A lift station is a waste management system that is used whenever there is waste producing plumbing fixtures, or drain lines that are lower than the sewer line. They allow for the sewage to be pumped into the sewer line, so that gravity can then do its job of carrying the sewer to the municipal sewer system.
There are several types of systems that are commonly used, depending on the application. They range from simple, single fixture units, to huge commercial systems. Let’s first take a look at some of the most common.
Types of Sewer Lift Stations The simplest form of lift station is a single fixture system. Let’s say that you have a basement in your home, and have a sink in the basement. Since the sink itself is lower than sewer main line, you will need a lift station to pump the waste up where it can drain into the main.
This type of “single fixture” style ejector is often comprised of a small basin with a single ejector pump. There will be a float that turns the pump on when the water reaches a certain level. There will also be a check valve to make sure the water does not drain back into the basin, and probably a “high water” alarm, to warn you if the pump fails for whatever reason.
If you have a home where the sewer line is lower than the connection to the municipal sewer connection, you will use a more elaborate system. Since all the sewage from your entire home will go through the system, you will want to make sure that your lift station can handle the load. The pumps themselves will be bigger and more robust, and you will want to have two of them.
You will also have a control panel that alternates between the two pumps, with a failsafe float that allows for both pumps to turn on at the same time if needed to keep the basin from overflowing. There will also be a high water alarm. In these systems, you will usually have a bottom float that powers the system, a second float that tells the control panel to start pumping, a 3rd pump that tells the panel that both pumps need to be switched on and a 4th float that activates the high water alarm.
For commercial applications, the same basic set up is used, but sized appropriately for the amount of sewage that needs to be pumped, the “lift” (how high it needs to be pumped), and the distance (how far the sewage needs to travel before gravity can take over).
What Can Go Wrong with Lift Stations As with anything plumbing related, sewage ejection systems can fail. Unfortunately, when a lift station fails it is very, very messy, as you can likely imagine. This is why it is very important to make sure that regular testing and maintenance is done to ensure they do not fail.
One of the most common reasons for failure is poor choices in the design of the system itself, or low quality components. This is especially true with the pumps. Make sure that the pumps you use are rated for the maximum amount they will need to pump. You also want to make sure that the design of them fits your needs. While a home may want to use a “grinder” pump to make sure the waste is small enough to be easily carried down the line, a night club may do better with a “Vortex” pump that will not easily clog when people flush things they should not.
Pumps do wear out over time, floats stop working, relays on the control panel go bad, etc. so it is important to regularly test your system with clean water to make sure everything functions as it should. Using fresh water from time to time can also help to rid the system of the sludge that tends to accumulate at the bottom of the basin over time.
Making sure you have a properly set up system that is regularly checked and maintained is really the best way to ensure that you do not find yourself dealing with a huge mess. At Allstar Plumbing, we have experts in sewer lift stations that can check your system for you, repair any issues that may arise, or even upgrade your system for you.