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Discharge pumps are typically located at an elevation below the collection tank to minimize the net positive suction

head (NPSH) requirement. In conjunction with NPSH requirements, pump heads (TDH) must be increased by 23 ft to account for collection tank vacuum. Both vertical and horizontal pumps can be used. Materials of construction for discharge pumps are commonly cast iron with stainless steel shafts. Cast aluminum, bronze, and brass should be avoided. Double mechanical seals, which are adaptable to vacuum service, should be used. An emergency (or standby) generator is a must. It ensures that on-lot flooding or backup will be prevented through the continuing operation of the system in the event of a power outage. Standard generators are available from a variety of manufacturers. The wastewater is stored in the collection tank until a sufficient volume accumulates, at which point the tank is evacuated. It is a sealed, vacuum-tight vessel made of carbon steel, fiberglass, or stainless steel. Fiberglass or stainless steel tanks are generally more expensive, but do not require the periodic maintenance of a carbon steel tank, which may require painting every 5 to 6 years. Vacuum, produced by the vacuum pumps, is transferred to the collection system through the top part of this tank. The part of the tank below the invert of the incoming vacuum collection lines acts as the wet well. A bolted hatch provides access to the tank should it be necessary. Most collection tanks are located at a low elevation relative to most of the components of the vacuum station. This minimizes the lift required for the sewage to enter the collection tank, since sewage must enter at or near the top of the tank to ensure that vacuum can be restored upstream. This may result in a deep basement required in the vacuum station. Vacuum switches located on the collection tank control the vacuum pumps. The usual operating level is 16-20 in. of Hg with a low level alarm of 14-in. of Hg. Seven (7) probes, one for each of the six (6) set points of the pumping cycle and one (1) as a ground, are located inside of the collection tank and control the discharge pumps. The vacuum system control panel houses all of the motor starters, overloads, control circuitry, and the hours run meter for each vacuum and sewage pump. The vacuum chart recorder, collection tank level control relays, and fault monitoring equipment are also normally located within the vacuum system control panel. Fault monitoring systems include telephone dialers or other telemetry equipment including radio based SCADA systems, digital or fiber optic based SCADA systems and telephone based SCADA communications systems.

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Vacuum gauges, required to allow the operator to monitor the system, are used on all incoming lines as well as on the collection tank. These gauges are very important in the troubleshooting procedures. Chart recorders for both the vacuum and sewer pumps are needed so that system characteristics can be established and monitored. It is standard practice in the U.S. for the vacuum station equipment to be supplied by the vacuum manufacturer who pre-assembles and tests the equipment and then ships it to the job-site on a skid(s). These skids can then be lifted into the building and connected to the incoming vacuum mains and the outgoing force main. The vacuum station equipment must be installed in a protective structure. Materials of construction are the choice of the consulting engineer and typically are selected to match the architecture of the surrounding community.

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This section provides a general overview pertaining to the design of the various components of a vacuum system. The reader is referred to the 2005 version of AIRVACs Design Manual for additional and more detailed design information. A. Design Flows

All of the major vacuum system components are sized according to peak flow, expressed in gallons per minute (gpm). Peak flow rates are calculated by applying a peaking factor to an average daily flow rate.

Average Daily Flow (Qave) Based on the current Ten State Standards, sewage flow rates shall be based on one of the following: 1. Documented wastewater flow for the area being served. Water use records are typically used for this purpose. 100 gallons per person per day combined with home population densities specific to the service area. Most approval agencies will accept published U.S. Census Bureau home density for this criterion.


Peaking Factor (PF) The peaking factor suggested by the design firm should be used, with one exception: the minimum peaking factor should never be less than 2.5. If not established by the consulting firm, regulatory agency or other applicable regulations, the peaking factor should be based on the following formula:

18 +


4 + POPULATION / 1000

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For example, if the service area has a population density of 1200, the peaking factor would be: 18  1.2 4  1.2 = 3.75

Table 4 shows peak factors for various populations. Please note that these are not the exact figures that would be returned by the formula but rather are rounded figures for presentation purposes only.

Table 4
Peak Factors Based on Ten State Standards formula Population 100 500 1200 2500 5000 9000 Peak factor 4.25 4.00 3.75 3.50 3.25 3.00

Peak Flow (Qmax) Applying the peak factor to the average daily flow rate and converting to gpm will yield the peak flow to be used as the basis of design. Qa /1440 x PF = Qmax where: Qa PF Qmax = Ave daily flow (gpd) = Peak factor = Peak Flow (gpm)

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Example 1 If the design firm provides the average daily flow based on local water records and recommends a peaking factor, both should be used as the basis for design. Average daily flow rate: Persons/house # houses: Peak factor: 75 gpcd 3.0 400 3.5

Qa = PF = Qmax = =

75 gpcd x 3.5 per/hse x 400 hses = 105,000 gpd 3.50 105,000 gpd/1440 x 3.50 255 gpm

Example 2 If the design firm does not suggest average daily flow rates and peaking factors, then the Ten State Standards should be used for both. Average daily flow rate: Population (3.0 x 400): Peak factor 100 gpcd 1200 3.75

Qa = PF = Qmax = =

100 gpcd x 1200 persons = 120,000 gpd 3.75 120,000 gpd/1440 x 3.75 313 gpm

Infiltration The vacuum system is a sealed system that eliminates ground water infiltration from the piping network and the interface valve pits. However, ground water can enter the system as a result of leaking house plumbing or as a result of building roof drains being connected to the plumbing system. While vacuum systems have some inherent reserve capacity, significant amounts of homeowner I&I can result is severe system operating problems. For this reason, it is recommended that designers consider methods of eliminating ground water from plumbing systems during the design phase of a project rather than adding a homeowner infiltration component to the design flow.

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B. Vacuum Mains: Geometry and Sizing The geometry of a vacuum sewer system is similar to that of a water distribution system. Rather than looped, however, it is normally designed in a tree pattern. The length of vacuum mains is generally governed by two factors. These are static lift and friction losses. The determination of these losses is beyond the scope of this course. This topic will be covered in a subsequent course: Vacuum Sewers: Design & Installation Guidelines. The reader is also referred to the WEF MOP FD-12 manual where details are provided. Due to restraints placed upon each design by topography and sewage flows, it is impossible to give a definite maximum line length (length from vacuum station to line extremity). In perfectly flat terrain with no unusual subsurface obstacles present, a length of 10,000 ft can easily be achieved. With elevation to overcome, this length would become shorter. With positive elevation toward the vacuum station, this length could be longer. As an example, one operating system has a line that, from the vacuum station to the line extremity, 16,500 ft in length. There are three (3) major items for the designer to consider when laying out a vacuum system: Multiple service zones: By locating the vacuum station centrally, it is possible for multiple vacuum mains to enter the station, which effectively divides the service area into zones. This results in operational flexibility as well as service reliability. With multiple service zones, the operator can respond to system problems, such as low station vacuum, by analyzing the collection system on a zone by zone basis to see which zone has the problem. The problem zone can then be isolated from the rest of the system so that normal service is possible in the unaffected zones while the problem is identified and solved. Minimize pipe sizes: By dividing the service area into zones, the total peak flow to the station is also spread out among the various zones, making it possible to minimize the pipe sizes. Minimize static loss: Static loss is generally limited to 13 ft. Items that result in static loss are increased line length, elevation differences, utility conflicts and the relationship of the valve pit location to the vacuum main. Vacuum sewer design rules have been developed largely as a result of studying operating systems. Important design parameters such as minimum distance between lifts, minimum slopes, slopes between lifts, etc. are contained in AIRVACs 2005 Design Manual.

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Based on in-house hydraulic testing and an adaptation of the Hazen-Williams equation, AIRVAC developed a table showing the recommended maximum flow rates that should be used for design purposes as well as the absolute maximum flow rate for a given pipe size. Table 5 shows these recommendations.

Table 5
Recommended & Absolute Maximum Flow Rates for Various Pipe Sizes Recommended Maximum Design Flow Rate (gpm) 40 105 210 375 Absolute Maximum Flow Rate (gpm) 55 150 305 545

Pipe Diameter (in) 4 6 8 10

Line size changes are made when the cumulative flow exceeds the maximum recommended design flow for a given line size. Most designers will make this transition at a logical geographic location such as a street intersection. The values in Table 5 should be used for planning purposes or as a starting point for the detailed design. In the latter case, estimated site-specific flow inputs along with AIRVACs friction tables should be used in the hydraulic calculations. A correctly sized line will yield a relatively small friction loss. If the next larger pipe size significantly reduces friction loss, the line was originally undersized. The maximum number of houses served by a given line size is shown on Table 6, which assumes the peak design flow for 1 house is 0.50 gpm.

Table 6
Maximum Number of Houses Served for Various Pipe Sizes (based on Recd Maximum Design Flow using a peak design flow of 0.50 gpm/house) Pipe Diameter (in) 4 6 8 10 Maximum Number of Homes Served 80 210 420 750

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C. Vacuum Mains: Routing An advantage to the use of vacuum sewers is that the small diameter PVC pipe used is flexible and can be easily routed horizontally around obstacles. The feature allows vacuum sewers to follow a winding path as necessary. In most cases, vacuum sewer mains are located outside of and adjacent to the edge of pavement and approximately parallel to the road or street, which reduces the expenses of pavement repair and traffic control. In areas subject to unusual erosion, the preferred location is often within the paved area. Some municipalities also favor installation within the paved area since subsequent excavation is less likely and more controlled (via permit application only), and therefore a location more protected from damage. However, community disruption potential during construction and maintenance for this approach increases substantially. With two or more houses sharing one valve pit, overall system construction costs can be significantly reduced, resulting in major cost advantage. In some circumstances, however, this approach may require the main line to be located in private property, typically in the back yard. There are two disadvantages to this type of routing. First, it requires permanent easements from one of the property owners, which may be difficult to obtain. Second, experience has shown that multiple house hookups can be a source of neighborhood friction unless the pit is located on public property. The designer should carefully consider the tradeoff of reduced costs to the social issues prior to making the final routing decision.

D. Valve Pits: House to pit sharing ratio IN AIRVACs valve pit, up to four separate building sewers can be connected to one sump, each at 90 degrees to one another. However, this is rarely done as property lines considerations and other factors may render this impractical. By far, the most common valve pit sharing arrangement is for two adjacent houses to share a single valve pit (AIRVAC, 2005a). Some have attempted to reduce costs by having additional houses sharing a single valve pit. Experience has shown that, while this may appear to be viable on paper, many times it is not achievable during construction. And, even if it is, the perceived cost savings does not always materialize. Longer runs of gravity laterals are required which results in deeper valve pits needed to accommodate this. Also, the additional 2 or 3 ft of excavation of not just the pit, but the gravity laterals as well, may result in extensive dewatering. In certain cases, such as the existence of a cul-de-sac or when small lots with short front footage exists, it may be possible to serve 3 or even 4 houses with a single valve pit; however, all other design factors must be considered.

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E. Vacuum Station: component sizing A detailed discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this course; however, some general guidelines on how the vacuum station components are sized are provided in Table 7 below.

Table 7
Vacuum Station Component Sizing Component Collection Tank How Sized To insure adequate operating volume to prevent excessive sewage pumping cycles and to provide emergency storage volume. Based on total peak flow to the vacuum station or as necessary to maintain 2 ft/sec scouring velocity within the force-main whichever is greater. Based on 2 factors: 1) peak flow & length of line and 2) the total system piping volume.

Sewage Pumps

Vacuum Pumps

These topics will be covered in a subsequent course: Vacuum Sewers: Design & Installation Guidelines. The reader is also referred to the WEF MOP FD-12 manual and the AIRVAC 2005 Design manual where details are provided.

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A detailed discussion of these topics is beyond the scope of this course. These topics will be covered in a subsequent course: Vacuum Sewers: Design & Installation Guidelines. The reader is also referred to the WEF MOP FD-12 manual where details are provided.


A detailed discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this course. This topic will be covered in a subsequent course: Vacuum Sewers: O&M and System Management Considerations. The reader is also referred to the WEF MOP FD-12 manual where details are provided.



Like all the ACS alternatives, vacuum sewers have certain design, installation, and system management requirements. When these are satisfied, the system will perform with all the reliability of any other collection system. One of the vacuum system suppliers also offers design and construction assistance in order to assure that the system is properly installed, given the sensitivity of the technology to improper construction. In short, the vacuum system offers the same convenience as any other type of public sewer system with reference to the actual discharge from the home and meeting the needs of the particular locality. Indeed, there are some unknown or unresolved issues in ACS technology, but these are rapidly disappearing with time. None are considered serious enough to retard continued and expanded application of these systems. The WEF MOP FD12 manual is intended to stimulate consideration of ACS technology and minimize its misuse where it is an inappropriate solution to a problem.

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