Scholarship Applications now Open

Applications for the 2018 R.J. Hill Consulting scholarship is now open.  We will be accepting applications from now until March 31, 2018.  The scholarship is intended for award to Tennessee high school students or engineering students already enrolled in an engineering curriculum at a Tennessee public university.  The instructions for application are available on our website.  Go to “Scholarship Awards and Instructions” then click on “Tennessee Students”.  For answers to questions, please call 615-223-7736 or email rjhill@rjhill.com.

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Volkswagen Recalls CC and Passat Vehicles

Volkswagen has announced that it is recalling approximately 280,915 CC and Passat sedans and wagons for a problem with the fuel pump control module. The engines in these vehicles can stall as a result of the loss of power to the fuel pump module.  The loss of power means that fuel flow to the engine will cease causing the engine to stall and increasing the possibility of a collision.  In addition, the fuel pump module can remain running after the ignition is turned off.  All of the vehicles involved in this recall are equipped with four cylinder engines.  The vehicles involved in this recall are 2009 to 2016 Volkswagen CC and 2006 to 2010 Volkswagen Passat.  Volkswagen will begin owner notification in October and will send a second letter to owners advising of the date of availability of the replacement fuel pump modules.  For additional information, owners can contact Volkswagen customer service directly by calling 1-800-893-5298.  Owners should refer to Volkswagen recall number 20AE.

GM Recalls 2014 Silverado and Sierra Trucks

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on June 29, 2017 that General Motors is recalling 2014 Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks. According to NHTSA, 690,685 vehicles in the United States are involved.  The problem with these vehicles is that the electric power steering assist can fail increasing the risk of a crash.  At this time, neither NHTSA or General Motors is providing any details about the specific problem.  NHTSA has also indicated that GM has not yet scheduled a date when notification letters to owners would be mailed.  For additional information, owners can contact General Motors customer service by calling 1-800-222-1020.  Similarly, GMC owners can call 1-800-432-8782 for answers to their questions.  In both cases, owners will need to reference GM recall # 17276.

Honda Accord Recall

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that Honda has recalled 1,148,550 vehicles because of a battery fire hazard. More specifically, the recall is for 2013-2016 Honda Accords.  The problem is that a battery sensor, when wet, will short circuit and can ignite.  Honda will begin notifying owners by sending out an initial notification letters beginning July 31, 2017, since parts are not yet available.  The letter will instruct owners to take their vehicles to their Honda dealer and that the dealer will replace the battery sensor free of charge.  Owners should also know that the NHTSA campaign number is 17V418000 and the Honda recall number is KGO.  Lastly, for additional information owners can contact American Honda Customer Support by calling 1-888-234-2138.

More on the Use of PEX Pipe

I just completed watching a webinar on “Designing Effective PEX Hydronic Piping Systems”. I have written on the subject of PEX piping before (See “The Problem with PEX Pipe” published 7/21/2012 and “Update – The Problem with PEX Pipe published 1/9/2013) and as a refresher, PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene.  This is a chemical process whereby pipe is manufactured by cross linking elements of the molecules that make up the material.  The resulting pipe definitely has some advantages in terms of price and handling.  However, no matter who the manufacturer is, the pipe still has two major drawbacks: it is affected by UV radiation (sunlight and similar lighting) and it is made brittle by chlorine.  In the case of hydronic systems, these are systems that carry cooled or heated water for cooling and heating purposes, mostly found in large commercial and office buildings.  These types of systems don’t carry potable water and as a result are not susceptible to the deterioration caused by chlorine.  Since the piping is usually hidden, it is also protected from the effects of UV radiation.  The concern arises when PEX piping is used in plumbing applications to carry potable water to any end user.  Chlorine can and will attack the pipe and cause it to eventually leak.  Water leakage, depending on the location can result in property damage costing thousands of dollars to repair.  Some manufacturers use antioxidants to neutralize the effect caused by chlorine but, it can be “used up”.  That is, when the antioxidant effect has been depleted, chlorine will continue to attack the pipe as if the antioxidant were never there.  Uponor, the sponsor of the aforementioned webinar, has been contacted and questions submitted for their response but, we have not yet heard back from them.  If Uponor responds after this article is published, then we will pass along their comments.

Natural Gas Explosion at Murray State University

On June 28th, NBC News reported a natural gas explosion on the campus at Murray State University.  According to the report, a dormitory building known as the Richmond Residential College, sustained heavy damage and injured at least one employee.  Since the incident occurred, no news reports have been issued with regard to exactly where the gas leak was located, ie, whether the leak was inside the building or outside; upstream or downstream of the gas meter.  The location of the gas leak is significant because it served to indicate whether the leak was the fault of gas line installers or servicing personnel since the building was constructed in 2009 OR the fault of an aging gas line infrastructure that was the responsibility of the local natural gas provider.  If installers or servicing personnel had been working on the line and failed to adequately test for leaks, then the fault would lie with them.  However, if the gas supply line failed, then the gas company (or the owner of the line) is most likely at fault.  If this is what happened, then this becomes another example of how an aging gas line is neglected and becomes a serious danger to those who use the fuel that is piped to their homes and businesses.  The sale of natural gas is a business – everyone knows that.  Because it is a business, the business also has expenses, one of which would be the expensive replacement of line segments as they reach the end of their useful life.  Natural gas pipelines are not all the same size.  Some are much larger and require thicker walls depending on the pressure within.  The pressure that has to be contained is a factor that has to be considered in establishing the useful life of the pipe.  But, when decisions are made (by management) that extend the use of pipe beyond the expected life, that’s when people and property are put in harm’s way.  The company’s and their managing personnel that utilize this kind of asset management must be held accountable.  One only has to do a little bit of research on the internet to find that there have been a number of explosions in recent years, not only in the natural gas industry but, in the petroleum industry as well.  A little more research and one will find that gas line age can vary from 20 to 50 plus years.  Infrastructure in the United States is important and part of that infrastructure depends on maintaining our natural gas lines.

Grenfell Tower Fire

By now most everyone has heard about the Grenfell Tower Fire that has consumed a 24 story building and claimed the lives of 79 people. Although the cause and origin of the fire has yet to be determined, there are some interesting things that have been reported by The Telegraph, the local newspaper.  First, it has been reported that cyanide gas might have contributed to the deaths of some of the victims.  The exterior cladding of the building was made from a plastic foam, called Polyisocyanurate (PIR), sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum foil.  PIR is flammable and when ignited, produces toxic gases including hydrogen cyanide.  The Telegraph also reported that 12 of the Grenfell patients treated at a local hospital were treated with Cyanokit, a hydrogen cyanide antidote.  Second, the building was inspected 16 times over the past two years for various renovation projects.  The question of whether the building inspectors were competent has been raised.  In addition, some are wondering if the inspectors recognized what they were looking at when they made their inspections.  Third, the building was not designed with a fire sprinkler system or means of fire escape for residents.  As a result, local authorities have recognized the need for change in the way buildings are designed and inspected.  Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that are at least 600 buildings in the country have similar cladding to the Grenfell building.  However, local officials have said that the figure refers instead to buildings with all types of cladding material.

 

As a side note, the type of building codes used in London and specifically in the North Kensington area are unknown. However, as a result of this fire, it is clear that government authority derived from codified regulations is severely lacking in enforcement.

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