Kalispell, Montana, the largest city in the Flathead Valley, is a growing, dynamic community located 30 minutes away from Glacial National Park, Flathead Lake and Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort on Big Mountain. With its snow-capped mountain peaks, crystal clear lakes and mild climate, visitors and residents take advantage of a wide variety of outdoor activities. Kalispell is the business center of the Flathead Valley and provides municipal services to over 25,000 residents in northwest Montana. Located at an elevation of 2,959 feet, Kalispell is within close proximity to a handful of national wilderness areas.
Recently, Kalispell has benefited from a population growth that can mostly be attributed to a surge of newcomers relocating from west of the Rocky Mountains. The population of the city grew 19 percent during the 1990's, and since 2000 has grown an astounding 44 percent. Even though growth has slowed around the nation, Kalispell continues to grow and attract visitors and new residents daily.
Roadblocks to Growth
The City of Kalispell's wastewater plant internal lift station was the one of the first multiple pump lift stations in the state of Montana. It was considered cutting edge technology as a way to handle wastewater. However, in 1990, an operational problem served as the impetus for a complete overhaul. City engineers were forecasting severe load increases due to Kalispell's booming population. As a result, the city called upon the expertise of regional expert, Waterworks Industries, and specifically Buck Patterson, to help trouble shoot and plan for the station's future needs and expansion.
At the time, one of the largest Gorman-Rupp pump stations in the state of Montana, upgrades to the Kalispell's internal lift station began with five Gorman-Rupp pumps, specifically Super T-Series 8" pumps, two of which were fixed speed, and three of which were variable frequency drives. Offering the same reliability and performance as T-Series technology, the Super T-Series pumps provided additional advanced design features such as external shimless adjustment, dual protection of bearings and an "easy-grip" cover plate handle. Further, due to the corrosive nature of the load, pump impellersmade of stainless steel were recommended and selected for the task. "You can get three times the wear with the stainless or hardened steel over the standard steel. The longevity of wear was well worth the investment and made a lot of sense to Kalispell," recalls Patterson. Completed in 1992, Waterworks and Gorman-Rupp engineers also oversaw installation of the controls in this early operation as well - a unique aspect of the implementation, overall.
Updating the Downside of Growth
Still, as a result of the area's 44% growth, in recent years, and overall expansion, Kalispell's infrastructure was in need of yet additional updates with regard to pumping wastewater. With the pressures of population booms and fluctuations during peak tourism seasons, not only was the wastewater operation becoming a headache for those tasked with the responsibility of day-to-day operations, but the physical components of the plant and pump station were beginning to show their age, as well. At that time, Joni Emrick, Water Resource Manager, and Curt Konecky, Plant Manager for the city of Kalispell, began to assess their options and embarked upon a plan that would continue to serve the current residents of Kalispell, while also anticipating future needs with regard to load capacity as the municipality continues to grow.
After a careful analysis, the city soon realized it would have to make a sizeable investment to address its wastewater issues. Steps would need to be taken to ensure that Kalispell could continue to carry out the quality of services its residents had come to expect. To tackle the situation, the city again teamed up with Waterworks Industries. "Cost and reliability were the two most important factors to the city when making this important decision," said Emrick. Additionally, since all plant and pump maintenance was handled by Kalispell, a solution that required little attention and that would last for decades was essential.
Solutions That Will Stand the Test of Time
The city of Kalispell required a customized solution that would not only meet its current needs but also looked forward to the future. Due to growth, the city found itself in dire need to increase the size and number of basins - and appropriate technology to manage the increased flow at the wastewater treatment plant. As a result, Kalispell is embarking on an expansion that will place a sixth Gorman-Rupp Super T-Series pump as well as installing variable frequency drives on the city's two fixed speed pumps to keep pace with progress.
At the time of the upgrade planning and review, the city's engineering team also forged ahead on plans to replace a competitor's grit pump in their Headworks building with Gorman-Rupp technology. "We were constantly finding ourselves with the need to rebuild the competitor's pump, and have found Gorman-Rupp technology to be reliable, easy to use and inexpensive to repair," shares Emrick. "It was a logical progression for us when the update came up. Since installing the GR we have not had any difficulties."
Today, all controls at the lift station are managed tightly using a Micro-Logic processor, which not only controls the lift station, but also alerts Plant Operators when a problem arises. In doing so, the Micro-Logic processor provides automated data, such as level and speed information, the number of pumps operating at any given time, and the hours of operation, just to name a few. In short, the lift station is operated on a wet well level, so depending upon the water level in question, the controls communicate seamlessly to the number one programmable pump the optimum speed to operate. If that doesn't take the fluids to the desired level, the Micro-Logic processorthen alerts another pump of the optimum run speed. Still, at any time, the controller can vary the pump's speed to the lift station.
Today, the city of Kalispell continues to manage its costs by maintaining its own equipment. To do so, Emrick and Konecky knew that proper planning was crucial from the onset. "The municipality keeps one of everything on-hand; two or three wear rings, all associated O-rings and washers. Being prepared is key," said Emrick. "This is where Patterson stepped in, with his decades of expertise, offering a solution that would truly meet the needs of Kalispell for many years to come."
The unprecedented ease of operation made this overhaul a total success to date. Currently, all of the equipment installed in Kalispell's original pump station operation continues to operate under the original conditions. "We knew there were cheaper products available, but what was available at the lower price was well below the city's expectations. What really appealed to the municipality was that Gorman-Rupp would actually assign top engineering talent to install, upgrade or create a customized solution for Kalispell's unique needs. This saves a city countless dollars," adds Patterson.
One of the primary benefits, from Kalispell's vantage point, is in the collection system. In all, Kalispell has implemented a total of eight Gorman-Rupp submersible stations: nine 6 X 6 stations with four inch T-Series pumps, one 6 X 6 station with three inch T-Series pumps and three underground 6 X 6 stations, with six inch T-Series pumps.
If the city has future needs to upgrade or install a new lift station, city engineers know their system will confidently be assessed, and that the distribution/manufacturing team at Gorman-Rupp will engineer a package plan that exceeds Kalispell's expectations. And, although minor replacements are occasionally necessary, city engineers respect the planning, engineering, implementation and progress of the operation, overall. "In any city, you have to look at cost. In something like a wastewater treatment plant, one thing you look for is reliability and what costs will be incurred when making repairs," said Emrick. "It all boils down to cost and reliability. Total cost of ownership."