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  Sumps in Florida

ASME A17.1, 106.1b (3) states: "Drains connected directly to sewers shall not be installed in elevator pits. Sumps may be installed. Where drains are not provided to prevent the accumulation of water, sump pumps shall be provided".

This code change was made to insure the removal of accumulated (accidental) water, from such sources as a fire sprinkler heads or flooding from a source above first landing.  This provision in the code is to assist in maintaining elevator service during a fire emergency.  It does not state that the pump must keep up with or surpass the volume of water from sprinklers.  It was not intended for the removal of accumulated oils and/or hazardous materials. The ASME A17.1 code is not an environmental code but an Elevator Safety Code. "Drains connected directly to sewers shall not be installed in elevator pits"  was not added to prevent hydraulic oil or gear oil from seeping into sewers.  Instead, the purpose is to prevent methane gas from the sewer system entering into the elevator hoistway and potentially causing an explosion.  The sump pump should discharge into an open air environment.  Connection to drains could cause problems in a fire emergency due to traps within a drainage system.  

Florida Administrative Code 61C-5 amends Rule 106.1b(3).  Drains connected directly to sewers shall not be installed in elevator pits.  Where drains are not provided to prevent the accumulation of water, a sump of adequate size and depth to accommodate a pump shall be provided, with or without a pump.  The change affected by 61C-5 is the removal of middle section of A17.1, 106.1b(3) " Sumps may be installed."   Additionally, the change also removes the requirement of "pumps shall be installed."   The question is the intent of this change.  Was the intent to allow the option of pump installation in lieu of the requirement of "shall" be installed?  One can hardly argue that the intent was not to allow a pump since the code is clear that the sump is required with or without a pump installed.  Is the intent of the change to the code to be certain contaminated water or oil was not to be drained into sewer systems in Florida?  This amendment includes the requirement for a separate sump or depression of adequate size to accommodate a proper pump.

An argument is made that sump pumps must be portable or switched.  If sump pumps were only to be portable or switched what is the purpose of both A17.2.1 and A17.2.2 Item 5.1.1f:  For elevators installed under NFPA 70-1996 and later editions, check that the receptacle is of the ground fault circuit-interrupter type. A single receptacle supplying a permanently installed sump pump does not require ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection.  The very same Florida Administrative  Code also adopts both A17.2.1 and A17.2.2 but without exception.  The A17.2 is not a code but a "Guide For Inspection of Elevator, Escalators, and Moving Walks."  This inspection item does not require checking for portability or a switch on the system.  Inspecting beyond the scope of A17.2 could be considered beyond the scope or expertise of the elevator inspector.  We have found no requirement in either A17.1, A17.2, the Florida Building Code or Florida Administrative Codes that a sump pump must be switched or portable.  Sump pumps typically have a float switch integral with the system.

Another argument is that elevator pits are defined as Classified or Hazardous Locations by NFPA.  Elevator hoistways (even those that are hydraulic fluid driven type) do not meet the definition of Class 1, 2 or 3 of either Division 1 or 2 as prescribed by the NEC®, NFPA-70. The flash point of AW 32 hydraulic fluid is 216°C (420°F) plus. This is well above the normal operating temperature in an elevator hoistway and without question beyond the maximum working temperature of known industry standard submersible sump/sewage (explosion proof or non-explosion proof) pumps available today.  If a pump motor does not run and is left to stand in oily (stagnant) water for years, it may freeze and not be operable when needed. Explosion Proof pumps and equipment can be very costly. The majority of these pumps may never see duty unless a routine maintenance program is kept up by the end users.

One more idea being promoted is to install a holding tank which the system would drain or empty to.  Placement of the holding tank would be in a location that is accessible for a pumper truck.  If someone could properly size this holding tank, especially in a hoistway which is sprinklered, we would be interested in the formula.  Sizing of even a sump pump cannot include keeping up with the flow of a sprinkler system. If the intent of the ASME A17.1 code was meant to handle one or two full flowing fire sprinkler heads, it should have stated, "provide a sump pit and pump that is sized to handle the flow of a sprinkler head". 

If the jurisdiction having authority has mandated that an oil separator be installed downstream of the sump pump(s) and related equipment for the removal of hydraulic fluid, proper pump selection is difficult if not impossible for the owner.  Not only are the majority of building owners unqualified to select proper pumps, but elevator inspectors are not qualified to verify proper installations.

Most submersible pump manufacturers require a minimum submergence (pump off float level) of their pumps to prevent air lock and/or cavitation. This minimum submergence level can be as much as 9" to 12" of standing water. Submersible pumps draw whatever liquid or fluid is present in the sump pit through the bottom of the pump.  Depending on the type of pump the suction inlet can range from 1/8" to 4". These levels are fixed. Hydraulic oil, being lighter than water, will be captured within this differential between the off float and the bottom suction port of the pump. This captured oil will have to be removed by other means, most likely a pumper truck.

Hydraulic oil is listed on both the Little Giant® Chemical Resistance Chart and Chemtrol® Chemical Resistance Guide. Some commonly used thermoplastics and elastomers used in the construction of pumps and related pump accessories as well as power cords are not compatible with hydraulic fluids. The following is a partial list of these materials:

bulletPolypropylene: A thermoplastic commonly used by some manufactures for construction of floats switches, pump bases and other components.
bulletEthylene Propylene EPDM: An elastomer commonly used for seal material and o-rings.
bulletRubber (Natural): An elastomer commonly used for seal material, gaskets and o-rings.
bulletNeoprene: An elastomer commonly used for power cords, gaskets and o-rings. Although listed as minor effect to good on the Little Giant® Chart, Chemtrol® Guide states that Neoprene is attacked by hydraulic oil above 70°F. Most pumps operate at temperatures higher than 70°F

It is recommend that you contact the manufacturer or the manufacturers' representative and question whether their product is compatible or resistant to the effects of hydraulic fluid under their products normal operating temperature.  Remember to get it in writing.  If you don’t, you may be the one carrying the liability.  A number of manufacturers of both the pumps and float switches will not warranty their equipment if used with hydraulic oil present.

Do not overlook, A17.1 302.3g provides for collection of hydraulic oil in a pit.  Collection of Oil Leakage: Means shall be provided to collect for the removal any oil leakage from the cylinder packing gland. The amount collected before removal shall not exceed 19L (5 gal).  This oil collection system or container is required as an integral part of the elevator equipment, provided and maintained by the elevator equipment contractors.  Proper inspection of the elevators would include checking of the oil collection. 

This article written by:
Tom Waardenburg, NAESA QEI S-97
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