Self-contained pumping station has enclosed control room

Automation Integrator Guide case study: Designing a control room for a self-contained pumping station was a tight-fitting challenge. See photo gallery.


Enclosed pumping station design included a 3 ft x 10 ft walkway left for the operator. It was a tight yet extremely operator friendly layout. Courtesy: TW ControlsWhen most of us think of the ultimate control room, we visualize well-lit rooms with comfy chairs for the operator and huge monitors to report the status of our control systems. But for many customers, they are automating a process so that they don't have to deal with the day-to-day operations of systems.

When Optima Properties wanted to build a private waterfront community at Smith Mountain Lake in Union Hall, Va., it was looking for a solution that was completely out of sight and out of mind.

By the time Apptech Solutions LLC approached TW Controls LLC with the idea of enclosing a control room inside one of its vessels, it had already perfected burying 40-ft-long steel reinforced polyethylene vessels for many uses, such as pumping stations and fully self-contained waste treatment systems. In addition to a longer service life compared to conventional systems, these can be installed in less than one week on site compared to four weeks to install a conventional system due to the fact that most of the fabrication can be done at the manufacturing facility.

Limited size, operator friendly

Controls consist of PLC, HMI, monitoring, and alarm notification via e-mail, data logging for analytical reporting and transmission via cell modem, and optional web server. Courtesy: TW ControlsApptech designed the station with an additional 10 ft section that would be completely sealed off from the rest of the vessel. Behind this wall is 14,000 gal of storage capacity. Even on a small system, an 8 ft diameter pipe 10 ft long fills up fast. Lighting was installed, provisions were made for heating and cooling the section, and piping was arranged for long-term ease of maintenance. By the time it was all installed, there was a 3 ft x 10 ft walkway left for the operator. It was a tight yet extremely operator friendly layout.

Controls consist of an Automation Direct PLC and Red Lion HMI. Normal operator intervention is not necessary. On initial start-up, operating parameters that the system will run within must be entered and then the system can run autonomously after that.

System parameters are monitored and can notify the proper person in the event of an alarm via optional e-mail.

Data is logged for analytical reporting and can be transmitted to a remote location via optional cell modem.

Pumping stations need valves. The enclosed pumping station has 14,000 gal of holding capacity. Courtesy: TW ControlsThe control system also has an optional web server that allows for remote monitoring of the current condition of the system via a standard web browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome.

Once landscaping around the vessel is complete, the only evidence of this system will be a camouflaged door and a few green manhole covers along a rolling field of grass. While this may not be what a system integrator would consider the ultimate control room, it is a land developer's dream.

- Tim Wilborne, owner, TW Controls LLC. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, 


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The self-contained pumping station arrived on-site on a flatbed. Courtesy: TW ControlsA crane moved the pumping station into position. Courtesy: TW ControlsHere the pumping station is lowered onto the prepared pad. Courtesy: TW ControlsScenic surroundings show why putting the pumping station underground is desirable. Courtesy: TW ControlsEntrance of the pumping station shows completed grading on-site. Courtesy: TW Controls

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