What Is a Grinder Pump?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A grinder pump pulverizes wastewater before delivering it to sewer lines. This may be necessary when a home cannot rely on gravity to pull waste into the sewer. The pump generates enough pressure to force a load of wastewater and suspended solids into the sewer, clearing the storage tank attached to the pump so it can resume collecting household waste. Homes connected to a sewer system may have a grinder pump installed by the sewer authority, in which case the pump is the responsibility of the agency, although residents of the home do share some responsibility to keep it in good working order.

A grinder pump pulverizes wastewater before delivering it to sewer lines.
A grinder pump pulverizes wastewater before delivering it to sewer lines.

In structures that use a grinder pump system, wastewater flows into a storage tank. A float determines when the level of fluid in the tank is high, and activates the pump, which breaks down the material inside and pressurizes it to force it out into the sewer. Pre-processing with a grinder pump means that narrow-diameter piping can safely be used, which cuts down on expenses associated with installing and maintaining the system.

These devices do not work when the power is out, because they require electricity to function. Homes with a grinder pump should be careful about water usage during power outages, or may want to consider using a generator to run the pump. It can also become prone to clogging periodically; the sewer authority may send a technician approximately every six months to check the pump and controls and clean it, if necessary.

Materials like sanitary napkins, diapers, and greases cannot be flushed into the system, as they may cause it to clog. It is also important to pay attention to alarms issued by the system, which warns people when it may overflow or has encountered another operational problem. Residents can call for assistance when the grinder pump alarm goes off. Many agencies maintain on-call personnel to respond to these calls in case of an emergency like sewage backing up into the yard because it has nowhere to go.

If a grinder pump is part of a home’s wastewater management plan, an access point should be visible somewhere in the yard. It is important to keep this clear so technicians can access it in a hurry. Residents shouldn’t plant trees or shrubs close to the equipment, and should make sure grass is kept trimmed back. Potted plants and other movable objects can be used to camouflage the access hatch until it is actually needed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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