Sanitary Pumping Stations: What and Where are They?

Sanitary Pumping Stations Blog

June 16, 2020


Have you ever wondered what happens after you flush? Maybe not. Wastewater isn’t typically something that the majority of us think about until something goes wrong. This is why you may not notice those nondescript buildings in our communities whose job it is to pump wastewater onward when gravity is no longer an option. These buildings, known as sanitary pumping stations, are all around us whether you know it or not, and our team of wastewater engineers are skilled in designing them.

Sanitary pumping stations fit into a complex wastewater system. Our homes and businesses are all connected through a network of pipes that carry our wastewater to a treatment facility where it can be properly cleaned and reintroduced into the environment. Usually, this happens through gravity as the waste flows down the pipes towards a main sewer and on to a wastewater treatment plant. However, when properties are located on lower ground, gravity alone will not work. This is where a sanitary pumping station comes in.

What Happens After You Flush?

Infographic of a sanitary pumping station

How do they Work?

Sanitary pumping stations are made up of large tanks known as wet wells. These wet wells receive the wastewater that flows by gravity through pipes from an individual building, or a group of buildings such as a subdivision.

The wet well essentially acts as a holding cell for wastewater until it reaches a predetermined volume. Once there is enough wastewater, a pump turns on and uses pressurized force to send the wastewater out of the wet well through a pipe called a forcemain.

Forcemains are the pressured pipes that exit a pumping station. They force the wastewater to higher elevation so that it can continue its journey towards the wastewater treatment plant where the process of removing contaminants can begin.

Blending into the Community

Although sanitary pumping stations are a vital part of our wastewater infrastructure, most people would rather keep them out of sight, out of mind. Which is why our wastewater engineers incorporate a few design elements that do just that.

A well-designed sanitary pumping station can maintain a relatively low profile because they are often similar in size to a house and they can be constructed with the same type and colour of brick and roofing materials as the houses in the subdivision they service. To keep them even more subtle, landscaping and decorative fencing can be added around the station to enhance its aesthetic and complement the neighbourhood.

Limerick Pumping Station in Cambridge, Ontario
Above: Limerick Pumping Station in Cambridge, Ontario

Additional measures are also taken to ensure odour does not become an issue. Odour is controlled using blowers that constantly remove air from the pumping station and bring in fresh air. This is done continuously so that the odour cannot build up. Sometimes the air is released at 5 m or more above the ground. This way the odour is mixed with fresh air by the time it reaches a person standing on the ground. When a pumping station is too large for this method, they are often equipped with odour control equipment that absorbs and removes odour.

To control sound, pumping stations are built from dense materials, such as brick and concrete block, and the interior is lined with sound absorbing materials in order to limit the noise that leaves the building. There are however open areas throughout the buildings that are required for ventilation. In order to control the noise, these openings are equipped with frames that can mitigate sound.

By utilizing all these measures, a pumping station and all the necessary wastewater infrastructure within it, can blend well into a community and remain virtually unnoticeable at first glance.

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Author: Dave Wilhelm



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