Contributor: Ben Ashe, MDM Pumps

When Charli and Bekah asked me to write a feature piece about a ‘day in my life’ as a pump professional, I let my ego inflate slightly and envisioned myself posing for the pump paparazzi on the red carpet (::laughs::). I quickly accepted the invitation! And now as I write this, the reality of my profession, career, expertise, and even pre-destination have slapped me in my pie-eyed, day-dreaming face and hysterically revealed how un-glamorous the professional pump life is…While I love the fact that what we do as pump people is significant and contributes to the quality of life for all humans, you don’t find hit songs written about pumps. (Editor here: actually, you find really funny parodies – that is if you’re looking! Check out the “Pump’s Down” video!)

I don’t think I’ve ever heard any news station shouting out the praises of dedicated operators who worked 24 hours to repair or swap out critical equipment in a municipal waste water plant. And it’s rare to see the boastful pump guy posting on social networks (to all of his close friends) a selfie with a bunch of pumps behind him that he successfully deployed to reduce a plants operating cost by an order of magnitude.  Well, maybe I’m actually that guy…but we should definitely see more of it!

Let me take a moment to say “Bravo!” to Empowering Pumps for creating such a platform for our industry. Long live the #PumpTalk community! I think everyone likes to talk about what they do, especially when it’s important and most of the time flies under the radar in day-to-day life.  I’m extremely fortunate to stand on the shoulders of four generations of pump people. Pumps have become my entire world – starting at eight years old. Some call it brainwashing, and some call it nepotism.  Whatever it really is, it’s my absolute passion and I couldn’t be more proud of what I do.

At the end of April, I traveled to Bradenton, Florida, to support Telchine Research & Development – a company with whom we’ve maintained a strong relationship. We were involved in an installation at a Manatee rehabilitation facility. We had to demo an antiquated pump system from the early ’90s, and then retrofit an updated pump system using MDM C-Shell pumps, Fluidtrol Strainers, and VFD’s from WEG. This took place all in about 18 hours. Here’s a breakdown of how that day progressed!

5:30 a.m.  The lovely “Sencha” sound bites of the iOS phone alarm clock nags at me during a lovely volley of snoring and pressing the snooze button.

6:00 a.m.  I just got done doing about five downward dog and warrior poses with 10 deep breaths in-between each one………Just kidding, I’m slamming down black coffee and lacing up my boots in order to not be late to meet my customer as he is my ride today.  I literally climb into his monster truck and we roll through a nice boutique coffee and breakfast place called Pineapple Espresso in St. Pete. I ordered the Avocado toast to help start my day proper.

6:30 a.m.  Awake with food in my belly and sitting in the passenger seat of a lifted truck with a slightly overdone exhaust system that sounds mean. We are doing 80 MPH going down I-275 from St. Pete to Bradenton, and it’s distracting me from my emails I’m trying to catch up on from my phone.  I say to myself “Focus dude!” I’ve only got 10 more minutes until we start wrenching on 12” pipe and 600 lbs C-Shell pumps.

7:00 a.m.  We arrive at the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, and I jump down from the skyscraper of a truck and almost fall flat on my face. I say to myself that feels way hard to do these days….certainly, I’m not getting that old! I put my hand on my lower back and try to casually run a cool strut in my redwing boots towards the Manatee Life Support System room.

7:30 a.m.  We rig up the chain hoist and my customer, Rob, gears up in his rock climbing harness.  We hook him in and start lifting him to the roof where he’ll mechanically affix 12” pipe hangers to the I-beam roof system.  I say to myself “thank heavens I didn’t have to do this!”

8:00 a.m.  I’m up on a 16’ A-frame ladder with a saw-all cutting into schedule 80 12” pipe manifold that hanging 18’ in the air…….we have to demo about 30’ of this existing manifold 12 inches at a time.  It’s already 80 degrees and I’m drenched in sweat.

8:30 a.m.  The old manifold is completely down, and it’s time to run 2” conduit from the main electrical panel to the new pump/motor locations.

10:00 a.m.  The conduit is up and we have (8) 4-AWG conductors pulled.  We wired for two 40 HP loads on hot-swap breakers. Oh look at this, a phone call from a customer letting me know a shipment arrived at their facility and they want to schedule us for commissioning.  As I’m on this phone call, I see another call coming through from our factory. It’s the inside sales team ready to run through our sales funnel and assign tasks as we move the ball forward on the projects we are trying to win.  As I click from one call to the next, I feel a cool breeze at my back. I’m grateful for the slight breather I had and stoked our pipeline is full and my excellent team is fully deployed on projects. Now, back to the belly of the beast!

10:30 a.m.  VFD cabinet is set and drives are installed.  Still, need to make up all the line and load connections to the motors and drives…..we’ll wait until we demo the existing long-coupled pumps that are blasting our ear drums out with all the mechanical racket they’re making.  It sounds like they’re running at 3500 RPM, but the motor name plates say they’re 1750…..I wonder to myself at this point how much is being created from what sounds like misalignment. Whoa, it’s time to demo the old pumps.

11:00 a.m.  The LSS system is officially offline and the clock is ticking to get water moving again for the three Manatees currently in the rehabilitation pool.  We demo the three frames mounted cast iron pumps in operation. There is so much calcium that has precipitated out of this system over the years, all the bolts are corroded, and we are using sludge hammers to break all the connections.

1:00 p.m. Drenched in sweat, the pump pad is clear and ready to start laying out motor bolt locations. There is no time for lunch…there are manatees counting on us!! We have to solvent bond the new 12” schedule 80 manifold with one tee and one 90 degree elbow.  As I try to fight back the tears from hunger pangs, I was told I could skip a few meals as I’m looking pretty healthy. Ok then, I plan to channel the offense I took to both comments into fabricating this 12” 20’ long manifold.

2:30 p.m. The manifold is together and the cement is drying.  We start making all the electrical connections on the motors and VFDs.  A reminder pops up on my phone to check in with a prospect in Mexico for a seawater intake system we quoted 90 days ago.  I made the call to my amigo down in Ensenada, Baja MX to check in. I learned the funding probably won’t be available until 2020.  Fingers crossed for next year.

4:00 p.m. The electrical connections are complete.  The breakers are switched on and we start programming the drives with motor nameplate data and checking phase-order and rotation.

4:30 p.m. It’s time to start laying out the motor anchors.  We had a file of drawings in the project folder and used those drawings to template our bolt locations.  We drilled one set of pilots and realized we used a drawing from a previous pump configuration during the quote phase.  Whoops. We also realized we needed one size smaller of concrete anchors. Off to Home Depot we go…

6:30 p.m. The 12” discharge manifold is now hanging from the pipe hangers and were ready to starting setting pumps and plumbing.  Pump one is set with motor foot risers, shims, and bolts secured. We’re getting a bit tired. Large black coffees all around for our small crew of 4…

8:30 p.m.  Pump two is set with motor foot risers, shims, and bolts secured.

9:00 p.m. Pump one Fluidtrol strainer effluent/inlet flange connected.

9:30 p.m. Pump one inlet plumbing takeoff cemented and flange connected to the influent port of strainer basket.

10:00 p.m. Pump one discharge plumbing made up, cemented and connected to 12” suspended manifold.  We’re making progress!

10:30 p.m. Pump two Fluidtrol strainer effluent/inlet flange connected, inlet plumbing takeoff cemented and flange connected to the influent port of strainer basket……but wait, our spool piece from the strainer to the pump inlet is too small.  We don’t have any additional 6” schedule 80 pipe nor the two ANSI flanged needed to complete this takeoff. There is a parts shop in Largo about 45 minutes away. So, I’m now hopping in a lifted roaring truck and burning rubber up I-275.  Giddy up!

11:30 p.m. Back at the Museum, and I’m talking trash to the crew for not having all the plumbing complete.  Only 8 more connections.

Midnight Pump two inlet connection made up with a spool piece that fits.  All of us were looking for some beers to drink at this point, but the Animal husbandry manager came down to ask if we were done yet, and let us know the Manatee pool was super cloudy and they need to get some sleep. Yikes, let’s get this thing finished!

2:00 a.m. Pump one discharge plumbing made up, cemented and connected to 12” suspended manifold.

2:30 a.m. Starting tool clean up and letting the solvent bonds set up.

3:14 a.m. We slowly ramped up both pumps and got to our designed system flow rates. We were having easy conversations that we could hear without shouting at each other because the new pumps were not roaring at us like my customer’s truck……  Celebration time! Another success with a super awesome team!