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contamination during inspection


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Greetings Brethren and Sisteren: A ten year old, three story, twelve unit condominium in a far south suburb of Chicago. Vacant for a two or three months; I primed the dishwasher so the pump wouldn't be spinning air, set it for a rinse/hold cycle and went about my business. A few minutes later I noticed that a sewage smell (like a kitchen drain) smell was being emitted from the vicinity of the dishwasher. Opened the door and voila!...stinky, gray water! Closed the door back up and continued the cycle; went to the bathroom hot water taps and out comes stinky gray/black water! Ohh boy! It's just me and the buyer at the inspection. I called the buyer's broker who I know personally, and ask him for the listing agents number to make an official notification. Unfortunately, my broker/buddy is drunk at the White Sox game and can't even tell me the listing brokerage. So I just ran all the hot water taps until they smelled okay and called my broker/buddy the next morning to reiterate the situation. Any ideas on how the cross contamination occurred? There was no air gap device of any kind, of course. But I just can't visualize the path of drain water back to supply water! What could I have done to avoid this? How many of you would have knocked on neighbor's doors to alert them? I anxiously await your feedback.

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Originally posted by Steven Hockstein

Could it be something festering in the hot water tank that was released when you ran the hot water. The odor reduced after you diluted what was in the tank.

Thanks for the reply steve. i've smelled sulfurous odors from water heaters before but never the distinckt smell of trap/drain water. I think it got sucked into the potable side from the dishwasher but just can't see the path or pressure differences that could allow it.

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Sounds (smells?) to me like algae buildup in the water heater and piping. Is the water supply chlorinated? I too cannot see how the dishwasher would have cross contaminated all the way into the water heater. Besides, dishwasher water isnt exactly sewage. I often see this sort of scum come from Jaccuzi tub jets.

Just my 2 cents.

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Originally posted by homnspector

Sounds (smells?) to me like algae buildup in the water heater and piping. Is the water supply chlorinated? I too cannot see how the dishwasher would have cross contaminated all the way into the water heater. Besides, dishwasher water isnt exactly sewage. I often see this sort of scum come from Jaccuzi tub jets.

Just my 2 cents.

NO..it is not algae! The water system is chlorinated and I have done enough plumbing work to know that what I saw and smelled was kitchen drain water that had been sucked into the dishwasher interior and also into the hot side of the potable water supply system.

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Originally posted by hausdok

My question too.

If I'd encountered that I would have simply written it up and referred it to a plumber for correction. Later on, in order to satiate my curiosity, I'd probably follow up with the plumber to find out what was causing it, but I wouldn't even waste my time trying to diagnose it. I let the specialist do that. Then they can educate me and next time I'll know. It's true that someone here might know the answer, but chances are you'll get a laundry list of possibles and nothing definitive, which is the same as not knowing.

So, if the question is posed so that you can tell the client in your report what might be causing it, don't. Giving your client a laundry list of possibles is next to useless. If you don't know, tell 'em you don't know and refer it off to the specialist for diagnosis and repair.

If you've already written and delivered the report and are just trying to educate yourself, take what theories are suggested here with a grain of salt, until the issue has been corrected and you know for certain what caused it. Then come back and let the folks here know whether their theories were correct or flawed. That will help everyone become more informed.

My opinion, worth price charged.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Mike...if you look back at the questions i posed they were two.

One, how did the contamination occur. As you well know, understanding the mechanics and inner workings of all building systems and components is essential to what we do. No area of knowledge is extraneous. Cross contamination of the potable water supply system is a very serious defect and should be understood.

Two, what would the correct course of action be considering that this is a condominium building with other residents sharing the same potable water piping system? I chose not to knock on other resident's doors to alert them of the possible contamination of their water supply. We all have a duty to report conditions that are immediately dangerous to the health and safety of the occupants of the buildings we inspect. If the mechanism of contamination is understood perhaps a more informed decision could be made regarding notification of building residents. Sabe??

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Here is what you said;

A few minutes later I noticed that a sewage smell (like a kitchen drain) smell was being emitted from the vicinity of the dishwasher. Opened the door and voila!...stinky, gray water!

My thoughts" how in the hell did gary water get in the dishwasher hot line ( Thinking .....)"

You said;

Closed the door back up and continued the cycle; went to the bathroom hot water taps and out comes stinky gray/black water!

My thoughts" how in the hell did gary water get in the bathroom hot line (More thinking ....)"

You said;

"So I just ran all the hot water taps until they smelled okay

My thoughts,

"this did happen on the cold line other wise he would have said so"

More Thoughts, "Flush out the hot water lines and it clear up. The only thing that controls the Hot Water line is the water heater"

Question? Is there a water softner or expansion tank connected to the water heater?

Did you go back the next day and check if the water got dirty again after your flush job?

I believe that the waterline became dirty because of the two to three months of no water being used. This could be caused by the water getting stagnet in a water softner, expansion tank or the hot water heater. If you have gone back and check to see if the water has cleared up, then you know that it was caused by the stagnet water or ask the plumber what he found, His answer would most likely be clear water and nothing wrong.

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Originally posted by monte

Here is what you said;

A few minutes later I noticed that a sewage smell (like a kitchen drain) smell was being emitted from the vicinity of the dishwasher. Opened the door and voila!...stinky, gray water!

My thoughts" how in the hell did gary water get in the dishwasher hot line ( Thinking .....)"

You said;

Closed the door back up and continued the cycle; went to the bathroom hot water taps and out comes stinky gray/black water!

My thoughts" how in the hell did gary water get in the bathroom hot line (More thinking ....)"

You said;

"So I just ran all the hot water taps until they smelled okay

My thoughts,

"this did happen on the cold line other wise he would have said so"

More Thoughts, "Flush out the hot water lines and it clear up. The only thing that controls the Hot Water line is the water heater"

Question? Is there a water softner or expansion tank connected to the water heater?

Did you go back the next day and check if the water got dirty again after your flush job?

I believe that the waterline became dirty because of the two to three months of no water being used. This could be caused by the water getting stagnet in a water softner, expansion tank or the hot water heater. If you have gone back and check to see if the water has cleared up, then you know that it was caused by the stagnet water or ask the plumber what he found, His answer would most likely be clear water and nothing wrong.

Water Softener was opened and the salt and water were both clean. No 'stagnet' water found. For the fourth time, this was water sucked from the drain into the dishwasher and then back into the hot side of the water supply piping. I ran the kitchen sink water before starting the dishwasher and the water smelled and looked normal. Chlorinated city water sitting in a copper pipe is not going to go gray/black and smell like water from a grease trap! It will not stagnate or become stagnant. I am not about to drive forty-five minutes to see if the water is still clear the next day. God bless you if you would! I'm doing three to five jobs a day and don't have that luxury. Thanks for the cogent and enlightening reply.

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"I'm doing three to five jobs a day"

Boy oh boy, I sure have a long way to go to get that good. Two a day max for me, & I've been practicing for over 12 years now. Sure gives me something to strive for. Golly...five a day...just think. That's really great. Hope someday I can do so well.

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Dan,

I can not believe that water can be sucked from the drain and beable to get into the dish washer water supply ( There is a air gap of about 4" between the two and the dishwasher line is feed from the kitchen sink and you said that the kitchen sink line was clear). The piping configuration between the dish washer/ kitchen sink and the bathroom can only be one of three chooses. 1. Dish washer/ kitchen sink is downstream of bathroom. 2. Bathroom is down stream of dishwasher/ kitchen sink. 3. There is a T that branches off to the dishwasher/ kitchen sink and the bathroom.

Choice # 1 If the dish washer/ kitchen sink is downstream of bathroom, the bathroom would not have gray water, which we know it is not the case, out goes #1. Choice #2 If the bathroom is downstream of the dish washer/ kitchen sink it would not have gray water because you turned on the dish washer and the kitchen sink prior to the bathroom and the gray water would have come out the dish washer and the kitchen sink before coming out the bathroom, which we know again that is not the case, out goes #2. Tha only leaves choice #3 Branch lines off of a T. To get dirty water in both the dish washer (but you did not have dirty water when you turned on the kitchen sink, most water lines to the dish washer are connected to the kitchen sink line) and the bathroom the gray water had to come prior to the branch T, the water heater has to be the problem because of you runing water from the kitchen sink first and it was clear.

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