lift station

June 26, 2023

Shawn College – [email protected]

Last updated
June 27, 2023

Protecting the Hillsborough River’s water quality is a key concern for the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board. In January 2023, an estimated 630,000 gallons of raw sewage overflowed into the Hillsborough River over one week. Sewage spills into the river occur from time to time, but actions can be taken to minimize such events. This event occurred when a sewage lift station lost electric power. At their May meeting, the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board’s Technical Advisory Council discussed this spill and ways we can prevent other spills from occurring.    

What is a lift station?

Sewage systems mainly work by gravity moving sewage through underground pipes to the sewage treatment plant. However, in some places there is no longer a downhill pitch for gravity to work. At these locations, lift stations are placed. These lift stations have pumps that lift the sewage from a lower elevation to a higher elevation so the sewage can again flow by gravity to the sewage treatment plant.  These lift stations can be publicly owned and maintained by the local government, or privately owned and maintained by a private entity. This is often an apartment complex or homeowner’s association. 

Why are they important to the Hillsborough River?

If everything is working correctly, you will not notice a lift station. Lift stations require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure they are in good working order. They work via electrically powered pumps. If a pump fails or there are electrical problems, sewage can accumulate and eventually cause it to overflow into the environment. When the lift station is near the river, and there is a failure, sewage can flow untreated into the river. 

What can be done to ensure they don’t fail?

Regular maintenance and inspections can help prevent sanitary Sewage overflows (SSOs). Alarms can help alert responsible parties of problems. Local government programs to inspect private lift stations can help ensure they are in good working order. However, not all local governments have such programs. Ensuring electric companies know which accounts power lift stations to ensure power to these critical facilities is a priority can also help prevent SSOs. The spill in January was caused by a new apartment complex owner not paying their electric bill and the electric company not knowing the account powered a lift station. Both are expected to take steps to ensure this does not happen in the future.