Luxury Living Disaster

A Combination Of Neglect, Incompetence, Unknowing, And Greed Leads To Major Pipe Failure

Preface

A full renovation of an old New York City warehouse produces 12 luxury condominium selling at $10-25 million each.  When completed, the water treatment contractor fails to chemically clean and passivate the pipe, and then does not begin the treatment program for more than a year.  Feeding equipment and chemical drums are installed but do not function.  No one managing the building recognizes the importance of the chemical treatment program, nor the damage being caused.

Following months attempting to get the chemical feed equipment to work and the program up and running, management hires a new chemical treatment company to take over this responsibility and correct past errors.  After more than 16 months of no water treatment, the new company finds massive volumes of rust and mud in the open condenser water system supplying 12 individual mechanical rooms.  The cooling tower and surrounding roof is covered in red rust – leading to a recommendation by the new treatment contractor that a chemical cleaning and flushing of the pipe is required prior to establishing an effective chemical treatment program.

Given the volume of the rust throughout the system, and plans to use an inhibited citric acid cleaner, the chemical treatment supplier recommends an evaluation of the piping in order to ensure that it can handle the proposed cleaning.  CorrView International, LLC is secured to perform an ultrasonic investigation by the building management directly.

Investigation

Initial testing identifies severe corrosion and pitting activity at near 35+ mils per year (MPY).  The building has an 8 in main riser from roof level towers with individual 2-1/2 in. distribution lines to each mechanical room, with each mechanical room serving one family.

Within 2 hours we gain enough information to exclude the 2-1/2 in. threaded distribution pipe from safely being cleaned.  Wall thickness has reached to near 0.140 in. from its original 0.203 in., and with a thread cut of 0.105 in., little pipe wall now remains at its most critical areas.  With further investigation we find some 4 in. pipe having deep pitting which raises further concern.  The 6 in. diameter pipe at the roof, pump room, and basement pump room is heavily pitted but still has sufficient wall thickness to exclude any threat due to acid cleaning.  Our recommendation is to replace the 2-1/2 in. distribution lines prior to any aggressive cleaning activity.

Toward the end of our investigation the building engineer remembers an access point to the 6 in. vertical risers in one tenant space, and since we have not been able to document any riser lines, take this opportunity to gain some very inportant information.

Reaching into a small 8 in. x 8 in. access hatch behind a bookcase are the risers, but wall thickness measurements are extremely low.  Measurements suggest some form of error and possible touching the probe blindly onto an electrical conduit.  A camera photo reveals that in fact we are correctly addressing the 6 in. condenser water risers, but that the pipe is stenciled as ASTM A135 schedule 10 fire sprinkler pipe originating in Korea.  The pipe is ERW welded rather than seamless, as defined by the HVAC specification.  We perform multiple measurements to as much as the pipe as is within reach and identify severely low thickness values of near 0.065 in. from its original 0.134 in. dimension.

We then return to an area at the roof where the downward risers begin and have the wall opened to gain access.  While the roof level pipe is all schedule 40 as per design specifications, it transitions to thin wall schedule 10 fire sprinkler pipe immediately upon entering the riser chase.  A second area of the riser is opened above the basement pump room where the same findings are made.  Although all exposed pump related pipe is schedule 40, it is transitioned to thin wall schedule 10 fire sprinkler pipe as soon as it becomes hidden from sight.  Although later argued in court that it was a simple stock ordering error, this pipe substitution cannot be viewed in any way other than being a deliberate effort to save on the cost of heavier schedule 40 pipe.

With such low thickness values present now at the main 6 in. risers as well as at the 2-1/2 in. distribution piping, CorrView recommends against any form of chemical cleaning.  Almost two years of severe corrosion against thin wall fire pipe now demands full pipe replacement.  There is nothing that the new chemical treatment company can do to save the building without incurring great liability.

Conclusion

Our final report is submitted to the building engineer within 2 weeks.  CorrView International meets with the property management team on-site to review our results and leaves shortly thereafter.

Within 60 minutes after delivering the report, a catastrophic failure of the 6 in. main supply riser occurs at an incomplete weld seam at the schedule 10 riser pipe which has been much further weakened due to such severe corrosion.  Water floods through multiple condo units, with building engineering having to smash open the tenant walls of multi million dollar residences – first in order to find the failure, and then to apply an emergency repair clamp.  Having occurred in late June during a long week of high temperatures, the entire building loses all air condition for hours and suffers massive water damage..

The entire condenser water piping system is soon replaced.  Multiple lawsuits are filed.

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Dead Zones

The Leading Cause Of Pipe Failure At Condenser Water Systems

Despite various corrective measure, advanced failures at condenser water systems are on the rise. Many problems are engineered into the system from the start due to the failure to recognize the impact rust deposits and particulates have on producing higher secondary corrosion levels. In addition, most corrective measure, if they are attempted, fail to provide a solution. Here is why.

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Undersized Steel Pipe

A Simple Dial Caliper Measurement Of New Steel Pipe May Reveal Surprising Results

In addition to the many corrosion influences negatively impacting piping systems, many new building properties are constructed using carbon steel pipe which is below factory specification. To the surprise of many, an FM or UL approval, like its ASTM stamp, does not define that the pipe actually meets ASTM thickness standards.

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Inevitable Corrosion

The Decline In The Quality Of Today’s Piping Products Means Greater Corrosion Problems

A large number of negative influences have comined to produce a higher frequency of corrosion problems – often in spite of all precautionary measures taken. Of those, lower quality pipe, undersized pipe, more complex piping layouts, and generally less effective chemical treatment options have produced a “Perfect Storm” contributing to more piping failures.

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Corrosion Threats

When Pipe Corrosion At A Fire Protection System Can Cost Lives

The time to learn of a fire pipe corrosion problem is not during an actual fire emergency. Internal rust deposits can, and have, totally blocked water flow through the sprinkler heads – resulting in the loss of human life. More common at dry systems, internal deposits are a serious threat to all fire protection systems.

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Fire System Failures

Major Misconceptions Within The Fire Protection Industry

Ignoring the obvious does have serious consequences when it comes to fire protection systems. From the use of thin wall schedule 10 & 7 pipe, to lower quality pipe products, to frequent flow testing which brings in new fresh water, clear and well documented reasons exist to explain the higher corrosion activity found at today’s fire protection systems.

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Fire System Corrosion

The Threat Of A High Corrosion Condition To A Fire Sprinkler Line

Often viewed only in terms of water damage in the case of a corrosion induced pipe failure, far more serious concerns exist, although rarely considered. Unlike HVAC piping systems, corrosion activity at fire related piping can impede and in some cases totally block water flow – a potentially life threatening condition during any fire emergency

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Ultrasonic Testing

The Benefits of Ultrasonic Testing in Determining Corrosion Rate and Service Life

Ultrasonic testing provides the most comprehensive, accurate, and cost-effective tool to assess the condition and remaining service life of any piping system. Planned and performed properly, ultrasound offers the first step toward identifying a potential corrosion problem, or for certifying a piping system as fit for service.

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Corrosion Influences

Why Not All Pipe Failures Are The Fault Of Your Chemical Water Treatment Provider

Various design elements to any piping system can have dramatic impact upon its corrosion activity. Pipe origin, schedule used, physical layout, and many other unknown factors can produce a pipe failure. And yet they are completely beyond the realm of protection offered by chemical water treatment.

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Corrosion By Design

Pipe Corrosion Problems No Water Treatment Program Can Protect Against

Various changes have occurred to mechanical piping designs over the past few decades, with virtually all HVAC, plumbing, and fire protection systems having been affected in some way. Many changes relate to the materials themselves. Major changes in piping design, however, have introduced new corrosion problems no chemical treatment program can stop.

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Corrosion Coupons

The Benefits and Limitations of Corrosion Coupons

Relied upon for decades as an indicator of corrosion activity within piping systems, corrosion coupons are highly unreliable in most examples, and totally worthless in others. Many of the most damaging corrosion failures have occurred while at the same time corrosion coupons produced excellent results. Here is why.

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Unexpected Failures

If Corrosion Activity Is Only 0.4 MPY, What Is Wrong With The Above Picture?

Corrosion coupons reported a 0.4 MPY corrosion rate for 6 years where the actual rate exceeded 25 MPY. Believed implicitly in contrast to multiple leaks and failures, the slow but total destruction of the entire condenser water piping system was the net result. A case history illustrating the threat from relying exclusively upon this highly flawed testing method.

Dry Fire Sprinkler

Fire Protection Contractor – Antifreeze: The Fine Line Between Hero and Defendant

Antifreeze used in dry fire sprinkler systems may solve one problem, but has also proven deadly. Rated a Class 1 flammable liquid, antifreeze can accelerate a fire, create a fireball, and even cause an explosion. Although now restricted to lower concentrations, antifreeze still adds heat value to any fire and introduces new and unknown liability to any such system.

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Corrosion Trends

American Welding Society – Understanding Pipe Corrosion Problems

A piping system that satisfies service life demands, requires the recognition of piping design vulnerabilities, effective corrosion monitoring, and the adoption of corrective measurements. With corrosion related failures on the rise, and with generally lower quality pipe being installed, advanced planning and an awareness of potential threats becomes more important.

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Testing Procedures

World Pipelines – Investigation vs. Procedure

Substantially different findings are likely where ultrasonic pipe testing is approached as a forensic investigation based upon known system problems and vulnerabilities, rather than simply a linear based measurement procedure. A critical importance is understanding the inherent corrosion related problems to various piping systems. An adapting investigation will also produce a more definitive answer to any piping problem.

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Fire Pipe Corrosion

Fire Protection Contractor – When Pipe Corrosion In a Fire Protection System Can Cost Lives

The time to first learn of a pipe corrosion problem is not during a true fire emergency when lives are in jeopardy. Thinner pipe, more corrosive steel, lower quality galvanizing, foreign pipe, dry systems, MIC – all such negative factors are driving toward higher internal corrosion deposits to render your fire protection system worthless.

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Ultrasonic Testing

Fluid Handling Systems – Finding The Remaining Service Life

Ultrasonic testing is, by far, the most informative diagnostic method available for determining pipe status, as well as extremely cost effective. An effective piping analysis is much more than a spreadsheet of a few wall thickness measurements – requiring careful statistical analysis and practical interpretation of the data.

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Pipe Corrosion

World Pipelines – Multiple Metering And Monitoring Needs

With no single form of corrosion monitoring capable of proving full coverage to the many different forms of pipe corrosion possible, multiple testing methods are always advised. These should include ultrasonic testing, spool pieces, LPR, regular internal inspection, and a close observance to the often obvious but missed signs of a problem.

A 30+ Year Knowledge Base

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Corrosion

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Failure

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Repair

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Replacement

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Unfortunately, the above is a very common progression of events for many of our clients. Often, greater attention to chemical corrosion control and corrosion monitoring could have saved the system and avoided the problem. In others, a decades prior design flaw or poor choice of pipe supplier may be traced back as the primary fault.

During the 20 years that we have been involved in the field of ultrasonic pipe testing / corrosion monitoring, we have authored various Technical Bulletins for the benefit of our clients. These Technical Bulletins address frequent problem issues to any building owner or operator, and offer both insight as well as reasonable and proven solutions.

We offer below the various categories available, and continue to add new bulletins as time permits.

Current Categories

Interior Rust Deposits, Common Threats, Corrosion Types, Winter Lay-Up, MIC, Corrosion Monitoring and Testing, CUI, Corrosion Coupon Failures, Rust Removal, Reducing Corrosion Threats, Roof Level Corrosion, Drained Pipe, Corrosion Trends, Fire Sprinkler Corrosion, Corrosion At “Free Cooling” Systems


The Impact Of Flow Rate To Higher Corrosion, Inadequate Water Filtration, Piping Layout Design, “Green” Piping Designs


Corrosion Threats, Design Misconceptions, Interior Rust Deposit Threat, Dry Fire System Corrosion, Schedule 10 Pipe, Premature Failures, Clogged Fire Systems, Chemical Control Options, Remediation Choices


Condition Assessment, Due Diligence, Preparation Prior To Renovation, System Evaluation, Expert Witness


Heat Exchangers, Benefits of UT Testing, High Pressure Water Jet Cleaning, Filtration Errors, Chemical Treatment, Condenser Tube Coating, Mold Concerns, Chromate Removal, Growing Threat of Corrosion, Heat Exchanger Tub Coating, Nondestructive Testing


Schedule 40 Limitations, Piping Trends, Hidden Corrosion Threats, Dielectric Insulators, Clamped Grooved Piping, Piping Schedules, Pipe Testing Specification, Roof Pipe Draining, Low Corrosion Guidelines, Dual Temperature Piping Failure


Cold Water Threats, External Corrosion Issues, Fire Reserve Tanks, Interior Pitting, Protective Coatings, Rehabilitation


Improving Heat Transfer Efficiency, Improving Filtering Efficiency, Filter Placement, Poor Performance Causes, Filter Selection Considerations


Chemical Treatment Challenges, Limitations to Water Treatment, Corrosion Coupon Reliance