Many of the pumps in the city’s drainage system have been in use since the early 1900s. State-of-the-art a century ago, the city’s oldest pumps run on a different power frequency than what the rest of the city now runs on (25 Hz vs. 60 Hz) and contain parts that are no longer commercially available and must be machined in-house by SWBNO employees.
For the older pumps, turning them on is not as easy as simply flipping a switch. Operators must coordinate machines, representing technological advances from across a century, in order to start moving water.
Pumps also require constant attention and maintenance. This includes making sure all of the spinning parts are properly lubricated so that motors and impellers can work for hours on end, storm after storm and year after year, without metal parts grinding against each other.
Pump station operators are constantly checking oil levels and temperatures using digital monitoring gauges, as well as their ears, noses, and hands, to keep track of what is and isn’t working. They do this, too, for the vacuum pumps, motor generators, pressure boosters, and other machinery in the pump stations.