City to replace lift station pump damaged by flushed diapers

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – They may be advertised as safe for flushing, but they’re not safe for the city’s sewer system.

The City Council Tuesday approved a $25,970 fix for pumps at the County PP lift station damaged by disposable wipes, adult and baby diapers and other items.

“We have had an ongoing problem with rags and diapers clogging the pumps at the PP lift station,” Director of Public Works/ City Engineer Bill Immich told the council. “We’re spending a lot of money cleaning those things up.”

In a memo to the council explaining the issue, Immich said the clogs have gouged the metal on the pumps. Additionally, he wrote, “the clogging also causes the pumps to vibrate which caused the shaft from the motor to the pump to allow water to get through the seals. That creates the situation where the motor oil has water in it.”

He explained that, as a result, the city has to have the pumps pulled, cleaned and maintained roughly every three months, at a cost of around $3,000 each time.

“This has been an ongoing problem, not just in Plymouth but (in the) state and nationwide,” Immich wrote in his memo. “With the increase of flushable diapers, sewer lines and pumps have become clogged more and more.”

Immich said Sabel Mechanical of Fond du Lac, which has been doing the pump repairs, has recommended replacing them with a Flygt pump that has worked in other communities to move diapers through the system without clogging. The pump would cost $22,970 with $3,000 for installation.

Other options considered included a $50,000 shredder, but Immich said he concurred with the recommendation for the new pump.

He noted that, if the city is not satisfied with the results with the new pump after six months, Sabel will take the pump back and refund the $22,970 pump cost.

“They’re confident and I’m quite confident that this will work,” Immich told the council. “This pump should last us 20 years.”

“We are spending $6,000 to $10,000 a year to pay for cleaning, so this is going to pay for itself in a few years,” Alderman Jim Sedlacek commented.

The council also approved the sale of an electrical transmission line from the Willow Road substation to County PP to American Transmission Co. for around $200,000.

City Administrator/Utilities Director Brian Yerges said it is one of the few such lines still owned by Plymouth Utilities, which is a minority owner of ATC.

“We don’t really service this,” Yerges said of the transmission line. “We would have to rely on a third party to maintain or restore it so this is a risk management issue.”

He said the sale would probably not close for four or five months, since it has to go through state and federal approval processes first.

The proceeds from the sale, Yerges said, could be used to pay for several sewer and utility projects the city is planning this year.

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