Wastewater Lift Stations

By Keith Hegney, Wastewater Technical Advisor – West  |  (North Dakota Water magazine, December 2022 issue)

 A wastewater lift station is a critical piece of infrastructure included as part of your sanitary collection system. While most wastewater generated by households and businesses are collected and moved through a gravity sanitary pipe, lift station collect the wastewater at a low point in the collection system and pumps to the next gravity line or to a treatment facility. In most cases a wastewater lift station includes a wet well to temporarily store wastewater, two or more pumps, float controls, piping, a valve vault, a control panel, radio communication devices and a backup generator. The lift station pumps wastewater through a pressurized pipe, known as a forcemain that transfers the wastewater to an ultimate discharge point or a higher elevation.

Regular Maintenance.  Most municipalities have a sewer department that is responsible for regular maintenance of the wastewater collection system. Lift station require regular attention by your municipality’s maintenance department to ensure that all components are in proper order. These can include:

  • Daily or weekly checks for obstructions or build-up of material that may clog the pumps;
  • Regular wet well cleaning to reduce grease buildup;
  • Exercising of valves (gate valves and check valves;
  • Annual flushing or jetting;
  • Jetting lines for cleaning and televising all collection system pips on a 3-5 year cycle
In the event of a lift station failure, by either a forcemain break, power outage or pump failure, wastewater will collect in the lift station wet well and back up into the collection system. This could result in sewer backups into homes or cause wastewater to overflow from the lift station to the surround environment. Wastewater lift stations are also susceptible to clogs from fats, oils and grease (FOG) generated by restaurants and businesses, as well as “flushable” rags from households and multi-unit residential buildings. Wastewater lift stations can be a source of bad odors that become a nuisance to neighboring properties. The smelly hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas from the collected sewage is also highly corrosive and can damage the wet well structure, the piping and pumps over time. H2S gases can also be reduced by vent filters.

(Mandan’s Engineering Department believes that while these concerns are true, there are a lot of fail-safes in place to prevent disaster. Regular maintenance and rehabilitation of the system proves to be very important.)

Lift Station Repair of Costs. Depends on the size, condition and maintenance history of your wastewater collection system.