South Florida’s Cast Iron Pipe Problem
Written By: William Sergio
History of Cast Iron Pipes
During the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, cast iron pipes were commonly used to transmit water, gas, and sewage. Cast iron pipes were relatively cheap to make and lasted a long time. Then, ductile iron pipes replaced cast iron pipes.
Cast Iron vs. Ductile Iron
The difference between cast iron and ductile iron is ductile iron forms graphite nodules rather than flakes. So, ductile iron is more castable and elastic. Then, PVC pipes came along which were cheaper to manufacture. Now, let’s discuss the relationship between South Florida and cast iron pipes.
Cast Iron Pipes in South Florida
Before the 1970s, homes and apartment complexes utilized cast iron for pipes. In the 1960s and 1970s, 35 % of all of today’s living units in South Florida were built with cast iron. In summation, there are millions of homes in South Florida with cast iron pipes that will cost serious water damage either now or eventually.
Deterioration of Cast Iron Pipes
When cast iron was initially used, it was expected to last for over 100 years. In reality, cast iron has a life span of about 40 to 50 years. Even then, cast iron starts to fail around 25 years because of water and salt content.
It is important to replace cast iron pipes before they start to leak and cause serious destruction. Replacing cast iron before major water damage is a great solution and can help prevent system failure, internal structural damage, toxic/contaminated water, and recurring problems.
Health Risks from Cast Iron Pipes
Throughout the entire state of Florida, cast iron pipes are corroding. Waterfront areas are even more at risk because of the salt, ocean breeze/air, and moisture-rich environment. Corrosion causes rust to get into the water system which can cause serious health risks for people. When water is contaminated it is unpleasant tasting and smells bad.
Over some time, cast iron became coated to make it last longer. The problem is that they used coal tar and bitumen to coat cast iron. As a result, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) fall into the drinking water supply. PAH poses a potential cancer risk to humans.
Water Damage from Cast Iron Pipes
Cast iron is a metal which means that it rusts. Over time, the rust will disrupt the flow of water and lead to corrosion. After a pipe becomes corroded, leaks and bursts start to occur. It is better to prevent this ahead of time, even if it is costly because a serious leak will be even costlier.
Category 3 Water Damage from Cast Iron Pipes
Leaks from pipes are even worse than a roof leak. Since many of these cast iron pipes are sewage pipes it will cause category 3 water damage and expose people to harsh/dangerous chemicals, pathogens, bacteria, fungi, and other harmful substances.
Mold from Cast Iron Pipes
The first signs of water damage, many times, go unnoticed because they start small and are in places that people don’t usually look. Unfortunately, some people ignore the first signs of water damage and call when it is a more serious/expensive problem. It is important to call a professional as soon as you notice water damage. Water damage turns to mold quickly.
Also, a cast iron pipe leak is a problem that will get ugly fast. Water damage can turn to mold in as quick as 24 hours. It is important to remember that the source of the problem must be corrected before mold remediation can begin.
Tip: DO NOT HIRE a mold remediation company that will be willing to remediate mold without first correcting the leak.
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