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In Dunn Center, N.D., the maintenance, streets and water departments are called Leo. No, that’s not an acronym; it’s the first name of the man who keeps the town infrastructure in shape.
Like everyone else who works for this rural town of 130 people in northwestern North Dakota, Leo Piatz wears multiple hats. A machinist by trade, he knows how to fill potholes, fix power boxes and change the seals on the town’s two water pumps. As a jack-of-all-trades, Piatz is constantly on the lookout for equipment that is reliable, smart and durable.
“We’re a typical small town. Most of us here are either retired or working in a nearby city,” said Piatz, who has a full-time job running a machine shop in nearby Killdeer. “We don’t have the time or manpower to spend fixing things that shouldn’t have broken in the first place.”
Dunn Center’s water system meets Piatz’s high standards for performance. Tucked away in a pump house on the edge of town, two Goulds Pumps vertical, multi-stage pumps equipped with Aquavar variable speed controllers push 8,000 gal of water a day into the town’s 80 homes at a constant pressure between 40 and 45 psi.
The system has been running without a hitch since October 2005, and Piatz has visited the pump house every day to check the easy-to-read Aquavar display of usage and pressure.
“I don’t need to be in there every day because this is a set-it-and-forget-it system, but it’s like a new toy that you just want to play with,” he said.
The Aquavar controllers keep the pump motors from running full on or full off and provide a more efficient low-flow capability. Before the installation of the smart pump system, Dunn Center residents were getting water delivered at line pressures that varied from 30 to 55 psi depending on demand. Today, even though average pressures are lower, townspeople told Piatz they love the “new, higher pressure” water system.
“The constancy of the pressure makes it feel stronger than what we had in the past,” Piatz said.
While water pressure is constant, electricity bills are shrinking. Dunn Center Town Auditor Maggie Piatz, Leo’s wife, saw a noticeable drop in the town’s first bill after the new system was installed. “The pumps aren’t pumping as hard or as long, so they don’t need as much power,” she said.
The new system became a necessity when bubbles began appearing in the town’s water supply in early 2005. When Piatz pulled the two old Goulds Pumps turbines—which had been installed in 1975 and had worked flawlessly for 30 years—he discovered rusted piping coming from the head of one of the units.
“The pump was still working fine; it was the pipe that gave out,” explained Dunn Center Mayor Allan Roll.
Dunn Center town officials decided it was time to invest in a new pumping system and started their search 25 miles to the east in the town of Dodge, which had installed an Aquavar two years earlier. When Dunn Center officials learned the controller had cut Dodge’s electricity bills in half, they were sold.
Because the previous Goulds Pumps turbines had worked well for so long, Dunn Center officials went back to the proverbial well and asked for bids on a system that included two new Goulds Pumps turbines along with two Aquavar controllers.
“This type of system is a perfect fit for these small towns,” said Chris DeParde, territory manager for ITT Water Technology, which manufactures Goulds Pumps turbines and the Aquavar controllers. “You get the reliability that is so important to these remote towns, plus the cost savings that help you better manage your limited money supplies.”
Dakota Pump & Control—a distributor based in Watertown, S.D., which had installed and serviced Dunn Center’s first system in 1975 and Dodge’s Aquavar controller in 2003—won the bidding based in large part on its service record, and then immediately lived up to its reputation by installing the pumps during one of the worst snowstorms and power outages in Dunn Center history.
Mayor Roll used to dread visiting the pump house because of the sudden starts and stops of the old pump system. “It would scare you half to death,” he said. Now Roll likes to drop in when Piatz is monitoring the pumping performance. He basks in the silence of the new system and the knowledge that under his watch, his town made the right decision.
“I’m very pleased,” Roll said. “If these pumps keep working as well as they are now, we won’t have to worry about them for another 30 years.”