University of New Mexico chemistry building Clark Hall has been experiencing plumbing and drainage issues for years which prevent the department from using some laboratories and is slowing down research said Karen Ann Smith, the director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facilities and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.
“Many of the pipes in the Reibsomer wing of Clark Hall are deteriorating and forming cracks due to construction from a plastic that breaks down when in contact with many common waste products,” Smith said.
The deterioration is exacerbated by CPVC drain pipes. According to Plastic Pipe Experts, CPVC “is not resistant to most water-insoluble hydrocarbon-based chemicals.” Their website also said that waste products like hand lotion can cause CPVC failure.
While it is commonly used in plumbing systems, the failure of CPVC due to exposure to common chemicals is a documented drawback of its use.
According to Smith, the plumbing problem is creating issues for the research ongoing in the affected rooms.
“Several labs in Clark cannot be used because the drain pipes are broken. Several labs are in use with temporary patches,” she said.
After damage began in 2016, “Facilities and other parts of the University were notified in 2017,” Smith said, ”Some of the most damaged pieces were replaced in 2018.”
Despite the replacements, other pipes failed due to the solvent that joins the pipes causing cracking.
Steve Rowe, the public information representative for the University of New Mexico Facilities Management (FM), said in a statement that “FM...is working to determine the source of hairline cracks in some of the lab waste system piping.” These cracks were found by FM in April 2019.
At a recent University town hall, Smith raised the issue of the plumbing in the new Physics & Astronomy and Interdisciplinary Science (PAIS) as it is also constructed with CPVC. She said it is “about to fail.”
FM is working with other UNM departments on their monitoring of the current pipe issues and is also considering solutions if it appears that a full-on plumbing renovation is necessary.
For now Rowe said, “lab waste systems are functional and any issues are being addressed by maintenance staff.”
Colin Peña is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @penyacolin.
Alyssa Martinez is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @amart4447.