To many, the water crisis that is currently afflicting the residents of Flint, Michigan is nothing short of shocking. Surely such disasters are few and far between in the western world, where the resources and the technical expertise to prevent the collapse of a life-giving systems are in reassuringly abundant supply.
While one could never refute the fact that those feeling the brunt of this disaster are the residents of Flint themselves, it’s nonetheless interesting to consider the impact that unclean water and the degradation of pipeline conditions can have on a business or, to a greater extent, to the economy of a community. It really doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to recognize that regardless of the size of the organization, when it comes to maintaining a facility, the safe money is always going to be on preventative maintenance.
Leak Detection – Why it’s Important
The contemporary business owner should consider themselves lucky – they live in an age where the kind of technology exists that allows them to monitor the physical integrity of their brick and mortar operations, something that entrepreneurs of yesteryear could not take advantage of. These types of monitoring systems are particularly useful for keeping tabs on infrastructure components that can’t be thoroughly inspected by the naked eye, like plumbing.
Leak Detection Systems (LDS) allow technicians to localize the area of a leak before it has the opportunity to progress to the point where it can impact a company’s ability to deliver goods, or tarnish their reputation. LDS’ are also a cost effective way of providing peace of mind to business owners, who can go about their day-to-day operations knowing that their inventory is safe and that the chances that they will be caught off guard by a burst pipe are drastically reduced.
Reducing Environmental Impact
Naturally, a business owner’s primary objective is to ensure the financial success of the company. These days however, more and more businesses are placing just as much importance towards limiting their environmental impact. While this philosophy really seems to resonate with consumers (who are themselves becoming more eco-conscious and therefore want to align themselves with companies who share similar values), taking a green approach where leak detection is concerned can also save a company a significant amount of capital. These dual benefits make it extremely difficult to make an argument against water main monitoring systems and regular pipeline condition assessments.
Another concern is wasted water. Broken water mains can spew forth thousands of gallons of water before they can be shut off and accessing them can oftentimes mean the use of heavy machinery.
Business and Health Impact
A catastrophic pipe burst is one thing, but given the right conditions, a slow leak can impact a business with just as much severity. Water dripping into insulation or drywall can lead to the proliferation of mold, which can cause employees or customers to become ill. The cost to remove mold can be hefty but pales in comparison to the costs associated with repairing fire damage caused by water coming into contact with exposed wiring. In the greater scheme of things, the initial cost required to retrofit a plant, warehouse, or store with sensors and equipment that will allow a business owner to mitigate any of the scenarios listed above seems like a very worthwhile investment when you consider the alternative.
As a business owner, what lessons can one derive by studying the system collapse in Flint? For starters, the greatest flaw was failing to plan and maintain the system that delivered water to thousands of residents within the municipality. Certainly a lack infrastructure also led to the woes of the city. Just like a city, a business needs to take proactive steps to ensure the longevity of the systems that service it.
In short, the events in Flint really came down to a lack of foresight. On a smaller scale, it is not unreasonable to think that what happened in Michigan couldn’t happen to any number of businesses if the right safeguards aren’t in place. Employing sensors to monitor a facility’s water inputs requires very little in the way of physical oversight – many of the systems available today are automated and can be programmed to send push notifications should a leak be detected.