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What is a Pumping Station?

Home » What is a Pumping Station?

Most sewerage systems in the built environment work using gravity where wastewater flows through pipes from a high point to a low point. Sometimes however due to a number of circumstances this is not possible and wastewater must be transferred from a low point to a high point. As water does not run uphill by itself this is where a pumping station is required.

A pumping station or packaged pumping station is an electro-mechanical system consisting of three key parts. A wet-well, the pumps and the control system.

What makes up a pumping station?

The wet-well is a chamber constructed commonly from polyethylene, glass-reinforced plastic or concrete and is buried in the ground. This tank collects the sewage/surface water and stores it until the pumps activate. It’s critical when designing a pump chamber three factors are taken into account:

  • It must provide sufficient emergency storage for the daily inflow. In a sewage system this would mean 24-hours’ worth of foul water. For a surface water system, it would be the volume of rainfall from the drained hardstanding during a storm event.
  • The tank must be of sufficient depth to allow for the above volume. Ideally this storage would be provided wholly below the lowest inlet pipe into the tank to prevent surcharging and reduce the risk of flooding.
  • The chamber is sized to minimise the number of pump activations over the course of 24-hour hours. If the tank is too small the pumps will be switching on/off repeatedly which could lead to motor damage.

The majority of modern wastewater pumping stations utilise submersible pumps which are mounted within the wet-well. The pumps are not fixed in place, instead they hook onto the pipework at the bottom of the chamber and are held in place under their own weight. This makes them safer and easier to maintain as they can be removed for maintenance from the surface.

Pumps will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • In sewage applications solids handling capability or ‘free passage’ is critical. This is the maximum sized solid the pump can comfortably pass. Larger is generally better with 50mm and 65mm being common for domestic/light commercial applications.
  • Discharge flow rate – this is traditionally determined by the inflow rate; you want to be able to pump out as quickly as the wastewater is coming in. However in more and more instances the flow rate is governed by a discharge consent restriction set by the local authority which restricts how quickly you’re allowed to pump into the public sewer system.
  • Estimated pump head – normally in ‘metres head’ – calculated from a combination of static head (invert level to sewer invert) and frictional head or losses in discharge pipework.
  • Available power supply.

How does a pumping station work?

The system is designed to operate from pre-determined levels within the pump chamber. When the level in the sump reaches the “Duty Start” level, Pump No.1 is started and runs until the liquid level in the chamber drops below the “Stop” level. If the level continues to rise it will reach the “Standby Start” level, Pump No.2 is then started and both pumps will run until the liquid level in the chamber drops below the “Stop” level. However, if the inflow exceeds the combined pumping rate of duty and standby pumps the high-level alarm float will eventually be reached and the warning will appear on the control panel display.

Common examples of pump station application

  • Basement conversions, house extensions and annexes – small pump stations to lift toilet/sink waste or water run-off from tanking/small roofs.
  • Housing developments – Sewage pumping stations for single/multiple houses on lower areas of the site. Surface water pumping stations taking rainwater run off from roads/driveways and roofs.
  • Industrial/commercial estates – Collecting and discharge process effluent. Surface water pumping stations attached to large lagoons or attenuation tanks with discharge consent restriction.
  • Any brownfield site sat below the public sewer level

If you’re looking for more information or even some assistance with your pumping station requirements, please feel free to contact our engineering team on 0113 2860813 for free advice.