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Quick Repair in a Tight Space Saves $13,000
Employees Earn 'Team of the Year' Award for Confined Space Operation
Situation: When a secondary clarifier became inefficient at removing sludge from wastewater, DSRSD’s Mechanical Maintenance staff took it out of service to diagnose the problem. After nearly a month of troubleshooting, a camera lowered down the center column spotted a slipped pipe connector that was allowing water to exit the clarifier immediately, prior to treatment.
It would have been a simple fix, except that the pipe was inside the clarifier’s center column, 20 feet down. Repairing a pipe in that location typically requires draining the tank, disassembling the drive system that rotates the clarifier’s skimmers, and then putting everything back together—a process that would take at least another week.
|DSRSD uses four secondary clarifiers to separate solids from treated wastewater. Two pairs of arms move in a circle like hands on a clock—one arm on the surface of the water skimming floating material, and another on the bottom of the tank collecting the settled solids.
Solution: After seeing the location of the pipe, Mechanic II Russell Baker volunteered to repair it in place. The center column is three feet in diameter, wide enough for a man to be lowered in a harness to the bottom. Once there, Baker would reattach a neoprene seal on the leaking pipe and then be hoisted up by his support team. The operation would be safe as long as the tank was drained completely and everyone followed “confined space” safety procedures.
After the tank was isolated and drained, it took less than an hour to complete the job--saving an estimated 90 hours and $13,000 in labor costs and getting the clarifier back in service a week sooner.
For safety, four coworkers supported Baker during the clarifier repair: Senior Mechanics Shawn Quinlan and Bill Smith, Mechanic I Rafael Ramos, and Wastewater Operator I Sinzee Tran. The district’s Mechanical Maintenance Supervisor and Safety Officer oversaw the operation. Each person knew exactly what to do if something went wrong, ensuring a quick, efficient, and safe operation.
DSRSD employees chose the clarifier repair team as the 2015 Team of the Year during the annual employee recognition awards.