Wichita City Council to consider settlement over failing water pumps, motors

Thirty failing submersible pumps and motors that have plagued the city’s groundwater recharge program would be replaced under a settlement being considered Tuesday by the Wichita City Council.

The settlement with project contractor Dondlinger & Sons Construction, which is on the council’s consent agenda and is unlikely to include any comments, includes free replacement of 30 failed motors and pumps at the contractor’s cost, estimated at somewhere between $450,000 and $600,000. Included will be 15 pumps and motors to be used as replacements at the well field.

City officials say the settlement is expected to gain council approval.

The city’s ASR – aquifer storage and recharge – program is designed to provide a water supply for decades to come. It takes floodwater from the Little Arkansas River, purifies it and then returns it to the Equus Beds aquifer to store for future city use.

It is in northern Sedgwick County, running north and west into west-central Harvey County.

Alan King, the city’s public works director, said the pump failures began late last fall. However, because the area’s irrigation season was mild and wet, King said, the pump issues never left the city vulnerable on high-demand water days.

“There weren’t a lot of them failing, about five, but they were all failing with a short number of run hours on them, and that let us know something was wrong,” King said.

Ten pumps were replaced in May and the other 20 were switched out on Friday, King said.

The biggest issue as the city and Dondlinger worked through the failures was pump brands, King said. The city wanted a different brand of pump and motor, but none had the projected life – if they worked – of the original pumps.

“Because of the shorter life, they’ve agreed to give us 15 extras to put on the shelf when these need replacing,” King said.

King said his department is happy with Dondlinger’s response to the failures.

“I think it’s fair. The city is getting what it paid for, and Dondlinger has agreed to make the city whole. They worked hard with their subcontractors, but we never did figure out what was wrong,” he said. “It was definitely a failure of the motors we did run, but rather than leave us in a bad place, they agreed to replace them with a different make of motor. They definitely stepped up to the plate.”