Westminster moves forward with water pump replacement

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By Andrea Kelley

The newspaper

WESTMINSTER – Westminster is taking action to solve one of its biggest water problems – the city’s raw water pumps.

Westminster’s 32-year-old raw water pumps sit on a platform suspended above the Chauga River. The failed pumps will be replaced with two smaller variable speed pumps, which will save water and energy. (Andrea Kelley | The Journal)

Two 500 horsepower pumps were installed in 1989 on a uniquely designed platform above the Chauga River inside Chau Ram County Park, and they have not budged since.

The pumps draw about 1.5 million gallons of water from the river each day and push it 3 km to the Cornelia Avenue water treatment plant.

Those pumps and their motors are now on the verge of “complete failure,” according to a city request for part of federal funding for the US Oconee County bailout.

“Current equipment can break down at any time, leaving the city without a water source,” the demand says.

Westminster is connected to the Seneca and Walhalla water systems in case of an emergency, said city utilities manager Leigh Baker, but “we would prefer to use ours”.

Westminster has requested a total of $ 1.3 million in ARP funding from Oconee County and has allocated $ 987,420 for the water intake project.

The city plans to replace the pumps with two 300-horsepower versions, compatible with variable-frequency drives (VFDs).

Using a VFD allows the utility to match motor speed to pump demand, adjusting it to run at 25, 50, or 75 percent of its capacity.

These adjustments can be made remotely so that the “most economical flow” can be achieved at any time, depending on the city’s funding request.

Long term benefits

Replacing pumps and motors has other benefits in addition to efficient flow.

This will remove water “flowing from failed pumps,” the app said, which will save both energy and water.

A report from Tucker Engineering Associates, the city’s electrical engineering consultant, estimated that the most efficient pumps will save the city nearly $ 189,000 per year in electricity costs alone.

Running at optimal speeds will also reduce wear and tear on pumps and other mechanical components along the pipeline, which increases the life of the water line, according to the report.

The adjustable speed on new pumps and motors will also reduce system-wide damage.

“Another intangible cost to the city is the damage to the old, existing water pipes that carry raw water from the Chauga River to the plant,” the engineering report says.

When the current pumps are turned on, they start at full speed, causing drastic changes in water pressure.

This can create high pressure points along the pipeline, which can cause older pipes and joints to rupture. VFDs provide a smoother start-up and will have a continuous lower flow rate, according to the report, which prevents excessive water pressure on the hoses.

Next steps

Potential entrepreneurs attended a meeting with Baker earlier this month to see what the pumping station project will involve and visit the site.

The project is unusual due to the way the pumps and platform are built, Baker said, but introducing parts could present another challenge.

“Due to COVID, everything is so backed up – it could be four months before the pumps are actually in place,” he said.

Once the board approves a contractor, the project can move forward.

“I hope we have sufficient and qualified offers to seek approval from city council at its November 9 meeting,” said city administrator Kevin Bronson.

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