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Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Problem Solved: Brown Water – Stopping It at the Source

Sometimes in New York City, you turn on your tap, and brown water comes out. It’s a common problem, especially right after a building water shutdown. And no, it’s not sewage. The city’s reservoirs are located outside the city, and the pipes that bring water to buildings are old. As water flows through the old piping, it picks up particles, sediment and iron, which then flow into your building’s system through the basement cold-water mains. When the water enters the heating and hot-water systems, the particles in the water expand, and they rust and end up turning the hot water brown. This water travels to your boilers, your hot-water heating coils, your HVAC systems, your pumps, your fire suppression system, your showers and faucets, and all the way up to your roof tank. The particles in the water will put wear and tear on all these systems and fixtures, which results in unnecessary maintenance.


If it’s determined that your water is brown, one solution is to install a depth filtration device on the water main. It’s not like the water coming into the building is bad to drink; it’s just full of iron, sediment and particles that are too small to see, and they negatively affect a building’s mechanical systems. By installing a depth filter on the main water supply, the water is filtered, and the wear and tear on the building plumbing system and various plumbing fixtures is greatly reduced. If the filters are properly maintained, they really clean up the water. We have had a 100% success rate when dealing with brown-water issues.


The filters are sized based on domestic water demand. In a very large building with 400 units, you might have three, four, even five filtration units. So, the cost could range between $8,000 up to $80,000. The upfront investment that a co-op or condo board makes for these filters will pay for itself over time in terms of reduced maintenance and breakdowns of the building’s systems, including shower bodies and faucet repairs, hot-water heater coil replacements, reduced HVAC and boiler chemicals and pump repairs. Even the sludge that you find in the roof tank during the annual cleaning is not going to be as bad if you have a depth filter installed.

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