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Vacuum Sewer Systems

Vacuum Sewer Systems Require Expert, Experienced & Qualified Plumbers

Gareth Mays of Whywait Plumbing preparing for a confined space entry into a sewer vacuum collection sump at The Boat Works in the Coomera Marine Precinct

Gareth preparing for a confined space entry into a sewer vacuum collection sump

Whywait Plumbing are one of the few plumbing companies on the Gold Coast who not only understand vacuum sewers but are also acknowledged as experts in the service and maintenance of vacuum sewer systems whether they are in the ground or in a building, with an unmatched level of expertise.

Vacuum drains and the associated sewer technology have been experienced by just about everyone when they have flown in the last 50 years. Planes and ships have utlised vacuum technology for decades to transport sewerage from toilets, showers, basins and sinks to centralised black water storage tanks.

If you live or work in any of  the northern suburbs of the Gold Coast around Hope Island, Monterey Keys, Oyster Cove, the Coomera Marine Precinct and Jacobs Well then in all likelihood your sewer is a vacuum sewer. All of these suburbs that have been developed since 1999 utilise vacuum sewer systems rather than a conventional gravity sewer system.

Marshall Taylor of Whywait Plumbing installing a new sluice valve into an existing vacuum sewer pipe at The Boat Works in the Coomera Marine Precinct

Marshall installing a new sluice valve into an existing vacuum sewer system pipe

Vacuum sewer systems are relatively new to the Gold Coast which is why they are concentrated in the newly developing residential and industrial suburbs of the northern Gold Coast.

Lauchy James of Whywait Plumbing servicing vacuum unit plunger and diaphragm at The Boat Works in Coomera Marine Precinct

Lauchy servicing vacuum unit diaphragm

Vacuum sewers are also ideally suited to these suburbs on the northern Gold Coast  as they are mainly large flat land areas where a conventional gravity sewer system is expensive to install with significant design constraints.

A gravity sewer requires deeper and deeper excavations for the sewer pipes because they need to have a constant fall. This is compounded by the need to install numerous manholes at every change of direction and numerous sewer pump stations to pump the sewerage to the treatment plant.

Therefore the single main advantage of installing a vacuum sewer system in these northern Gold Coast suburbs which are all flat is the elimination of design constraints. Vacuum sewers in contrast to a gravity sewer have few design constraints as:

  • no fall is required which means designs can be very versatile as they can literally run uphill
  • can be run around, over or above any site obstacles
  • they are much cheaper to install with only shallow excavations required for the sewer vacuum collection sumps and the network of lightweight small diameter vacuum sewer piping
  • sewer vacuum collection sumps can be easily added or removed with little disruption to the vacuum network

How Does A Vacuum Sewer System Operate?

Simplicity is at the heart of the operation of the flexibility of a vacuum sewer system as there are only three main operational components which are:

1 – Sewer Vacuum Collection Sump or Chamber

The collection sump operates in a similar fashion as does a manhole in a traditional gravity sewer. Traditional gravity fall sewer drain pipes from any building are connected directly to the collection sump with the sewage coming into the collection sump. Once the inflow of sewage reaches a predetermined level the vacuum interface valve in the sump will automatically open allowing the vacuum in the pipe network to suck the sump dry and then automatically shut off.

2 – Vacuum Sewer Pipe

The pipe network operates in the same manner as the hose in a domestic vacuum cleaner as these pipes form the network which has a constant vacuum flowing through it which allows the sewage to be transported to the vacuum station.

3 – Vacuum Station

Much like a normal domestic vacuum cleaner this is the operational nerve centre from which the whole of the vacuum sewer system is controlled and monitored by Gold Coast Water. Inside the vacuum station the vacuum pumps create the vacuum throughout the system and it is where the sewage is held in the collection chambers and then pumped to the sewage treatment plant via the traditional gravity sewer system.

Maintenance and Servicing

City of Gold Coast through Gold Coast Water are solely responsible for the operation, maintenance and servicing of all Gold Coast vacuum stations.

The vacuum pipe network is not susceptible to blockages as it is basically self cleaning. The pipes however can be damaged by either excavation or by poor initial installation that causes a leak in the vacuum system. Locating a leak in the vacuum pipes can be time consuming and can also result in Gold Coast Water isolating individual systems until repairs are undertaken.

Vacuum interface valve in sewage collection sump at The Boat Works in the Coomera Marine Precinct serviced by Whywait Plumbing Services

Vacuum interface valve in sewage collection sump at The Boat Works in the Coomera Marine Precinct

In our experience the most common problems in a vacuum sewer occur within the collection sump and normally only make that individual sump non-operational with the most common issues being:

  • no vacuum being available to create suction
  • blocked suction pipe
  • a fault in the operation of the vacuum interface valve
  • a damaged or blocked atmosphere breather pipe
  • blocked or faulty sensor pipe

Any vacuum leaks in your internal pipe network or at your vacuum interface valve can result in Gold Coast Water isolating your system until repairs are undertaken. All maintenance and servicing must be undertaken as per the manufacturer’s prescribed procedures and instituted in a proactive manner .

To ensure your internal vacuum sewer system is maintained correctly with preventable maintenance schedules contact Gareth Mays at Whywait Plumbing.