What does 33 years of experience in the pump business do to you? Make you crazy? Make you an expert? Make you realize how little you know?
At the end of the day, experience matters. It helps you with your day-to-day decisions. It helps you to see obstacles before you reach them, and it teaches you that you will rarely see the exact same problem twice... In the whole scheme of things, it does not matter your title. If you are a pump-man you have had many experiences and know that you haven’t learned everything even after 33 years, but the experience definitely helps understand the problem and define the solution.
Matt Ramburger joined the repair pump workforce in 1988 with a focus on lift stations. Matt came to Smith Pump in 1997 as a Project Manager estimating lift stations but he quickly transitioned into learning and exceling at vertical turbine pumps. After 15 years in project management, he transitioned to an outside sales position and became the sales representative for the east Texas territory.
With over 9-years’ experience as a territory manager, Matt’s knowledge has been most beneficial when he was in the field resolving problems. Typically, these problems involve a number of stakeholders, and do not exhibit an obvious solution when encountered. Gathering facts is the primary method to define the problem, which many times leads to several solutions. This fact gathering involves working with a lot of people. The Owner, the Engineer, the Contractor and his other trades are all generally engaged and have input to the problem. Almost always the solution is a simple one once the facts are known, and for Matt, many times it revolves around the pump. When you have a large group of highly skilled people involved in an investigation, it sometimes seems like the problem might take a rocket scientist to understand and find a solution. That is because today’s stations are so complicated with advanced technology that all seem to think the technology is the problem. Many times, it becomes a very plain issue related to a simple machine like the pump or the motor, and it takes a guy like Matt to recognize the simplicity of this problem so that a solution can be found.
Here are some good examples of Matt’s experiences.
One memorable lift station project was a grinder pump station at a nearby city that added a nursing home after 10 years of relatively trouble-free operation. The words “nursing home” should set off alarm bells for a lift station application as they notoriously are plagued with manmade solids entering the well. Almost immediately the customer experienced daily pump clogging problems requiring a vacuum truck to remove debris from the well in addition to pump pulling to clear the clogs. Also, the high density of solids kept water away from the motor housing causing high temperature trips. The original grinder pumps could not handle the additional solids from the recently added nursing home. After some work and looking at the situation, Matt determined that the customer needed to change the type of grinder pump and had two new pumps shipped out to the station to be installed to get the station operational again. At this writing, the station has been running with the new pumps for four weeks without a single clog. Using grinder pumps with external cutters really improves the pump’s ability to handle today’s modern sewage. Most grinder pumps can handle domestic raw sewage with infrequent clogs, but modern sewage has made some unable to have long clog-free runs.
Another memorable project from Matt’s project management days was the Ward County project that included a Transmission Pump Station with four(4) 1500hp vertical turbine pumps and 24’ deep suction barrels and the Odessa Pump Station with two(2) 600hp vertical turbine pumps and 33’ deep suction barrels. Both stations pump treated water into the same pipeline. Pumps in this application require close barrel-plumbness tolerances to allow the pumps to hang in the center. This check must be completed during barrel installation prior to backfilling. To perform this measurement a plumb-bob is used from the top to a target inside the barrel at the bottom. Our plumbness tolerance is less than 1/8” per 120” of can length. Can you see how difficult this was in the photo?
Figure 1: Plumbing pump suction barrels before backfilling with a plumb-bob.
Figure 2: After backfilling the barrels, the foundation, building, pumps, and motors can be installed.
Another memorable project from this past year was the installation of Landia Air-jets at a local WWTP. The End User during the summer was having issues with not having enough dissolved oxygen(DO) in their discharge sample. DO requirements are 6-ppm or more, and the End User could only make 5-ppm. So, we offered to install two(2) 30hp submersible air jets in the oxidation ditch to induce an additional 35lbs of oxygen per unit. This was done as a 90-day trial with the agreement to purchase with the success at the end of 90 days. On August 3rd, we installed them and started the units. As you can see from the pictures below, the units were mounted to steel plates with the air suction hose attached to a cable above the water surface. When the units were started, you could hear the suction of air and the visual roll of the water indicating additional oxidation. During the 90 days trial, Smith Pump took weekly DO samples and the Owner took daily samples. End results showed a 2 to 3 ppm increase of DO at the discharge of the plant, which allowed the End User to exceed 6-ppm and be within his effluent permit.
Figure 3: Landia AeriGator going into an oxidation ditch for a 90-day trial.
Figure 4: AeriGator (two) operating to introduce oxygen and promote mixing.
Matt Ramburger has the experience and regularly uses that knowledge to resolve problems. He is a vital asset for the Smith Pump Team and is willing to help with any problems that arise. If you are ever in need, he is always there to help.