To maintain city equipment (including grounding for motor control centers, telephones and data systems, and generators) and to reduce the replacement costs for operating equipment in public works buildings such as lift stations and pumping stations, MAWSS targeted 29 sites, including 10 booster stations, six sewer lift stations, six plants and pumping stations, and seven office buildings, for lightning protection.
The impact on pumping equipment and office buildings may be extensive, Hyland says. “There are a variety of problems that can occur if pumps or electrical equipment is knocked out by lightning. It could impact our operation by causing us to go to backup systems, and the cost of repairing or replacing damaged equipment can be high,” he explains. Additionally, telephone systems, security systems (including gates and entry access equipment), and computers can be damaged if lightning protection equipment is not installed.
Future benefits of lightning protection systems, such as reduction of equipment repair and replacement, in addition to improved reliability during harsh weather, outweigh the initial costs: The life of surge suppressors for lightning protection is 10 to 20 years, but lightning rods and ground rods last indefinitely. So far, MAWSS has spent more than $1 million installing lightning protection equipment, and savings have been significant.
Implementing a lightning protection system helps reduce the repair and replacement of damaged equipment. Hyland adds that although some public works agencies have the personnel and expertise to undergo a similar lightning protection project in-house, he suggests that they involve experienced contractors.
— Michael Fielding