Many businesses are constructed or repaired with inadequate plumbing materials, which unfortunately results in failed connections, broken pipes, and leaks. When your facility’s plumbing is flawed, this can lead to extensive water damage and other types of property destruction, especially over time. If pipes carry chemicals or gases, the situation can end up becoming a threat to health and safety.
Generally, the type of leaks many facilities deal with are either small-scale leaks in-house, or leaks within an extensive network of pipeline. Pipelines function as a means of long-distance transport and they in particular must be efficient, safe, and reliable. This is why leak detection is important; it determines if and where a leak has occurred, for either liquids or gases. Leak detection finds potential problems and enables you to fix them. Significant leaks are typically caused by corrosion, earth movement, accidents, and damage from nearby excavation.
How do you know your building has a water leak or other type of leak? You’ll notice these signs:
- An unusually high water bill
- Mold and mildew
- Sagging or stained ceilings and other types of water damage
- A sudden musty smell or other odd odors
- A change in color or texture to the walls
- Buckling floors and other problems with the foundation of your building
Leaks within a pipeline network can be more difficult to detect. Leak detection systems (LDS) help pipeline controllers find and localize leaks, as they provide alarms so controllers are notified if something goes wrong, and display data to inform decision-making. There are internally-based LDS and externally-based LDS, which use a variety of field instruments such as infrared radiometric testing, thermal cameras, fiber-optic cables, and acoustic pressure waves to determine whether there is a leak and where.
Hydrostatic testing is one of the most common methods of leak detection. A hydrostatic test determines strength and leaks in a variety of pressure vessels, including plumbing, pipelines, fuel tanks, boilers, fire extinguishers, and gas cylinders. Not only does this testing enhance the durability of pipes over time, it also helps maintain safety standards; hydrostatic testing is required by ASME B31.3 to expose defective materials, ensure operation, detect possible leaks, and function as the final validation of the vessel’s integrity. It should be noted that conducting this testing is a hazardous procedure, and should only be performed cautiously by competent personnel. Common precautions include hazard signage, personal protective equipment, and enclosing the testing area so non-essential personnel cannot enter.
Proper pipe labeling is essential to ensuring safety during leak detection procedures as well as safety during day-to-day operations. Both ASME and ANSI have established standards when it comes to pipe marking, which facilities should adhere to. This makes sure that workers are familiar with a pipe’s contents and the associated hazards, so leak detections may be conducted accordingly and workers are protected from confusion or accidents. If you think a pipe may be leaking in your facility, aim to take care of it immediately; even if the leaking substance isn’t hazardous, water leaks and other types of leaks can be expensive, highly damaging, and will likely worsen as time goes on.
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