From: "Mayo, Bret" <bret.mayo**At_Symbol_Here**NDSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] One Pass Water Flooding Incidents
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2018 22:29:09 +0000
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Message-ID: SN2PR0801MB2318AE60DA04EE261810CD3399010**At_Symbol_Here**

I wish I had photos but I don’t.  I can share a story, though. 


In 2004 we were just moving into the newest research building on campus.  My lab was on the second floor and was one of the first ones to get up and running.  Labs below us were still waiting on equipment so there wasn’t much in those areas yet.  A reaction was set up to run over the weekend.  Tubing popped off of a condenser and probably ran for about 14 hours before it was discovered.  Some of the lessons learned were:

·         We didn’t know that the fume hoods had been installed improperly.  The benchtops in that hood and most of the others were not liquid-tight.  Also, there was no drip lip milled into the front of the bench surface, so any liquid which made it to the front edge of the bench would not drip down to the floor as it should have, but instead run down the front face of the supporting cabinets and into the chemical storage under each hood.

·         Floor drains had been removed from the building plan as a cost saving measure.

·         Caulking between floors had been done only where it was easily visible, not under cabinets, so any liquid which found its way into a hidden space would run down into labs below that space.

·         The municipal water pressure increased just a little bit after work hours as water usage across the city slowed down for the weekend and that is probably what started the problem.


Tubing attached to a condenser had popped off and fallen into a silicone oil bath.  That overflowed and water and silicone oil flowed into chemical storage under the fume hood.  Secondary containers in those storage areas filled up and many chemicals began to float as the secondary containers filled.  I received a frantic call from a lab worker to told me to bring every wet-dry vacuum and towel that I owned because we had a huge mess.  I raced up to the lab with vacuums and towels in tow, plugged in a vacuum, turned it on, and discovered that 1) my better half had recently used it and for some reason had attached the hose to the connection that blew out, not the one that pulled water in, and 2) she had used it to vacuum up a huge amount of sheet rock dust.  So now I had a MUCH bigger mess.


Fast forward:  We got everything cleaned up.  We insisted that floor drains be installed (that is another story for another time).  The cost of the water damage in the labs below came to $33,000 which was mostly ceiling tiles, sheet rock, and new paint.  If there had been lab equipment in those labs below, the cost would have been much higher.  All of the chemicals below the hood which were not harmed by the water exposure had to be carefully wiped down as they all had a light coating of silicone oil and were very slippery.  We didn’t do a great job addressing the problem; we purchased a number of water alarms that would dial a phone number if water was detected and we were much more careful about the integrity of tubing and tubing connections.  Those labs continue to have periodic water problems from condenser tubing popping off (12 in the last 14 years) but that first one is still the most expensive.


Bret Mayo

North Dakota State University




From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU> On Behalf Of Debbie M. Decker
Sent: Thursday, September 6, 2018 2:48 PM
Subject: [DCHAS-L] One Pass Water Flooding Incidents


Hi All:


I have a couple of hold-outs who insist on using one-pass water in reflux condensers and the like.  The “California is in constant drought” argument gets me nowhere.


So I’m looking for flooding incidents when the tubing popped off the condenser and flooded the lab or building, etc.  Images would be awesome.







Debbie M. Decker, CCHO, ACS Fellow

Past Chair, Division of Chemical Health and Safety

Councilor and Programming Co-Chair

University of California, Davis





Birkett's hypothesis: "Any chemical reaction

that proceeds smoothly under normal conditions,

can proceed violently in the presence of an idiot."



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