Groundforce to the rescue for emergency repairs

Groundforce's newest pumps division is working for UCS Civils and one of its clients - Anglian Water - on a contract that is ongoing until mid-2010. The approximate value to the pumps division is £150,000 a year.

Any company that offers emergency over-pumping services in the wastewater treatment sector had better be confident that it has the right equipment and can respond quickly. And it is not just the supplier that needs that confidence – its client needs it too.

Lincoln-based contractor UCS Civils, part of the Rand Group, is contracted to Anglian Water for infrastructure repair and maintenance projects under the current AMP4 cycle. Much of the work undertaken, which covers a large part of the Anglian Water region, involves the need for over-pumping during planned maintenance and in the event of emergency repairs.

For UCS Civils, a reliable source of specialist pumping equipment that is available at short notice is essential to this contract. “An emergency could be a collapsed sewer, a burst rising main, a blockage involving surface water or raw sewage and whatever the nature, we need to react very quickly,” says John Dolan, framework manager with UCS Civils.

The company is contractually obliged to be on site within two hours of being notified of an emergency; and in order to provide an effective response, requires a similar responsiveness from its suppliers.

Hire division

Its pump supplier for this work is Groundforce Pumps, the specialist pump hire division of Groundforce which is itself part of equipment hirer VP Plc.

From its depot at Raunds, Northamptonshire, Groundforce Pumps supplies UCS Civils with a range of specialised pumping equipment, backed by a network of strategically located engineers and delivery vehicles throughout the region.

The backbone of the Groundforce Pumps fleet is made up of Hidrostal diesel-powered self-priming pumps – affectionately known as “Betsy” pumps – that have been designed specifically to handle liquids, solids and viscous sludges, including rag-laden sewage and other materials, and which could block other types of pump.

“We have pumps ranging from 3″ to 12″ pipe diameter, and with pumping capacities of up to 340l/s,” says Stewart Nordhoff, general manager with Groundforce Pumps. “These can handle a vast range of tasks including failure backup for permanent pumping equipment, over-pumping for pipeline replacement and planned maintenance jobs including large infrastructure repair and refurbishment schemes.”

Groundforce Pumps is engaged on two separate AMP4 frameworks that UCS Civils has with Anglian Water – a small planned and emergency sewerage contract covering the whole of Lincolnshire, and the Local Partners Framework contract that extends over the 13,000km2 Anglian Water Western Wastewater Area, from Immingham south to Milton Keynes.

Together, these two frameworks amount to about £20M worth of work for UCS Civils over the five-year AMP4 period. “This sort of framework agreement requires long term commitment and reliable delivery, and so it’s vital that we have a streamlined supply chain,” explains Dolan.

Last year, VP’s tool hire division, Hire Station, set up a strategic small plant agreement with the group and established a regional depot at their head office. This not only supplies UCS Civils throughout all their operations but also provides tool-hire services to third-party contractors in the region.

Several other VP companies, including support and formwork specialist Groundforce Shorco, surveying equipment hirer Survey Technology and pipe-stopper and pressure-testing company Stopper Specialists, also work with UCS Civils on its Anglian Water framework contracts.

“We use the whole Group as a one-stop shop,” says Dolan. “The main exception was always pump-hire and until last summer we had two separate agreements with different pump-hirers.”

This changed with the launch of Groundforce Pumps in June 200. Dolan explains: “When they launched Groundforce Pumps it just fell into place; it was a logical progression.”

Nevertheless, there was no assumption that Groundforce Pumps would win the framework without first satisfying UCS Civils’ rigorous performance criteria. “We had many meetings and raised a number of questions with them,” says Dolan. “They were a new company without a track record in pump hire, even though they were part of VP Plc.” Satisfied that the new company could live up to its claims, UCS Civils appointed Groundforce Pumps last summer on a framework contract that runs until the end of AMP4 next March.

Rapid response

Groundforce Pumps covers the whole Anglian Water region. Small quantities of pumping equipment are also stored at other VP company depots in the region to help guarantee a rapid response over a wide area.

“We are committed to a two-hour response time, which is way above the industry standard,” says Nordhoff. “And although UCS Civils is of course by far our largest customer at present, we do offer a commercial service to other customers in the region.”

In the months since its appointment to UCS Civils on the Anglian Water framework, Groundforce Pumps has undertaken a range of both planned and emergency jobs for them.

Typical was a recent emergency over-pumping requirement during the repair of a collapsed sewer at Bicker Bar, near Boston. Groundforce supplied one 4″ pump and one 6″ pump to maintain flows while UCS Civils repaired the main sewer.

This month, Groundforce is commencing work on a six-week planned maintenance project with UCS Civils that involves over-pumping from a large rising main into a sewage treatment works just outside Peterborough. This involves pumping a distance of up to 600m. Nor is it only sewage that Groundforce is required to pump. In areas with a high water-table – common in the Spalding area where wet running sand predominates – pumps are used to prevent groundwater from inundating excavations.

“We often use well-point de-watering pumps to lower the water table while at the same time using the super-silenced Betsy pumps for over-pumping effluent,” says Nordhoff.

While Groundforce Pumps has just one depot currently, plans are afoot to develop the business and extend the company’s geographical range to

serve more customers.

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