uses five interacting, counter rotating feeder screws that create blocking zones, allowing the screws to be self-cleaning during operation. The multi-screw design also ensures that material is discharged over the whole active area of the feeder unit. The multi-screw feeder's 1/3-hp variable-speed motor allows it to feed lime from 0 to 46 lbs. of material per hour.

Continuous Operation

The plant set up the feeder motor with an AC/DC inverter and lime feed rates were established at settings ranging from 1 hz through 60 hz. At 11.5 Hz, for example, the unit feeds 425 lbs of lime per day. Although it has automated capabilities, operators currently run the lime feeder on manual control and make any necessary adjustments based on pH tests every four hours. A simple turn knob changes feed rates, compared to the several hour procedure of re-setting the gears on the old unit.

The new feeder is in continuous operation, continuously feeding lime, but movement of the feed screws is barely perceptible when running at 1 to 6 hz. But by continuously feeding lime, regardless of feed rate, the unit is less susceptible to bridging and clogging. The new unit also provides a much wider feed path. Whereas the previous design had just one 1-inch-wide feed path, each screw on the new feeder provides about a 3-inch-wide feed path, allowing the lime to be pulled out in a much wider area.


The new feeder has performed very well at the Riverside plant, and due to its robust construction there have been no maintenance issues with the unit after almost a year in service. Maintenance staff performs weekly inspections to make certain everything is performing properly, but the only other maintenance activity regarding the feeder was to grease its fittings after six months of operation. There is no lime build-up in the system's dilution tank below the feeder, whereas before, plant maintenance staff would have to remove half a 5-gallon bucket's worth of clogged lime paste once a week.

The new multi-screw feeder serving the Riverside Plant provides continuous flight, forced discharge, and self-cleaning capabilities. Its discharge curve is linear, which contributes to its accuracy of better than 1%. This enables both batch and continuous processes to be accurately controlled. Because the multi-screw design ensures that material is discharged over the whole active area of the feeder, the material is prevented from bridging, ensuring that the principle of "first in, first out" is maintained.

Total Conversion

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ProMinent Type 405 with 5 feeder screws and empty level/arch indicator.

After the successful retrofit and operation of the multi-screw feeder, management determined the plant was saving about 20 hours a month in maintenance time and consequently elected to also retrofit the plant's two remaining gear-driven lime feed systems with ProMinent Type 405 feeders. Once the two retrofits are complete, total time required for operation and maintenance for lime feed is estimated to be 95% less than with the original lime feed systems.

About the Authors: Paul Harnish is Maintenance Specialist for RDM-Johnstown, PA. He may be contacted at Dan Helms is Regional Manager for ProMinent USA. He may be contacted at

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