Rolling Up Our Sleeves for the West Hickman Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

Lexington, Kentucky, is unique in a very particular way: Water flows away from the city in almost all directions.

That means the city can’t rely on gravity when it comes to moving sewage to one of Lexington’s two water treatment plants. As a result, Lexington needs more pump stations than other cities of its size.

That reality creates both opportunities, and challenges. Case in point: the need for a new pump station, which was identified late last year by Hazen and Sawyer, an engineering firm with offices around the world.

The firm came to Lexington in December of 2017 to evaluate the influent pumping capacity of the West Hickman Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The result was a project: to build a new pump station to serve the plant.

That project was scheduled to take a year, and 12 months is too long to operate without some kind of temporary solution.

That’s where Sunbelt Rentals came in — but not how you might think. Rather than finding the best rental options for our client, we rolled up our sleeves and dug into the process of designing new equipment, to be built from scratch.

Here’s how it all happened: At first, Hazen and Sawyer wanted electric submersible trash pumps to serve the temporary needs of the station, built in 1957 with two parallel 60-inch sewers feeding into it. But a big job requires big pumps — something capable of handling between 7 and 14 millions of gallons per day — and the influent channel upstream of the gate wasn’t big enough to accommodate pumps of that size.

Hazen and Sawyer went back to the drawing board and settled on electric drive units. But when the company went out in search of those pumps, they came up short.

That’s when Hazen and Sawyer decided to have the pumps built from scratch — and where we jumped in to help.

A Sunbelt representative set up an on-site visit and started working with the programmers at the plant to connect our VFD panels with the pump station’s transducers and SCADA system to monitor all the necessary equipment. Then we got to work on pump design and installation.

It wasn’t easy. The timeline was tight — less than 16 weeks to go from concept to install. And the pump station overflowed three times between the design and installation stages of the project.

But we adapted. We worked side-by-side with Hazen on the pump design. We learned from the overflows and placed the new pumps at the lowest possible elevation to provide for the best suction lift. And in the end, we hit our goal: to fill a temporary need while a permanent solution was in the works.

The new pump station is now almost complete and scheduled to go online in December of 2018. When it does, it will keep the city’s systems up and running for a long time to come.

Until that happens, the pumps designed and installed by Sunbelt Rentals will keep things running.