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Solutions to the Pump Suction Rag Ball Issue

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As many municipalities have experienced across the country in recent years, Clean Water Services has seen a substantial increase in the accumulation of rag balls in the suction piping of pumps. The mixing energy of the wastewater flow helps to bind together materials such as “flushable” wipes, rope and cloth until they become too large and become caught, sometimes on the suction side of a pump, thereby reducing the system hydraulic capacity.

At the Rock Creek Influent Pump Station, the five 36-mgd pumps experienced substantial plugging that resulted in loss of hydraulic capacity and subsequently, system reliability. Operations staff were required to pull an average of two pumps each week to extract rag balls. Through a process of investigation, hydraulic issues were identified with the existing pump design that resulted in a modifications project to add two new pumps.

During construction, horizontal vortex breakers were removed from the wet well, which resulted in greater plugging of the pump suctions, requiring staff to pull an average of nine pumps each week. Operations Staff modified their strategy for running the pumps, effectively dealing with the rag ball before it became too large, which eliminated pump plugging entirely. Since the completion of construction, the two new primary duty pumps have operated successfully without plugging or requiring Operations Staff to alter their strategy.

Keywords: Pump clogging; flow separation; rag balls; suction recirculation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-01-01

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