Utilities Department Installs Generator at Gornto Lift Station

The City of Valdosta Utilities Department recently completed the installation of a 1.5-megawatt generator to supply the Gornto Lift Station with a backup power source. The department received approval to purchase the new generator from City Council on February 25, 2021. Central Maintenance Superintendent Tom Hess stresses the importance of this large generator and how it will assist the city, especially in the case of extreme weather.

The Utilities Department's Central Maintenance Division operates and maintains 34 wastewater lift stations throughout the city's service area, the largest being the Gornto lift station. These stations collect and pump wastewater through the collection system to the Mud Creek and Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plants for treatment and disposal.

Each pump at the Gornto lift station requires such a large amount of reserve power to startup. Hess uses a standard size home to demonstrate just how much power is needed. "A typical home has a 200-amp service panel, but you typically do not use even 100 amps in your house. Each of these pumps can draw up to 1,500 amps on start and average about 1,200 amps," he said. 

The lift stations receive their primary source of power through electrical utility feeds. The Gornto station, in particular, has two separate electrical feeds it uses for continuity. If one feed goes down, the second feed picks up the load. However, when a portion of the second feed is affected, pumps will not operate. In our area, almost all the power transmission lines are above ground. So, when winds reach 45 MPH and above, these lines can easily be knocked down by falling tree limbs or other objects. Hess mentions that above-ground power is always a weak point in any utility department power system.

"We found that major storms with strong winds and a lot of rain have caused us to lose power. We generally would not lose the entire power feed, but we would lose at least one section. We ran into that problem during the first major hurricane. So, we couldn't pump, and that (dual feed) system proved to be unreliable, which is why we needed a backup generator," said Hess. 

With the backup generator, if the power goes down at the Gornto Station, it will automatically switch on and supply the pumps with the power needed to operate. This is important because if the pumps cannot operate, the wastewater collected by that station cannot be transferred to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. With nowhere else to go, it can result in sewer system backups and spills.

 The department is currently under contract for ten more generators and transfer switches to be placed at other lift stations by the end of the current fiscal year. Once these ten are installed, the City will need only two more generators to reach its goal to have a backup power source at every city-operated lift station.

For more information, please contact the Utilities Department at 229-259-3592.