Dover pump station gets ‘Band-Aid’: Temporary ‘bypass pumps’ installed

A worker lifts a pipe using a remote control crane at Dover Pump Station 7 on Wednesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — It’s still unclear what led to the “large system failure” that caused all six wastewater pumps in Dover’s Pump Station 7 to fail on Monday, officials said.

The city-owned pump station is located off the access road between Home Depot and the ACME store near the intersection of Leipsic Road and Route 13.
Pump stations move wastewater to higher elevations to allow transport by gravity flow.

Since the Monday incident the city’s public works department said it has been able to clean up sewage that seeped from manhole covers behind the ACME store. It has treat ed the area with lime, removed the failed pumps and installed several temporary “bypass pumps” to address continued wastewater flow.

City of Dover spokeswoman Kay Sass said as of Wednesday afternoon the public works department was still unsure what caused the problem and whether the six pumps can be repaired or will need to be replaced.

“We have them drying in the warehouse right now so we can run tests on them to find out what happened,” she said. “We think one may have failed initially and the overflow took out the other five.

“That’s our assumption at this point because they were submerged when we got there.”

However, Ms. Sass stresses that the current wastewater flow is under control, is not leaking and in no way affects water quality.

“It absolutely does not impact the drinking water,” she said. “This is a wastewater pump station — a completely different system than drinking water. The city followed protocols and contacted Compliance Environmental who have been on-site, as well as reaching out to DNREC.”

After discovering the failure on Monday, the public works department advised the nearby Shucker’s Pier 13 Restaurant to close temporarily, but Ms. Sass said this was only a precaution.

“Due to concerns we had, Shucker’s Pier is at the lowest lying spot right there and part of this is gravity fed, so it’s natural for the wastewater to regress there,” she said. “Luckily, the owner agreed with us and it wasn’t a problem, and I believe he’s reopened since then. We also had crew examine all the other nearby businesses that are hooked up to that line.”

At the moment, Ms. Sass said the pump station is operational, but work remains to be done.

“Is it fixed? Kind of. Because we can handle the current flow,” she said. “But this is a band-aid. Now we have to figure out what happened and make changes so it won’t happen again.”

County: ‘We have some concerns’

Kent County public works acting director Diana Golt said the city made the county aware of the issue on Monday. Although the pump station belongs to Dover, the county has been making use of it since at least early 2016. The large wastewater “forcemain” pipe, belonging to the county, that runs beneath Rt. 13 was consistently having issues at the time and the decision was made to temporarily divert flow to the city’s pump station until the Rt. 13 pipe could be replaced.

Upon hearing about the recent pump station issues, the county re-diverted their flow back down the Rt. 13 forcemain so the city could address their issue, but Ms. Golt hopes the county can soon return to the previous arrangement.

“When we heard about the failure, we sent out a portable pump to the station to help,” said Ms. Golt. “We also diverted flows from the bypass at pump station 7. The majority of it went back to the forcemain under Rt. 13. I would say that I have some concerns about it. Especially if we have any large rain events or anything to cause a surge in flow. One of the reasons we’d taken the flow off of Rt. 13 in the first place was to take pressure off the pipe. We’re not necessarily concerned about leaking, but we are concerned about the integrity of the pipe.”

The county’s former public works director, Andrew Jakubowitch, described the Rt. 13 forcemain as “compromised” and “very old” 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,” he said at the time.

According to Ms. Sass, the amount of wastewater the county had been diverting through the station was substantial.

“It’s a massive amount of sewage that flows through that pump station,” she said. “The city sends through 25 million gallons of our own per month.
With the county’s additional wastewater there was 60 million gallons per month passing through — more than doubling our flow. Their wastewater is coming all the way up from Smyrna.”

The county, desiring to permanently return its wastewater flow back to the Rt. 13 forcemain was in the planning stages of an extensive rehabilitation project, slated to begin work in the coming months. However, the wastewater will have to be diverted back to pump station 7 again anyway before that work begins.

“It’d be best to have this repaired as soon as possible,” said Ms. Golt.

Although not entirely sure when the station will be able to accommodate the county again, Ms. Sass said the city’s staff is working as fast as it can.
“I’m sure this is going to delay the county, but I can’t see this taking too long to correct,” she said.

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