‘Large system failure’ plagues Pump Station 7


Dover’s Pump Station 7 is located off an access road between Home Depot and Acme. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — What had been a relaxing Presidents Day off quickly turned into a hectic work day for members of the city of Dover’s Public Works Department on Monday afternoon.

Kay Sass, coordinator of public affairs and emergency management for the city, said Dover’s Pump Station 7 sustained a “large system failure.”

Pump Station 7, located off the access road between Home Depot and the ACME store, has had troubles with offensive odors emanating from it in the past but Monday’s incident was more serious.

Around a dozen workers were on the scene between 3 and 4 p.m. on Monday, along with a front-end loader and three sewage trucks trying to diagnose the problem. They worked well into the evening hours.

“We won’t be really sure what happened until they can get the sewage pumped out to get down to the pumps themselves,” Ms. Sass said. “We need to get those (pumps) pulled to see exactly what is going on.

“There was actually some sewage that came up. I’m not really sure where because I don’t have all of the details yet.”

Ms. Sass said, after diagnosing the problem, crews elected to swap out a smaller bypass pump for a larger one at Pump Station 7.

“I have received some inquiries how this affects the drinking water,” said Ms. Sass. “It absolutely does not impact the drinking water. This is a wastewater pump station, (a) completely different system than drinking water.

“Everything is being handled properly. A big thank you to the crews who came in and have been working to get this cleaned up and the pump station operable.”

Sharon Duca, the city’s public works director, was also on site along with an official from Dover-based Compliance Environmental.

“DNREC, of course, had to be notified due to the severity of this and not knowing the longevity of the issue is going to be,” Ms. Sass said. “The feeder line for this (pump station) basically is Route 13 on (the east) side so we have to go door-to-door right now and start checking businesses.

“We are unsure of what the impact is at this time but will keep everyone posted as information becomes available.”

It appeared as if most of the businesses in the area, such as Applebee’s, McDonald’s and Shucker’s restaurants, appeared to all be open and operating as usual.

Glenn Deaton, the operator of the Nationwide Insurance office adjacent to the faulty sewage pump, said his business day went on “just like any other.”

“I was up in Newark in a meeting most of the day so I’m not really sure what’s up,” Mr. Deaton said. “It was really nothing that affected my office operations though.”

Past pump station problems

Dover’s Pump Station 7 has had some problems in the past with foul odor coming from it.

Ms. Duca and Kent County public works director Andrew Jakubowitch told the State News last year that wastewater flow was being “temporarily” diverted from the county’s transmission line under Rt. 13 to the city’s pump station.

It is not clear if that remains the case with Pump Station 7 or if it contributed to its failure on Monday.

“The city of Dover owns the pump station right between Dover Downs and Home Depot, but we do have some extra flow going into that pump station right now from the county,” Mr. Jakubowitch said last April.

“The transmission line under Rt. 13 is compromised — it broke once, we fixed it and it broke again — so we are using our bypass to go around it and that bypass enters into the city’s pump station.”

Pump stations move wastewater to higher elevations to allow transport by gravity flow. Wastewater is fed into and stored in a sealed underground pit known as a wet well.

Pump Station 7 is one of the city’s 41 stations throughout the municipal sewer system.

According to the city’s 2010 water/wastewater handbook the average daily flow from the city’s system to county’s system for treatment at its facility in Milford is approximately 4.5 million gallons per day.

Last April, Mr. Jakubowitch told the State News that the county has been working on short term solutions to reduce the odor and long term solutions to return the county’s wastewater to its own lines, said.

“We’re working on a project to rehab that entire line down Rt. 13 right now because a lot of it is very old,” he said. “For the odor, we’re looking at three different solutions: getting more air exchanges by using blowers to introduce more air into the wet well of the pump station to dilute the odors, possibly using an activated carbon system or using an ozone system to help break down the odors.”

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