By Gary Battenberg
In July, we looked at the introduction of the push-fit type of plastic fitting in the mid 1980s and the enthusiastic acceptance in many areas of our industry. Valuable lessons were learned by some who rushed to be the first to introduce them to their markets. Since those early days, other companies have developed and marketed their versions of the push-to-connect, thermoplastic tube fittings. We also looked at the importance of proper material selection relative to the type of application, as well as water pressure, temperature, environmental conditions and finally service and maintenance. In Part 2, we will look at two examples of installations that were poorly planned and the problems encountered.
The dentist office
The frantic call came into the switchboard at 8:02 a.m., requesting emergency service at a nearby dentist’s office. The receptionist transferred the call to the Service Director, who noted the nature of the emergency. A service invoice was generated and he was dispatched to the address, arriving at 8:20. The dental receptionist greeted him and thanked him for making time for her on short notice. She explained to him that the company that sold and installed the system refused service, saying the problems were in her mind and their records indicated the system was operating properly.
The receptionist then showed the Service Director the water cooler located in the patient lounge, which had an out-of-order sign taped on it. She filled a paper cup and there was a definite offensive odor in the water, which was noted on the service invoice. They proceeded to the employee break room and dispensed water from the RO spigot mounted on the sink. There was a noticeable odor in that water as well, which was also noted on the service invoice. The receptionist then pointed out that there was a pungent odor emanating from the sink every time the tap water was turned on.
From the break room, she indicated the water lines connected to the dental operatories and said the water was not usable at any of the three locations. Pointing to the tubing that supplied water to all the service locations, she asked why the tubing was turning green and if that could be causing the odor in the water. The Service Director confirmed that could very well be the cause of the unpleasant taste. The receptionist asked if there was anything that could be done to restore good-quality water service throughout the offices. The Service Director assured her that the problem could be remedied; he needed to perform a diagnostic survey on the entire water system and a site audit to collect pertinent details of the existing installation (as well as inspection of the service plumbing to the building) so a proposal for corrective action could be prepared.
Using a pressure gauge, he noted the static water pressure to the building was 112 psi. In the utility closet, he noted there was no pressure regulator installed on the incoming service main. After testing the water at the sink and recording the results, the Service Director inspected the area under the sink where a residential RO system was installed. He noted a self-tapping needle valve was attached between the wall and the [cold] angle-stop supply, which was a plumbing code violation. The connection revealed a slow drip, which was noted. Next, he found the RO drain saddle mounted behind (downstream) the trap, another code violation.
The Service Director explained to the receptionist that the cause of the odor at the sink was sewer gases escaping out of the air gap on the RO spigot base and the issue would be remedied, as a courtesy, before he left the building. Also noted was the evidence of water leaking and corrosion of the sanitary system under the sink. Various cleaning chemicals and a box of dish-washing compound were damp; it was noted that these chemicals were probably the cause of the corrosion and oxidation observed under the sink. In addition, the RO system was fitted with acetal fittings that indicated oxidation from the corrosive conditions under the sink. The receptionist was advised to remove the chemicals and store them on a shelf in the utility closet.
Following the purveyance tubing from the RO system, the Service Director noted that it was secured to the wall with small clips and that on the horizontal runs, the tubing drooped, creating an unsightly appearance that detracted from the otherwise pleasant décor of the office. The tubing was routed above the drop ceiling in several locations and inspection of these areas revealed the tubing exposed to light and radiant heat from the lighting fixtures and in near proximity to the HVAC duct work.
Finally, measurements were recorded and a material list was itemized for the recommended work needed to restore purified water service to the cooler and operatories. The Service Director suggested purchasing single-serving-size bottled water for patients until the RO and purveyance system issues could be resolved. The receptionist signed and received a copy of the service invoice and was informed that a proposal on company letterhead would be delivered in the afternoon. Later that day, the Service Director delivered a detailed proposal for the recommended work to restore high-quality drinking and operatory rinse water including:
Day 1: three-man crew
- Post the plumbing permit and commence removal of the condemned existing residential RO and related purveyance tubing
- Repair plumbing and sanitary piping under break room sink
- Water cooler will be transported to company works for cleaning, sanitizing and performance testing, then returned for re-installation and commissioning.
- Installation of a code-approved pressure regulator with filter screen on the main water line and set to 60 psi with pressure gauge
- Installation of light commercial RO system with cellulose tri-acetate (CTA) membrane and six-gallon accumulator in the utility closet (Reject drain line shall be terminated with code-approved air gap at floor sink.)
- Install 0.375-inch ID CPVC rigid piping with appropriate mounting clips at recommended intervals for proper support and IPS escutcheons where wall penetrations are required (no purveyance piping shall be installed above the drop ceiling. Piping may be painted to match wall colors at extra cost.)
- Service valves located at each service outlet for isolation, removal and replacement (R&R) of chlorine, taste and odor (CTO) POU filters
- Non-translucent, FDA-approved flexible antimicrobial polyethylene tubing connections at each service valve, POU CTO filter and connections off the water cooler, remote RO spigot on break room sink and dental operatories with compatible thermoplastic fittings.
- All work to be performed after business hours per customer agreement
- All work to be completed by crews on two consecutive evenings
- Restore housekeeping for routine business operations next day
- Access through rear of building only and secure upon leaving job site
Day 2: two-man crew
- Pressure-test and purge purveyance piping, valves and tubing of air and fill with supplemented chlorinated RO water for disinfection. Flush cooler, remote RO spigot and dental operatories
- Attach CTO POU filters and purge of air
- Make final filtered water connections to cooler, remote RO spigot and dental operatories
- Open all service valves to cooler, remote RO spigot and dental operatories; check for water-tight connections
- Test product water for chlorine removal
- Restore housekeeping for routine business operations next day
- Access through rear of building only and secure upon leaving job site
The following day, the Service Director arrived at the office to meet with the plumbing inspector for approval and sign-off on the installation. He then took the receptionist on the inspection tour for confirmation of work completed, as per the proposal. She sampled the water from the water cooler and remote RO spigot for palatability. Being satisfied that the work was completed as promised, she signed off on the itemized completion document for the project.
The Service Director presented a recommended service schedule for review and acceptance by the owner, which was subsequently accepted. The dentist office filed a claim with the State Contractors Board against the original water treatment company and was awarded a monetary sum to help pay for the new system installed by the new service company.
The community center
This case involved a community center that was regularly used by the residents and businesses for various activities. Here again the Service Director was dispatched to investigate a complaint of “bizzare-smelling water” from a central RO system. This system was installed by a competitor that was fired after repeated attempts to correct the problem failed. Upon arrival and inspection of the RO system, purveyance tubing and POU connections, the Service Director discovered the root cause of the bizarre smell in the water was directly related to hostile environmental conditions that contaminated the system and the purveyance plumbing.
The centralized RO system was installed in the mechanical room, which was separated by an open breezeway to the main structure that housed the kitchens, ice makers, steamers, pot fillers, coffee makers, soda machines and drinking fountains. The location of the pretreatment, RO and accumulator tanks was sufficient relative to ambient temperatures with access to water, power and a suitable drain. The chlorinated water was supplied by the local municipality. The accumulated RO water entered a bank of activated carbon filters and then exited the mechanical room through a hole in the outside wall and then to direct burial of the tubing in the ground, where it continued for 90 feet (27.4 meters) before rising out of the ground to enter the back wall of the community center for access to the kitchens area. The purveyance tubing was clear 0.75-inch (19.05-mm) ID-braided, reinforced PVC hose, connected with plastic barb fittings and hose clamps. There was evidence of damaged hose due to sunlight exposure, as well as damage from grounds maintenance and other routine activities associated with the facility.
Inside the kitchen areas, the inspection revealed algae growth in the tubing branches that serviced the various POU connections. A review of service order copies from the previous service company revealed three different instances of repairs to the same locations where the water hose was exposed to the elements. Again, measurements were recorded and a material list generated for a recommended restoration of high-quality water for cooking, beverages and ice.
The RO system was found to be in good working order and would only require replacement of TFC membranes with commercial-size CTA membranes. Restoration of the purveyance piping would comprise the bulk of the work required to render consistent high-quality water to the related fixtures. A proposal was prepared and presented to the community center board of directors and a representative of the Health Department for approval.
The reconfiguration and restoration work consisted of obtaining the plumbing permit and:
- Removing all pre-existing purveyance hose, fittings and clamps
- Patching holes in the walls of the mechanical room and community center
- Replacing TFC membranes with CTA membranes on the RO system
- Installing rigid 0.75-inch CPVC piping for purveying the purified water to the kitchen areas of the community center (piping to be anchored and routed through the block walls above the entry door height via Fire Marshal-approved fire-break chases and sealing compounds. Piping to be encased in double-containment piping in the breezeway and insulated to protect from freezing and damage from other activities)
- CPVC piping to continue throughout the community center kitchen area, properly anchored at recommended intervals with service-valve terminations at each POU outlet
- Non-translucent, flexible FDA-approved antibacterial polyethylene tubing at each service valve outlet, POU fixture chlorine taste and odor filter and fixture connections with compatible thermoplastic fittings
- Purging, flushing, pressure-testing and sanitizing of all purveyance piping, tubing and fixtures serviced by the RO water
The two examples above were actual events that clearly show what is required to provide dependable, treated potable water service for health-related and food-service establishments. They are also examples of installations where flexible tubing or hose products may only be a part of a total material selection for a given project. The convenience of flexible tubing and hose products may make short work of a project, but in many cases, fail because of poor project planning and understanding of environmental conditions that will affect the long-term performance of a potable water system.
These two systems have something in common. The water usage in these cases is what is referred to as ‘intermittent usage’ where there may be as little as one day or as many as several weeks when there is no water usage. For that reason, it was important to maintain detectable chlorine throughout the accumulated water tanks and purveyance piping. Therefore, the CTA membranes were specified to allow chlorinated water to permeate the (chlorine-tolerant) membranes. Just as in a municipal water system where water is chlorinated to prevent bacterial contamination, these systems benefited from residual chlorine in the purveyance plumbing to maintain bacteriostasis of the RO water. The chlorine is then removed just prior to dispensing at the POU fixture(s) by the CTO filters.
The importance of assessing a project and selecting the right components for any application should never be taken lightly. Final selection for thermoplastic fittings, tubing and accessories is the responsibility of the person(s) specifying them for a specific application.
Gary Battenberg is a Technical Support and Systems Design Specialist with the Fluid System Connectors Division of Parker Hannifin Corporation in Otsego, MI. He has 35 years of experience in the fields of domestic, commercial, industrial, high-purity and sterile water treatment processes. Battenberg has worked in the areas of sales, service, design and manufacturing of water treatment systems and processes utilizing filtration, ion exchange, UV sterilization, reverse osmosis and ozone technologies. He may be reached by phone at (269) 692-6632 or by email, [email protected]
About the company
Since 1917, Parker has based its growth on total commitment to delivering timely and dependable solutions for its customers and has accomplished many great things and made important contributions to the advancement of engineering, human development and progress. Parker products helped Charles Lindbergh cross the Atlantic Ocean and Neil Armstrong land on the moon. Today, Parker is virtually everywhere and uses the global breadth and depth of its combined technologies to solve some of the worlds greatest engineering challenges, such as ensuring the safety of food, helping to protect the environment, purifying water, developing new energy sources, leading advancements in transportation and supplying products that enable people to live better lives. Parker’s Fluid System Connectors Group specializes in being a collaborative partner, working with customers in the life sciences community to produce a broad range of water purification products, components and systems for potable water, food and beverage packaging, sterile water for dialysis, IV therapy and the like for more than 30 years. Parker’s Technical and Developmental Teams are available to innovate, collaborate with and inspire its customers as an ethical company and trustworthy business partner and looks forward to the challenges of the next 100 years.