W_-_Grinder_Pumps_DSCF5843_copyCity of High Springs Streets Superintendent David Benton displays one of the many damaged grinder pumps.

HIGH SPRINGS – After replacing approximately 162 grinder pumps as of March 10, the City of High Springs will be issuing an educational brochure to city residents to teach proper methods for care and maintenance of the pumps which are connected to the town’s centralized wastewater system.

During the March 10 Saturday Town Hall meeting, the wastewater system topped the list of commission priorities for 2012. The city commissioned a study from the engineering firm, Mittauer and Associates, Inc., to decide the best course of action regarding the system and the associated pump failures.

Working with the engineering company, High Springs City Manager Jeri Langman said the city devised a tip sheet for the handling of the systems. Currently, the city loses two to three grinder pumps a month due to issues that could be preventable. Gregory Lang, of Mittauer and Associates, Inc., said a city should have a three to five percent failure rate.  High Springs has been experiencing a much higher rate of failure.

Lang said the company and the city are still trying to understand what is causing the issues with the grinder pumps.

“We think it’s a combination of factors,” he said.

Mittauer and Associates, Inc. directed Langman and the city staff to start organizing a database for the grinder pumps. It would contain detailed reports about each grinder pump failure, including where the failures are located, what may have caused them and possibly photos of the failed pumps.

Lang expects the city will see benefits from the new database over the coming months, and certainly within the coming year.

According to a rough draft of the educational brochure, there is currently no charge for replacement of a grinder pump, if it fails for unknown reasons. The city keeps replacement pumps on hand to fix residential pumps that go out.

Currently, there are 22 broken pumps the city needs to swap out for working ones. During the Town Hall meeting, Langman mentioned working with an Orlando, Fla., company to purchase refurbished pumps. That plan fell through after the refurbished pumps failed quickly due to a difference in wiring configurations from the original to the remanufactured units. Now, Langman is working with the original manufacturer, E One, and Jacksonville-based Water Resources to purchase refurbished pumps at a reduced cost.

The city can charge residents penalties and fees for replacing pumps that have obviously been misused or improperly cared for, according to the city's grinder pump brochure. With the growing database, the city can track which residences and areas have a recurring problem with the grinder pumps.

“The same items that create problems for septic tanks create problems for the grinder pump sewer system,” Langman said.

Part of the sewer system remains on a gravity-fed system, but the tips for maintaining proper care remain the same, said Langman.

Grinder pumps crush waste on site before pumping the wastewater from individual homes to the local sewer plant. Langman said that common-sense items, such as t-shirts, cannot be thrown into the sewer system as the grinder pump will not be able to break down large items.

On the electrical panel, a flashing light warns pump owners if there is a problem. When the light starts flashing, problems associated with the pump are less costly and can probably be repaired without full removal of the grinder pump. Full replacements are costing the city between $3,000 and $6,000, said Langman.

Residents are cautioned against attempting any repairs.  They are further cautioned to be careful what items are flushed down into the sewer system because some, such as diapers, cooking grease, socks, rags and cat litter, can cause sewer overflows or back-ups.

Introducing substances such as flammable material, gasoline, strong chemicals and explosives is a violation of city, state and federal laws.

Residents are instructed, that if a problem occurs, to contact the Public Works Department at 386-454-2134 during business hours.