Concrete Coatings Articles

Ivy League: Repairing a Concrete Cooling Tower Basin

Photos courtesy of Molecular Application Technologies, Inc.
Vendor Team

Coatings manufacturer
2000 NW 88th Court
Miami, FL 33172
(305) 594-4994

Safety equipment manufacturer
1898 Safety Way
Cynthiana, KY 41031
(877) 285-5273

Graco Inc.
Equipment manufacturer
88 11th Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(844) 241-9504

Ingersoll Rand
Equipment manufacturer
800-E Beaty St.
Davidson, NC 28036
(704) 655-4000

Molecular Systems of New England
Coatings contractor
2 Clock Tower Pl., # 525
Maynard, MA 01754 (978) 897-4300

Eight private colleges and universities make up the prestigious group known as the Ivy League. Many well-known politicians, entertainers, and athletes have attended Ivy League schools. But all of this combined intelligence, academic prestige, and venerable history was not going to help one Ivy League campus, which wishes to remain unnamed, when one of its cooling tower systems started leaking.

When that happened, the school called on Jeffrey Hutt, the president of Maynard, Mass.-based Molecular Systems of New England, Inc. “They discovered a large amount of ground water was leaking around the concrete cooling tower,” he said. “They realized they were losing 25,000 gallons [94,635.3 L] of water a month through leaks in the concrete.”

That is a massive amount of water, but Hutt said the school’s water bill was not even its biggest worry. “The cost of the water was not their biggest concern, but where the water was going,” he said. “They had just built a new building nearby and were worried the water would undermine its foundation.” And there was another concern: that chemicals from the cooling tower could be getting into the ground water.

So the college asked Hutt’s Molecular Systems of New England to come to the rescue.


Good Track Record

Molecular Systems of New England has been in business since 1983 as an exclusive authorized distributor of Belzona products and services. The firm services industries across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, working with customers in power, marine, pulp and paper, and facilities maintenance industries.

Hutt said his company had a good track record with this college client as well. “[They’re] an ongoing customer of ours,” he said. “We’ve done work for them on a number of chillers and cooling tower systems, as well as building maintenance on site.”

For this job, school officials brought Hutt in to give a quote. His company was chosen, and then he was told the bad news: they’d want to do it in the middle of winter in New England.

He knew controlling temperatures and the weather would be a challenge, but he accepted the job.

Application Variations

The school also could not completely manage without its cooling tower even in the winter, so Hutt brought in a temporary tower to use while his crew drained the main tower.

To start, Hutt knew he had to protect the jobsite from the weather, so he built a temporary roof over it. Then he assessed the cooling tower, which was 3,500 square feet (325.2 m²) of concrete that was cracked and pitted in some areas.

The crew of four men began by sandblasting all of the concrete. Then they repaired the damaged concrete and sealed all of the cracks with the Belzona 4111 Magma-Quartz system, a fast-curing, three-part epoxy repair composite designed for repair, resurfacing, and protection of concrete and stone.

Next, they applied a protective coating over the entire cooling tower structure. The crew put down Belzona 5811 Immersion Grade, a two-part epoxy coating that provides chemical resistance and protects equipment operating under immersion in aqueous solutions up to 122° F (50° C) from the effects of corrosion.

Belzona 5811 is solvent free and can be applied to metals and nonmetals, including concrete. The crew put down two coats, each at 10 mils (254.0 microns), using spray guns, brushes, and rollers.

Hutt said they varied their tools depending on how much access they had to a particular area. “Some areas were wide open and very easy to spray, but others were restricted by sumps and other equipment,” he said. “For those areas we had to go in and put down a roller coat, and in others we had to put down a stripe coat to get the proper thickness where spraying was not the place to go.”

Smooth Sailing

The job took one week to complete and was finished on schedule.

The crew used forced-air helmets when doing the sandblasting to prepare the substrate, but Hutt said they were unrestricted by safety gear otherwise. “The nice thing about Belzona is their products are 100 percent solids, so they don’t require special masks or ventilation during application,” he said. “Fumes are not a problem when you’re working in a confined space.” While the safety gear might have been simple, handling the cold weather outside was not. As Hutt pointed out when he got the job, it would be done during the winter in New England, which meant snow and cold. “We had to provide heating, and we built a roof to keep the weather out,” he said.

Hutt said working with Belzona products made the job go smoothly. “Belzona’s are 100 percent solids; there are no solvents or anything, so it bonds to both concrete and metal,” he said. That came in handy for this job, which was mostly concrete but also had structural steel to support the cooling tower. “The concrete base got coated but also the structural steel that supports the cooling tower, so we didn’t have to use a special product,” he said.

When the job was done, it looked great, and Hutt’s college customer was happy — so happy that he has continued to do business with them. “We’ve done dozens of projects since then,” he said. “They’re very nice to work with. They provide what I need to get the job done, so I can get in and out, and they pay their bills on time.”

comments powered by Disqus