New Pumps Ordered for Lift Station That Services Jail

Starke County Justice CenterNew pumps have been ordered to replace the two that failed earlier this month at the east Highway 8 lift station. Knox Wastewater Superintendent Kelly Clemons blames commissary trash from the jail that inmates flush down the toilets for the problems they’ve been having since the facility opened last summer.

“It’s cellophane papers. The inlet on these pumps are only about two inches. Both pumps failed on Fridays. They get commissary on Thursday,” Clemons told the Knox Board of Works on Wednesday.

She adds the screen at the jail needs to be monitored more closely.

“I went back through our notes, and in those notes there was a float that was supposed to be installed to give them an alarm. That was never put in. I think that would help because it would get somebody out there a little quicker,” Clemons said.

She added jail maintenance supervisor Tony Mildice checks the screen twice daily during his shift and comes in on his own time on the evenings and weekends to clean it.

Right now she says the jail has one screen with a basket behind it.

“They’re either going to have to keep that bar screen clean and really monitor it close, or they’re going to have to put a mechanical screen in. There’s no way around it, because we’re going to continue to lose pumps with that trash coming through,” Clemons said. “If we allow them to grind it up, it’s going to come down in the system. There’s a lot of houses through there. We get a lot of grease through there. The sand, it’s going to wrap up with that sand and just add to any blockages that we might have. They’re going to be more numerous, plus it goes through three lift stations.”

Clemons acknowledges the pumps that failed were 18 years old, but she says they did not have problems until the new jail opened. She’s ordered replacements at a cost of $2,312 each. The city is covering the cost, but Mayor Dennis Estok notes the existing ordinance allows fines to be levied should problems continue. Clemons says things have improved since she spoke to the county commissioners last week.