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Q&A: Hurricanes and Pumping Water


MF091217 PumpingGlenn Wieczorek, managing director of Tsurumi Pump, answered some critical questions to help flood victims in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

What types of pumps are best for flood remediation?

The best pump is quite often the one that’s most readily available. But there are important considerations when choosing a pumping solution.

Ask yourself if the pump needs to run on gasoline or electricity. Knowing this will help you choose between an engine-driven pump or an electric submersible pump, respectively.

Make sure the pump is portable. Can you move it where you need to by yourself? A lot of people don’t realize how heavy these pumps can be – even a ½ hp pump weighs over 30 lb.

Check to see that the pump is rated for continuous duty, since not all pumps are built to run for hours or days at a time. A pump that isn’t built for continuous use will generate excessive heat and will either shut itself off or burn itself out. Find a pump that’s rated for continuous duty with internal overcurrent protection. 

Most importantly, no matter what pump you have, you have to have hose. If you have a pump without a hose or pipe, the pump is useless. A lot of uninformed customers fall into this trap.

If my pump runs on electricity, is there anything else to consider?

You need to know if you have enough amperage. If your pump requires 75 amps, and you only have 30-amp service, you won’t be able to run your pump when you need it most. 

Also check if the pump runs on single-phase or three-phase power. Larger municipalities can run three-phase pumps, but most average homeowners cannot.

Finally, make sure the power cable is secure and undamaged.

Are there any types of pumps to avoid?

Air-operated diaphragm pumps should be avoided in these situations. Even if you have an air compressor to run it, engine-driven and electric submersible pumps should be used instead.

How does debris in the water complicate flood cleanup for pumps and workers?

Debris in the water is especially dangerous for workers. Be careful of nails poking out of wood or sharp, bent metal lurking in dirty water.

Certain pumps have agitators that will move some abrasive solids, but remember that pumps are meant to pump water, first and foremost. They will move negligible amounts of rocks or mud, but you must have adequate water along with it.

Should I be worried about pathogens in the water?

Yes, especially if you have any open cuts. Spend as little time in the water as possible. The longer amount of time you spend in the water, the greater your chance for infection. 

Are there pumps that will filter bacteria out of the water?

No. That technology is not readily available to consumers, and the amount of water is usually too great.

How do I find out if pumps are available near me? Where can I get them?

A rental company is the first place you should go. Try calling one of the larger rental companies like Sunbelt Rentals.

Below are some other rental companies I would recommend to residents affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma:

  • Rain for Rent (nationwide).
  • Herc Rentals (nationwide).
  • MWI Pumps (Florida only).
  • Holland Pump Manufacturing (Florida only).
  • Thompson Pump (nationwide).
  • United Rental (nationwide).

Any one of these companies will help you find the right equipment.

Larger chains like Home Depot or Lowes will also have pumps available, but be wary of quality when selecting your own equipment. Always read the specifications and make sure the pump is rated for continuous duty. Don’t necessarily get the cheapest unit available. 

Do I need to hire a professional or can I pump floodwater myself?

If you’re a home or business owner, you can do it yourself. But be careful and respectful of all safety precautions. Be mindful of electricity. And if the pump gets clogged, don’t stick your hand inside to unclog it (a pump is similar to a garbage disposal in that way). 

If debris gets into the eye of a pump and stops the impeller, people often think they can put their hand in to dislodge the material. These impellers are designed to spin anywhere from 1,800 rpms to 3,500 rpms – once debris is removed, they will resume spinning at that speed and cause injury to the user. 

When in doubt, read and follow the safety instructions.

Where does all that water go? Where is it pumped to?

Once surrounding floodwater has subsided, excess water can be pumped out to the ground or sewer system. Every city is a little bit different, though. In Houston, for example, there are separate systems to handle stormwater and wastewater. Every location is going to be a little bit different. A lot of water will seep into the ground, but oversaturation makes that impossible in the immediate aftermath of a flood.

In most cases, there are no special structures like retention ponds to hold floodwater. Water needs to seep back into the ground over time.

I already have a pump. How can I make sure it’s maintained beforehand?

A pump is much like an automobile – it’s built to run, not to sit idle. If you have a pump and it hasn’t been used for a while, be sure to test it out before deploying it in a flooding crisis. 

You need to make sure the unit is properly oiled and ready to work. When in doubt, take it to a certified technician (it’s a good idea to do this at least once a year). Also check to make sure you have plenty of fuel and hose on hand.

If your pump hasn’t been working for a long time, take your hand – with the power turned off – and spin the impeller. If the impeller is stuck, apply gentle pressure until the impeller starts moving again. This will ensure that the mechanical seal won’t break when you power up the pump.

When a hurricane looms, what can a manufacturer such as Tsurumi do to ensure that flood-prone areas get the pumps they need?

Tsurumi is unique in that we are able to invest more in our inventory than most pump manufacturers. This puts us in a unique position to not only monitor storms like Hurricane Irma, but to preemptively ship pumps to potential trouble spots. For example, we were able to get several truckloads of pumps into Dallas ahead of Hurricane Harvey, just close enough to the Houston area to be effective without getting lost in the flooding.

We know that at any given time, there’s going to be flooding in North America, whether it’s the result of a hurricane, a busted dam or heavy rain. Fortunately for us and for the market, we carry a larger-than-average inventory in anticipation.

Tsurumi currently has inventory in Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, California, Washington, Illinois and Utah, creating a kind of protective perimeter around the country. This enables us to move pumps as quickly as possible to areas that might get hit by hurricanes like Harvey or Irma. It comes at a cost, but we feel it’s important to handle critical demand in times like these. At the very least, we know that the people of Texas and Florida can get access to our pumps when they need them most.

Glenn Wieczorek is a 30-year veteran of the pumping industry, with experience in both the marketing and engineering of water transfer products. He fully understands the displacement of water and the crises it can cause, and he has keen insights to share on the subject. Since being appointed managing director of Tsurumi America in 2010, Wieczorek has overseen remediation efforts for some of the worst natural disasters in recent memory, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Matthew last year. Prior to his time in the pump industry, he worked as an economist for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. He can be reached at 312-614 1535, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..