How Poor Water Quality Can Damage a Facility Infrastructure and How to Address It!

By Bill Berryman

Many water quality reports from city water departments and water treatment service providers that provide chemical injection  for your HVAC  Chilled Water Plants will in some cases produce reports that say your water quality is adequate and would not cause any issues to your systems.  This is not always the case as you will see!

Over my 30+ years of facility management I have found that, in many cases, water quality is anything but quality water.  As some examples: I have found a type of worm growing in cooling towers, chilled water and condenser water pipes leaking because the inside was damaged by years of poor water quality that had to be replaced, new air handlers leaking within weeks of installation because of the chilled water quality. These are just a few examples of issues I have faced over the years!

So how does this affect you facility infrastructure?  What can you do about it?

Let’s list some of the potential issues that poor water quality can cause:

  1. Potable water – Drinking water has certain EPA specifications you must meet in order to comply with these standards.
  2. Condenser water – This is a serious issue for poor water quality if you have cooling towers, as you could have Legionella bacteria and anyone  exposed to the water vapor could become very ill or worse case die.
  3. Chilled water – Poor water quality in this area is also far reaching, as it could contaminate the chillers, piping, valves and air handlers, thus reduce the efficiency or in some cases damage the interior of these systems.
  4. Boilers – These systems require excellent water so they operate efficiently and see full lifecycle.

I have experienced some of these very issues over my career and believe me they are a silent problem and can ruin you day!

How do you address these water quality issues?

All these potential issues can be avoided by simply hiring a consulting company that samples water as their sole service. This means they do not have any relationships with water treatment companies or your water provider!  Also, make sure they will provide not only the water sample report, but will give advice to mitigate any issues.

When I took responsibility for a facility, one of the first items on my list was to have all the water systems checked and their water tested.  In many cases there were issues!

For example, I installed a pre-filter unit in my new home when we moved in four years ago. I recently installed a new cartridge designed to remove solids, because the carbon filters were clogging in just a couple months and were black (obvious) so I couldn’t see how fast the filter became dirty. Now, this is city water not well water, so this is something you can compare if your facility is on city water.  In less than two months the filter cartridge has gone from pure white to light brown! We receive a water quality report from the city that shows our water quality, so am assuming it meets the turbidity standards! As I said in the beginning don’t trust these reports because if you do then you are “trusting the Fox to watch the hen house” when it comes to water quality!

Bill Berryman has 30 + years of experience in Facilities Engineering and Management. Managed over 50 employees at a 5 million-square-foot facility. 20 years of experience in improving preventive maintenance and implementing predictive maintenance technologies. Functioned as a Facilities Manager at Kennedy Space Center, supporting NASA operations. Worked for Intel as a Senior Facilities Engineer at its Chandler, Arizona campus and for Johnson Controls as an Operations Manager. Most recently, supported the FM organization as the Director of Operations – Managing the New Maintenance Technology, and CMMS operations for Fluor Corporation.  Contact Bill.