Pipe replacements produce savings, greater productivity at Ohio laundry facility. 

The Tri-State Health Care Laundry facility near Cincinnati uses almost 80,000 gallons of process water per day. Photos courtesy of Gary Kentley.

No matter the time of day, things are always hopping at the Tri-State Health Care Laundry facility in the Cincinnati suburb of Covington, Ky.

This 100,000-sq.-ft.industrial laundry operation features 52-foot-long washing machines and 12-foot-tall clothes dryers with 8-foot tumblers. Tri-State provides laundering services to roughly a dozen hospitals and health-care facilities in Ohio and Kentucky.

Being able to churn out crisply washed and dried linens, uniforms and other laundered items is made possible by a vast 1,500-linear-foot piping arrangement that has an enormous amount of process water - almost 80,000 gallons per day - coursing through it.

That vast amount of water, coupled with detergents and other chemicals, lends itself to a corrosive pipe situation - specifically the existing schedule 80 galvanized steel pipe, which was rusting from the inside out.

The corrosion problems were so severe that for an hour once a week, the facility had to flush the pipe by letting a 3/4-inch line run full bore in an effort to reduce the corrosion. That led to Tri-State repairing some pipe sections that had lost the battle with the caustic process water.

Tri-State called on Elsmere, Ky.-basedMarkCo Plumbing and Building Services, which had been providing the facility with backflow testing for roughly the last decade and ongoing plumbing maintenance support for the last six years.

The pipe repair was one of four significant upgrades MarkCo made in the facility in recent years. In addition to repairing the corrosive pipe, the 6-inch main into the building was replaced and another innovative solution turned what was once a single laundry cart wash system into an ultra-efficient unit that can handle five laundry carts at the same time. The installation of a sustainable hot water reclamation system has proven beneficial as well.

Among the many improvements at Tri-State is the replacement of the buliding’s 6-inch water main, which was damaged by salt from the water softeners.

Corrosion Conundrum

The two sections of leaking 4-inch pipe ran along the ceiling of the building about 30 feet off the facility floor. At the street, the water enters the piping at about 110 psi, while in the building it runs at ambient temperature and at about 80 psi.

“You couldn’t see through the pipe,” MarkCo Project ForemanGary Kentleystates. “The rust buildup inside the pipe was ridiculous. They would have to shut down and flush the system for two hours to get the orange color out of the water.”

StreamKey Engineered Plumbing and Waste Water Solution’sZak Schultz, a Cincinnati-based manufacturers rep that worked on the project, was taken aback by the condition of the pipe, but at the same time was not overly surprised, given the scope of what Tri-State does.

“It’s the nature of the beast with supply water,” Schultz says. “Their facility is nice, but the piping is galvanized and old. When we first cut into it, it was a nasty eye-opener. The rust and corrosion buildup was giving them big issues. They were having to flush out the system every weekend - that’s tough. They were paying not only on the water, but on the sewage as well.”

A traditional solution such as roll-grooved pipe was briefly considered, but installing that type of pipe from a scissor lift that high off the ground was going to be exceedingly difficult.

Kentley went to work and designed an innovative solution that would quash the corrosion problem. Kentley earmarked Aquatherm polypropylene-random pipe, used extensively in acid waste and chemical process applications, to replace the compromised areas.

“The (PP-R) pipe is so much lighter than steel,” Kentley explains. “Only three joints were necessary to put the run of pipe in. It would have been six if we had used galvanized steel because of its weight and the facility had already experienced serious corrosion problems with the galvanized pipe.”

Kentley also was impressed with the heat fusion process used to join the pipe. That process bonds both sides of a joint into a single, homogenous material without the use of flames, chemicals or mechanical connections. Once fused, the pipe and fittings have the same physical properties, thus eliminating the systematic weaknesses caused by introducing different materials into the joint.

Four-inch Aquatherm Climatherm SDR-11 pipe, designed specifically for industrial HVAC and compressed air applications, replaced the steel. The pipe works particularly well for applications like the Tri-State project due to the material’s natural insulation properties - an R-value of 1.0 per inch of wall thickness.

Depending on the application’s minimum operating temperatures and maximum humidity levels, the pipe can be installed without insulation and still produce no condensation during normal operation, which was another major benefit that piqued Tri-State management’s interest in the beginning.

The first pipe repair was a 21-foot section accessed via a scissor lift. The majority of prefabrication of joints was done on the ground, fusing the flanges and the first piece of pipe and its coupling and then welding it into place via the scissor lift.

The second repair involved a 30-foot section in one corner of the facility, done via ladders and an access through a cinderblock wall. There was a single joint involving a 90° fitting buried in the wall, which made the repair  challenging.

“We used flanges on both ends and it was a bit short, so we had to massage it by hand to get it close enough to fuse,” says Kentley, who adds the 4-inch joints were typically completed in three to four minutes, compared to a 15-minute time frame per joint if steel was used.

“Overall, the installation went smoothly considering it was a new product and a retrofit.

The soft water main runs from the three water softeners in the boiler room to the tunnel washers at the back of the facility-a run of approximately 400 feet.

An Innovative Fix

While the overhead pipe repairs eliminated many headaches, Kentley and MarkCo made life even easier for Tri-State by upgrading its washing system.

“They have a cart wash there, but it only did one cart at a time,” Kentley states. “They bring in all the dirty laundry on a cart and it has to be sanitized before it is folded and shipped out. They needed it to be larger. They do so much volume of business there; they needed to be able to do more.”

Kentley solved that problem by expanding the system so five carts at a time could be processed.

“We just expanded what they had,” he says. “We took out piping they had and extended it through the wall. They wash the laundry, put the sanitizer solution in the water and then spray that on the laundry as well. They are using chemicals, which made the pipe green in color, which does not look clean. The installation was quick and easy. The pipe does not corrode.”

The new and improved cart system features 52 pressure heads with a regular pressure washer nozzle and 40° spray.

Where It All Starts

Another key retrofit in the building was the replacement of the 6-inch main line with new Aquatherm pipe.

“The water service coming into the building was rusting,” Kentley says. “Their brine tanks (water softeners) are right next to the main. The salt was eating it up. There were no leaks in the main, but it looked like it was going to break. The pipe was getting pretty thin. The salt gets in there and eats the inside of the pipe up.”

That 6-inch main delivers water at 150 psi. From there, the water goes to three softeners and then into a 4-inch main that feeds a pair of 52-foot-long tunnel washers. That water also feeds the boiler makeup (the facility runs off steam). New Hurst boilers were recently installed.

Sustainable Fix

Tri-State also realizes cost and energy savings thanks to the installation of a hot water recovery system. The tunnel washers dump water, which is pumped (via Zoeller pumps) back into a 500-gallon holding tank.

“You don’t have to reheat. It’s 140° F water coming out of the tunnel washer,” Kentley explains. “When the water gets back into the tank, it’s at 120° F and you have to heat it to 180° F. You’re saving on having to heat cold water from the outside that is 56° F or 58° F to 180° F. That is a big cost savings to them. They don’t have to run their heating as much as they normally do.”

All the repairs and retrofits MarkCo made have yielded energy and cost savings for Tri-State, not to mention greater proficiencies in getting laundry and linens cleaned and redistributed to the area hospitals and health-care facilities.

“They are able to be 25% to 30% more productive now,” Kentley says.

The facility was scheduled to have the remaining 160-foot pipe run replaced in late August.