Sprinkler Corrosion: A Threat to You and Your Employees’ Safety If Not Dealt With Correctly
Your fire control and suppression equipment is a vital component of facility safety. If a fire occurs in an out-of-the-way spot or in the middle of the night, the sprinkler will activate and help keep it under control or put it out. If the fire breaks out during working hours, the sprinkler will automatically turn on without the need for activation by anyone, increasing the chance the fire will be stopped and before harm can result. If your sprinkler system fails, however, the results could be catastrophic, even deadly. Sprinkler corrosion is a major source of fire system failures that could put you, your employees, your customers, and your entire business in jeopardy.
What is sprinkler corrosion?
Sprinkler corrosion can occur as the result of natural wear and aging of pipelines. The progression of natural corrosion is usually very slow, which means its effects will be seen over a lengthy span of time. Sprinkler systems will likely continue to work at or near normal levels as this type of corrosion gradually accumulates. However, microbiologically influenced corrosion, also known as MIC, is a fast-moving and particularly harmful type of sprinkler corrosion that can destroy pipes and cause system failure in a relatively short amount of time. MIC is the result of the action of naturally occurring microbes in your water supply. MIC is most likely caused by several different types of microbes that literally eat away the inner surface of the sprinkler pipes.
These metal-consuming microorganisms establish colonies, often referred to as nodules, on the interior walls of the pipes. The nodules look like a collection of small bumps or growths and can contain more than one type of bacteria. Beneath the surface of the nodule, the microbes attack and consume the metal of the sprinkler pipe. MIC has been confirmed on pipes made of ductile iron, copper, galvanized steel, and stainless steel. Both aerobic and anaerobic microbes can be found within the same nodule, with the oxygen-consuming aerobic organisms more plentiful on the outside.
Effects of sprinkler corrosion
Natural sprinkler corrosion and MIC can both have drastic effects on the performance of your fire control system. It’s not yet well understood how or why microbes begin eating sprinkler pipes, but the damage that results has been confirmed in many cases. MIC can cause the thinning of pipe walls that can result in leaks or serious drops in water pressure when the sprinkler system is needed the most. If enough damage occurs, pipes can break or burst. These types of effects can make your fire suppression system useless and increase the safety risk to anyone inside your building.
Symptoms of MIC include:
- Small leaks from the pipes, especially from the sides or walls.
- Pinhole-size openings in the wall of the pipe.
- Discoloration of water coming from the pipes, often black or red.
- A sulfur-type or rotten-egg smell coming from the pipes or the water.
Finding and Stopping Sprinkler Corrosion
The best method for finding and stopping sprinkler corrosion is a regular professional inspection of your sprinkler system. Contact your local trusted fire or facility safety professional to schedule an inspection at least once a year. If your sprinkler system is showing any of the above-listed signs of corrosion, an inspection and remediation should be performed as soon as possible. Your fire system professional can assess the extent of sprinkler corrosion and make any repairs or pipe replacements that are needed. The inspector also can apply substances to the inside of your pipes that will kill the microbes and prevent them from causing any more damage.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information about sprinkler corrosion and how it can affect your fire protection system, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website! At Sobieski, we’re proud to serve Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.