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Big problem: River Falls High School's water pipes going bad

HVAC piping used to heat River Falls High School is corroding and springing leaks. Immediate, temporary action is planned.

HVAC water lines installed when the high school was built in 2000/2001 are corroding and springing tiny leaks.

River Falls Superintendent Jamie Benson says the school faces a potential “catastrophe” with winter coming on.

The defective galvanized steel pipes, however, don't affect the school's drinking water.

Benson said the fix could “be very expensive” and ultimately cost taxpayers “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” He added that school district may be eventually take legal action.

“It's a big deal and only going to get worse,” Benson said.

Over a 10-day period there were ten “pinhole” leaks – Benson called it “an evolution of leaks.”

The overhead dripping pipes stained ceiling tiles in various areas of the school.

More pressure will be applied to the water lines with cold winter weather arriving. The water is heated by gas and used by the boilers to heat the school.

Benson said it would be easier to replace the corroding, leaky pipes over summer when school is out, but that temporary measures are needed now.

A mechanical engineering firm is advising the school district on what steps to take.

Benson said an engineer has told him that the thinner Schedule 10 piping installed when the high school was built was inadequate for the building's water needs.

Instead, Schedule 40 piping, four times as thick, should have been installed.

Benson and his staff are poring over schematics to see if the wrong type of HVAC pipes were used for the high school. If so, a lawsuit could be filed “against the parties responsible.”

For now, Benson said the district is at work on a Band-Aid plan to “limp our way until summer” when the high school can be closed for “whole-scale pipe repairs.”

For more on this story, see the Nov. 22 print issue of the River Falls Journal.

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