Pumps & Systems staff spoke with Gino Mersino, president of Mersino, about what to expect in 2018.
How can pump professionals help with infrastructure issues? What aspects of infrastructure in the U.S. need the most attention?
Our firm certainly has ample experience with respect to helping contractors and government agencies with infrastructure issues. Due to the lack of infrastructure investment since the economic collapse of 2008, in the form of both new construction and sufficient monitoring or maintenance of existing sewer lines around the country, our firm has experience in providing emergency aid by supplying temporary bypass pumping systems after a sewer has failed. Much of the infrastructure is old, and older cast concrete sewer lines suffer corrosion over long periods of time due to the presence of H2S gas in the sewer. This gas eats away at the concrete, and eventually the sewer could collapse. A collapsed sewer prevents the continuous conveyance of raw sewage. The sewer begins to back up, and the community serviced by this underground sewer is at risk of costly sewage backups into their homes and businesses. If the collapse is recognized soon enough, our crews are able to quickly install our Global Pump sewer bypass pumping systems that lift the sewage from some location upstream of the break (typically a manhole), and then convey the sewage through a temporary piping system above ground to another point downstream, where the sewage is returned to the sewer beyond the break. This temporary bypass relieves the community of the risk of a back up while the owner of the sewer system has the opportunity to make a permanent repair to the line.
As funding for underground infrastructure improvements returns, bypass pumping projects will continue to play a role. Combined Sewer Overflow projects allow for storm water and sewage conveyance systems to be separated thereby limiting the need to discharge untreated sewage to natural waterways, which otherwise often happens as Waste Water Treatment Plants are overwhelmed by the excessive combined flows during rain events. Bypass pumping is an essential part of the project, as the sewer is temporarily taken out of service during the construction phase. More aggressive monitoring programs will detect failing sewers, providing an opportunity for sewer lining projects to rehabilitate the sewer before a catastrophic collapse takes place. Expansion of Waste Water Treatment Plants will occur, allowing the community the much needed opportunity to increase the treatment capacity of a facility to keep pace with population growth, requiring temporary pumping during construction and permanent pump system enhancement for long term operation. Wherever water or sewage is being moved, pumping opportunities exist.
Our firm also has extensive experience utilizing pumps to effectively dewater a particular area allowing for infrastructure expansion or repairs to be made. Dewatering is the process of creating a temporary localized depression in a given water table thus allowing for underground civil construction projects to take place in a safe and dry condition. Our firm analyzes the geology of the given area and then develops a pumping system application that pumps continuously until a sufficient drawdown of the water table occurs. Pumps are required for any dewatering project required by civil construction and infrastructure repairs and/or expansion.
I would argue that the sewer systems of our communities is in need of the most attention. Population growth has caused our sewers to be overtaxed, with increased flows leading to higher rates of sewer pipe degradation due to H2S. By proactively locating potential failure points, we can mitigate the costs incurred by emergency response efforts or sewer backups by investing in new sewer lines or by relining existing infrastructure. And we need to continue the effort to separate combined sewers to mitigate sewage discharge to our lakes and streams during storm events.
What are you most optimistic about in 2018?
The economy seems to be responding well to current deregulation efforts as well as the generally pro-business environment we have seen in the last year. Should the current tax reform being discussed in Washington become law, I am very optimistic that the economy will expand in response, leading us to a fantastic business environment in 2018 and beyond. And I believe that with dynamic economic growth, tax revenues will actually increase for federal, state, and local government agencies, thereby helping fund the much needed infrastructure improvements and expansion at all levels.
What were the biggest lessons learned in 2017 and how will they impact the industry moving into 2018?
One of the biggest lessons learned by our firm in 2017 is how extensive the use of non-biodegradable wipes and rags – currently being flushed into the sewers – currently is and how damaging that can be to pump stations, both permanent and temporary. Our firm was able to contend with this challenge (often referred to as ragging) by designing and installing chopper blades on our pumping systems during temporary bypass pumping systems. However, this is not an easy solution for large, permanent pumping stations. I believe that as awareness increases, the industry will continue education efforts discouraging the disposal of such products to our sewer systems, while – in parallel – creative solution providers will continue to develop mechanical solutions to combat the negative impact of such products within our sewer systems.