Lightning knocks out PAWSD lift station


By Lindsey Bright

Staff Writer

Last Saturday night, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Mockingbird Lift Station failed.

The Mockingbird Lift Station, built during the Highlands Lagoons Elimination Project, is a sewer lift station that pumps wastewater from Hatcher Lake area to the Vista Wastewater Treatment Facility.

“At this early stage, PAWSD is unable to comment on the cause of the lift station failure because our insurance agency is currently investigating the situation. PAWSD suspects the cause to be lightning related,” PAWSD special projects manager Renee Lewis said in an e-mail, adding, “We are currently evaluating the other lift stations in the system for adequate surge protection.”

The facility was designed by Briliam Engineering, with whom PAWSD has had a lengthy working history.

Patrick O’Brien, of Briliam, said Tuesday that, “a transient voltage surge suppression system was designed as part of the electrical system for the lift station, to address such things as lightning strikes.”

In a Wednesday morning e-mail, O’Brien elucidated the work Briliam did on the lift station. “The entire site was designed to meet or exceed the applicable National Electric Code (NEC) requirements … “ wrote O’Brien. “A surge protective device (SPD) was designed and installed at the station in accordance with the requirements of NEC Article 285. Article 285 does not require an SPD to be installed, but does provide requirements for one if it is installed … SPDs are not required by the NEC, but are included as a good practice and have become an industry standard. They are intended to provide protection and to reduce the effects of a lightning strike. They are not intended to be capable of shedding all the power from a direct lightning strike.”

“The replacement pump should be up and running by the end of this week. We are just waiting for LPEA to make repairs on their side of our lift station,” Lewis stated.

In the meantime, PAWSD will continue current pump and haul efforts, where raw sewage is hauled from the pump station to Vista in PAWSD trucks and trucks owned by a local contractor.