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Sewage ejectors


Chris Bernhardt
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Our Oregon code specifically states that you need to install backwater valve or swing check valve followed by a full way gate valve on the outlet side of the ejector and that these need to be accessible for inspection and service and protected against freezing.

I looked at an ejector on a new house this last weekend and there was no visible check valve of any kind and they used a PVC ball valve which was accessible for inspection but not for service since they had asphalted around the small box housing it.

Now my questions are these - Should I be seeing a non-corrosive metal bodied swing check valve? I say it that way since there are spring loaded PVC check valves which I believe are not approved for use on sewage ejectors.

Also should I be looking for a full way non-corrosive metal gate valve and not some PVC ball valve?

And this "full way" business, what does that mean to imply? The PVC ball valves appear to open full way when fully open. Uh, you can tell I am not a plumber.

Chris, Oregon

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When I find an ejector pump, I treat them just about like a septic tank. First off a good number of the ones I see have a metal cover that is almost too heavy to even move, so I just report that I could not safely move the cover. The ones that have a dome tip lid that you can open easily I just check to see if the pump will run. I either activate the float or some have a bypass switch. That is about all I do with an ejector pump. I then tell my client that it really should be serviced and cleaned by a septic company or a plumber before the close on the home, as many things could be hidden from my view. The biggest problem is the impeller on the pump. The blades break and you can't see them to tell if they are cracked and getting ready to break.

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Our Oregon code specifically states that you need to install backwater valve or swing check valve followed by a full way gate valve on the outlet side of the ejector and that these need to be accessible for inspection and service and protected against freezing.

I looked at an ejector on a new house this last weekend and there was no visible check valve of any kind and they used a PVC ball valve which was accessible for inspection but not for service since they had asphalted around the small box housing it.

Look at the definitions for "accessible" and "readily accessible." As I interpret it, the check valve can be inside the sump. You can usually tell if it's there by the sound. If there's no check, you'll hear the water rushing back into the tank after the pump's done cycling. If the check is there, you can usually hear it thump shut after the pump is done.

The asphalt is a judgment call. How much did it impede access? How often do you suppose the valve will need to be "serviced"?

Now my questions are these - Should I be seeing a non-corrosive metal bodied swing check valve? I say it that way since there are spring loaded PVC check valves which I believe are not approved for use on sewage ejectors.

I've seen both brass and plastic ones. As far as I know, the plastic ones are fine. Frankly, I prefer them because they're a lot quieter than the brass ones. Some of the brass ones sound like someone hitting the pipe with a hammer every time they close.

I think you're right about the spring loaded valves. They might restrict capacity or screen solids.

Also should I be looking for a full way non-corrosive metal gate valve and not some PVC ball valve?

You answered that in the first paragraph. P3010.4 very specifically says, "gate valve." I don't know why. It seems to me that a plastic ball valve would work just fine.

And this "full way" business, what does that mean to imply? The PVC ball valves appear to open full way when fully open.

It just means that the valve, when open, has to accommodate the full flow of the pipe it's attached to. A globe valve, for instance, wouldn't do that. Gate valves and ball valves will.

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Those questions came up because I was looking thru a copy of "Performing Residential Plumbing Inspections" published by the ICC. Their section on sump pumps and sewage pumps indicated that the inspector should check that the pumps were on their own circuit and GFI protected with the exception of sump pumps and that the sewage ejector needed a high water alarm. I couldn't glean from the Oregon code where they were requiring those items to be checked for.

Chris, Oregon

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Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

Those questions came up because I was looking thru a copy of "Performing Residential Plumbing Inspections" published by the ICC. Their section on sump pumps and sewage pumps indicated that the inspector should check that the pumps were on their own circuit and GFI protected with the exception of sump pumps and that the sewage ejector needed a high water alarm. I couldn't glean from the Oregon code where they were requiring those items to be checked for.

Chris, Oregon

They don't need GFCI protection per 918-305-0130 which amends NEC 210.8(A)(2) to include a third exception which reads thus: "Receptacle ground fault protection shall not be required for a dedicated branch circuit serving a single receptacle for sewage or sump pumps."

I'm not sure that they intended to write what they did. My suspicion is that they meant "dedicated outlet" not "dedicated circuit." It would make more sense anyway, since I can find no requirement for a dedicated circuit for these items.

The NEC does require dedicated circuits for some motors. The details are in 430.53. For the purpose of this discussion, the motor would have to be more than 1 hp to require a dedicated circuit. Most sewage ejectors are about 1/2 hp.

As for the high water alarm, it's a good idea, but it doesn't seem to be in the Oregon Code.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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