3535 N. Dixie Hwy             office (734) 322-0225
Monroe, MI 48162                fax (734) 322-2949
cell (734) 755-1908

Forensic Investigation

Forensic Investigations of Plumbing & Mechanical Systems



Mr. George has been designing plumbing and mechanical systems since 1978. Since the mid 1990's he has been providing forensic investigations of Plumbing, HVAC, and Fire Protection Systems failures that have resulted in property damage, personal injury and death. His firm provides mechanical system investigations and He will prepare written reports with his opinion as to what caused the system failure. His company utilizes the latest tools and equipment for photographing, measuring, and recording temperatures, pressures and other instruments necessary to determine how the mechanical system is performing.

Investigations: 1998 - 2008

 

National Institute of Standards & Technology - Fuel oil System Failure

(Investigation & Report on recommended corrective actions)

Mr. George was asked to investigate a fuel system pump failure that baffled facility engineers and contractors. He provided an investigation, hydraulic analysis and report showing the cause of multiple fuel oil pump failures that led to their fuel oil system to shut-down during a changeover from natural gas to fuel oil during the winter peak months. The facility had several large boilers that operated on dual fuel burners and they receive a discounted fuel rate for switching to fuel oil during periods of peak demand on the natural gas system. The problem was found to be air that became trapped in a high point an oversized fuel oil suction piping header. The piping system design caused high velocity areas that caused foaming of the fuel oil and low velocity areas with oversized pipes that allowed a large air pocket to develop over a period of time and eventually the air was drawn into the fuel oil pump suction and it caused cavitation in the primary fuel oil pump. When the operator switched to the back-up pump it immediately suffered the same fate because the air pocket had already formed and the back-up pump was damaged within a few minutes. Mr George determined the cause of the problem and provided a report and drawings with recommended piping changes to solve the problem. The system has been working fine since then. - Gaithersburg, MD


Roof Collapse

Warehouse Building - Brownstown, MI. Mr. George was asked to investigate a roof collapse at a warehouse building where a roof had collapsed after a rain storm. After performing the sizing calculations, it appeared the engineer of the building used the wrong scale when he measured the roof areas to calculate roof drainages sizes. The engineer of record’s defense was that yes he used the wrong scale but, controlled flow roof drainage systems are allowed and that type of system would allow water to pond on the roof and discharge at a lower flow rate to prevent flooding of nearby storm drains and streams. When asked if this was the design intent, and was the structural engineer involved in the process, it was found there was no communication with the structural engineer to plan on several feet of water being allowed to pond on the roof.


Fire Pump/Water Main Failures

Investigation of a fire protection system failure for a warehouse building near Detroit, MI.

A water main leak from an old fire main caused the water pressure to drop in the fire protection loop around a warehouse building. When the flow exceeded the capacity of the pressure maintenance pump or jockey pump, the main fire pump started and according to NFPA requirements it does not cycle off and it must be alarmed to a central alarm station. The warehouse facility had a contract with an alarm company to monitor the alarm and because of previous false alarms, the company was instructed not to call the fire department and they were instructed to call facility maintenance personnel. The alarm company called the maintenance person they were instructed to call and since he was away over the weekend, they left a message on the facility maintenance manager’s phone after hours on Friday evening. The pump ran with very little flow over the next several hours and the resulting heat build-up caused the thermal relief valve on the pump casing to discharge a high volume of water in the below grade pump room. The discharge rate overwhelmed the sump pump and when the water level rose to the level of the pump controllers it shorted out and eventually the room was completely submerged in water. All pump and control related equipment and electrical switchgear was submerged and had to be replaced. The failure was the result of very old corroding fire main piping in the underground fire protection loop around the building. A recommendation was made to begin replacing the fire protection main to prevent future reoccurrences and a recommendation was made have the alarm company contact the fire department or a responsible person that acknowledges the problem and not to simply leave a message on an answering machine when there was an alarm in the future.


Scald Investigation

Davis vs. Saperstein Case - Detroit, MI. Child was scalded in bathtub. No anti-scald devices were present. Unlicensed maintenance personnel replaced the water heaters with new smaller water heaters and the resulting lack of hot water caused the unqualified main to increase the hot water delivery temperatures to compensate for the new undersized equipment. This led to the severe scalding of a young boy in a bathtub.


Scald Investigation

Elstone vs. Meadows Case - Westland, MI, Improper piping installation by a contractor caused a scalding incident that eventually led to the death of two people. This case was over two years old when Mr. George became involved and he solved the case within a few weeks. Six other experts missed several obvious clues that there were piping changes. The clues confirmed the anomalies that were described as occurring with the plumbing system. Circulating pumps were failing in very short periods of time and complaints of hot water system temperatures being too hot or too cold led Mr. George to look for clues that the hot water return piping, after the circulating pump, was installed wrong. The piping clues were there. That caused Mr. George to investigate further and find changes to the piping system were made under fraudulent pretenses to cover up the piping errors. The other experts on the case had been referencing an article in Plumbing Engineer Magazine that Mr. George wrote prior to the incident that addressed problems with maintaining the hot water temperature with an oversized thermostatic mixing valve. The attorney for the facility decided to contact Mr. George to ask a few questions and to get a second opinion. It turned out it was not an oversized mixing valve, because the mixing valve was re-circulated and piped properly upon Mr. George’s inspection. The clues and subsequent investigation led to discovery that a contractor had improperly piped the Hot water system during a renovation prior to the incident so that the mixing valve could not control the temperature when there was no usage in the system. The contractor realized the mistake after someone was scalded to death and the system was still experiencing significant temperature fluctuation problems so the contractor called the manufacturer’s representative for the mixing valve to inquire about the situation. The mixing valve manufacturer’s representative explained how the piping arrangement should be done to allow mixing when there is no flow in the system and to prevent scalding and thermal shock. The contractor realized that his piping arrangement was not done per the mixing valve manufacturers printed installation instructions and that the piping arrangement had led to the scalding injury and a subsequent death because of the improper piping arrangement. The contractor then tried to cover his tracks by contacting the facility and claiming the mixing valve was defective and they should hire him to shut down the hot water system overnight so he could replace the defective thermal element in the mixing valve. While the system was shut down the contractor did not replace the thermal element in the valve, he revised the hot water recirculation piping. This act constituted fraud when it was discovered the mixing valve still had original serial number on the thermal element or thermal motor and the HW circulating piping was revised. Mr. George discovered the re-circulating piping was revised after the scald incident because of the manufacturing dates on the revised piping. Other clues were: discolorations at specific solder joints where the new tie-ins were made and the revised piping had uniform pricing code stickers from a local hardware store where the date of the piping purchase could be traced to the revised piping and capped piping connections where the revisions were made. There were numerous clues that led Mr. George to investigate the dates on the revised piping and it showed the recirculation piping was manufactured and installed after the original scald incident. There was a very large settlement for this case and the family of the deceased made a donation to the University of Michigan Burn Center in memory of their father, who tragically died as a result of scald burns he received from the improper piping arrangement. The family wanted to help prevent this from occurring again.. The University of Michigan Hospital Burn Center used the donation to create and help fund a website with information on scald burn prevention. Mr. George was subsequently hired by the University of Michigan to prepare a report with material and suggestions for scald burn prevention for the U of M Burn Center web site. Eventually Mr. George was hired by and consulted for the opposing counsel in subsequent scald cases.

 

 

Scald Investigation

St. Louis, MO, A University Professor was scalded in a shower that was owned by the University housing. The incident was apparently triggered by an epileptic seizure that occurred because of exposure to a sudden temperature change in shower temperature. Upon collapsing his toddler son tried to turn off the water and could only reach the cold water valve. No scald protection in the form of a master thermostatic mixing valve or an anti-scald valve, or any other means of scald protection was in place in the University Housing building tub/Shower Unit.


Combined Domestic Hot Water & Heating Water System Failure

High Rise Condominium Building - N. Bethesda, MD, improper piping caused/product failure. A design build contractor decided to combing separate domestic hot water and heating hot water system to save money on a high rise condominium building project. This created combined heating & domestic hot water system. There were numerous problems with materials, pipe sizing, code compliance, manufacturer’s warranties and liability issues associated with this system. Mr. George prepared a report listing the many systems design problems, manufacturer warranty violations and code violations and liability issues along with recommendations for corrective action.


Water Hammer Investigation

A Contractor closing a quick operating fill valve on tanker truck caused a water hammer shock wave that travelled back through the water main and ruptured the water service piping at a nearby home. The resulting piping rupture caused significant water damage and foundation damage to the home. Mr. George provided an oral report of his opinions of the cause of the incident – California


Lack of Hot Water at a shower

Mr. George was asked to investigate why a homeowner could feel hot water at the water heater and at nearby fixtures and the homeowner could not get hot water at the master bathroom shower on the other end of his home. Upon investigation, it was discovered the homeowner had underground plumbing and because the home was located in Phoenix, Arizona, the homeowner felt he did not need piping insulation on the underground piping. Mr. George explained that without insulation the 1/2 inch copper water pipe that was in contact with over 100 feet of sand/soil underground was loosing most of its heat to the ground and what he had was similar to a floor warming system. Mr. George recommended corrective actions.

 

Plumbing System Drainage Problems with a renovation project which installed low flow fixtures in an existing building.

Mr George was asked to investigate drainage problems with a 73-story high rise major hotel that was experiencing major drain blockages after a renovation project that installed low flow fixtures. The facility maintenance manger said prior to the renovation on a typical morning when the hotel was at maximum occupancy they would have one staff plumber working full time to unclog water closets. After the renovation project they found that the number of clogged toilet calls increased significantly to the point that they had to hire more plumbers to handle the increased volume of plugged toilets during maximum occupancy periods. Mr George was hired by the hotel chain to performed testing of the drainage system to determine if the problem was caused by the piping system or the pressure fluctuations within the stack of the high rise building. The investigation found the branch piping and system pressures were within acceptable limits in the codes. Mr. George found that some models of the old water closets (prior to the renovation project) were still in the basement along with some spare models of the new water closets. Mr. George proposed to have testing done to compare the performance of the old water closets to the new water closets. He developed a testing protocol in accordance with ASME Standards to the have the fixtures tested through an independent testing laboratory. The testing showed the newer units met the ASME standard, but had poor flushing performance compared to the older model water closets. The hotel negotiated with the fixture manufacturer to have all of the fixtures replaced on a floor by floor basis. Major hotel in Detroit, MI


Plumbing System Investigation

Flooding was occurring in a lobby and several other areas of a new high-rise building complex for a computer software company corporate headquarters building. Mr. George’s investigation revealed there were miscellaneous plumbing contractor sizing problems and there was a house trap prior to the storm drain connection to a combined sewer. Mr George gave a report recommending changing some pipe sizes and adding a vent to the inlet of the house trap to prevent the drain from air binding when the drain was operating at full flow during storm events. – Detroit, MI


Scald Investigation

Child Scalded, Apartment Complex, Ann Arbor, MI, A University of Michigan student was living in an Apartment with her infant child. There was no air-conditioning in the apartment and on a hot summer day the child became agitated because of the heat and began crying. The mother went into the bathroom, placed the child in the bathroom lavatory and she began to run cool water over the baby and she began washing him with a wet washcloth to cool and sooth the infant. While sitting in the lavatory under the flow of water, the child reached over and grabbed the lavatory faucet handle and pulled it to the hot position causing extremely hot water to come out of the faucet and causing severe burns over the child's lower torso. Mr George inspected the facility and found numerous code violations including: No door or lock on the water heater room where anyone in the building had access to all of the water heater controls, several water heaters were missing the thermostat control knob, one of the four water heaters was venting combustion products inside the laundry room of the building, and the water heaters were set to a temperature that allowed hot water temperatures that were measured by Mr. George as high as 167 degrees F in the apartment with no thermostatic controls at the water heater and no anti-scald valves at any fixtures in the apartments.


Scald Investigation

Apartment Complex, Inkster, MI. Child scalded in tub no anti-scald devices were installed.


Scald Investigation

Lansing, MI. A disabled person was scalded in a barrier-free tub/shower unit. There was an anti-scald shower valve in the apartment, but it was not set by the installing contractor. Mr. Georges investigation showed the oxidation on the maximum temperature limit stop set screw indicated the valve had never been set to limit the hot water temperature to a maximum of 120 degrees as required by code.


Scald Investigation

Dearborn, MI Apartments, Adult male fainted in shower and he was scalded when he grabbed at the shower controls on the way down. No temperature controls or anti-scald valve in place as required by the International Property Maintenance Code.


Scald Investigation

Apartment Complex, Burton, MI, Child scalded in bathtub. A combined heating hot water system and domestic hot water system coupled with undersized water heaters led to a shortage of hot water on cold winter mornings during peak heating season. The lack of hot water and building heat in the combined system caused maintenance personnel to increase the boiler temperatures and the water heater storage temperatures to compensate for the undersized heating equipment. The piping arrangement of the installation and the wiring of the controls for the indirect water heaters also allowed the water heaters to exceed the set point on the thermostat because of a control wiring and piping error. This caused the hot water temperatures to become excessive when the building heating hot water demand was not there. A toddler was scalded while bathing when water approaching 170 degrees F entered the bathtub.


Scald Investigation

Hotel in Jacksonville Fla. Scald case. An adult male had an Epileptic seizure in shower. The seizure may have been triggered by thermal shock in the shower causing him to faint and grab the shower controls on the way down. There was an anti-scald valve installed in the shower, but the victim was scalded with anti-scald valve in place because it had not been set by the installing contractor or seasonally adjusted by building maintenance personnel as required by the manufacturer of the valve.


Water Leak Investigation – Thermal Expansion

An automotive manufacturing facility had recently updated the employee toilet facilities and soon after the renovation the building maintenance personnel noticed water on the floor near the water heater relief valve discharge pipe termination. The maintenance personnel blamed the leak on a faulty relief valve and asked the water heater manufacturer to replace the valve. After replacing the relief valve the discharge continued so Mr. George was asked to investigate he determined that the water heater and relief valve were working fine and that the system had a reduced pressure backflow preventer and there was no thermal expansion tank on the domestic hot water system as required by the plumbing code. The backflow preventer created a closed plumbing system where pressure would increase dramatically when the water heater burner cycled after each break. Mr George found that the facilities assembly line would stop several times during the day to allow assembly line workers to have breaks and lunch periods. During each break there was a significant usage of hot water for hand washing during each break. The water heater experienced a significant draw of hot water from the tank which was replaced by incoming cold water. Upon resumption of the assembly line work there was no usage of hot water and the water heater burner came on heating up the 38 degree cold water to 140 degrees. The resulting thermal expansion of the cold water caused the pressure to build in the ho water system and the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve would discharge a small amount of water onto the floor. The Plumbing code required a maximum pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (PSI) in the plumbing system and it required a means of reliving thermal expansion. The relief valve was discharging at 150 PSI. The solution is to provide a thermal expansion tank sized to allow for thermal expansion to occur while keeping the system pressure below 80 PSI and to preventing the T&P relief valve from discharging. The solution was to add a properly sized thermal expansion tank to the cold water side of the water heater. Automotive Assembly Plant – Detroit, Michigan


Product Failure/ Thermal expansion Water Leak, Water Damage Investigation

Photo Processing Facility, Rockville, MD

Water Leak from a burst pipe/Water Damage – Mr. George was asked to investigate an incident where a water pipe burst and caused a significant financial loss from damages to a photo processing building and its contents. Mr. George investigated on behalf of a valve manufacturer who was the defendant as the insurance company was going after subrogation from the valve manufacturer because the pipe that burst was in the valve manufacturer’s valve control cabinet. Mr George determined the water damage was because of the lack of a thermal expansion tank and water hammer arrestors in the system. The investigation revealed numerous plumbing system alterations that were made by an unlicensed facility maintenance worker that were not done in accordance with good engineering practice and not installed per the plumbing code. The similar piece of pipe was tested and found to burst at about 1,100 PSI. The report revealed that thermal expansion events had been occurring on a regular basis based on water stains and calcium build-up on the floor at each T&P relief valve. The relief valves had scaled over and become inoperable because of hard water in the facility. The pressure relief valves were no longer operational. A hurricane and associated storm system passed over the area causing power outages over a holiday weekend. Upon restoration of power, the water heaters experienced a significant thermal expansion event causing the pipe to burst. The case was dismissed at trial when it was pointed out the maximum allowable pressure in the plumbing system is 80 PSI and the material expert fore the insurance company could not give a technical reason for why he felt another pipe material should have been used in spite of his own testing showing a bust pressure significantly higher than 80 PSI.


Plumbing Product False Advertising Claim

Mr George was asked to give his opinion of a manufacturer’s advertising claim after review of product and review of the performance of the product for a false advertising lawsuit of one manufacturer vs. another.


Furnace Explosion Investigation

Furnace Explosion and fire injured a worker. Mr George investigated a rotating air furnace in automobile insulation manufacturing facility in Ohio. Mr. George found that there was no preventative maintenance program in place and the maintenance was done on an emergency basis. According to maintenance records and depositions they would wait until something broke before attempting any repairs. This caused the maintenance people to hold up production and on one occasion a burner safety control was bypassed with a jumper wire in order to keep the facility on line. This eventually led to an explosion and fire that severely injured a worker. OSHA investigated and cited for manufacturer by-passing safety controls at an automotive Insulation Manufacturing facility in Ohio. Mr. George’s report showed that the lack of routine maintenance allowed the combustion air inlet to become clogged with insulation debris from the manufacturing process and the safety switch was by-passed and allowed the continued burner ignition cycle. When the pressure sensor for the fan proving switch was by-passed it did not interrupt the combustion start-up sequence as it should have and the fuel gas solenoid continued operating as if nothing was wrong. Area factory workers noted small whiffs of fire and black smoke emitting from the top of the factory heating furnace on several occasions during ignition prior to the accident. This was because with the combustion air inlet was clogged up there was an extremely rich gas mixture in the combustion chamber. The rich flame caused the inspection port to become sooty from combustion that was too rich. When workers in the area called maintenance because of the smell of gas when it was too rich to burn. The maintenance worker sent to investigate the furnace was burned by the explosion and fire. He was thrown about 8 feet onto some nearby assembly line racks after he climbed up on the furnace and opened the inspection port to view the burner assembly. Opening the viewport door allowed air to the rich fuel gas mixture. The worker was airlifted to an area burn center.

 

Cross-Linked Polyethylene PEX Pipe Fitting failures

Investigation of a failure of PEX pipe fittings at a condominium complex in Oakland, County, Michigan.

Investigation revealed an inferior non-code cast brass fitting was used which caused numerous fitting failures throughout the complex. The fitting manufacturer agreed to pay for replacement fitting and the cost of all labor for repairs. The fittings appeared to be from a batch of bad fittings where there was apparently a metallurgical problem with that batch of fittings. Replacement fittings were forged brass and plastic fittings.


Gas exposure from an appliance pilot

Apartment Building New York, NY.


Nursing Home Patient - Baseboard heater exposure burn

Nursing Home in Ohio.


Construction Payment Dispute

Architect/ Owner/ Contractor dispute over a construction delay, Detroit, MI


Scald Case

Nursing Home, San Mateo, CA. A woman was scalded and died from her scald burns. Mr. George investigated and found that routine maintenance was not being preformed on domestic hot water safety devices at the nursing home.


House Fire Investigation

Investigation into the possible cause of a house fire allegedly caused by a plumber's torch. Mr. George, who is also a fire investigator, provided an investigation and an opinion on this case. Lake Charlevoix, MI


Construction Accident Investigation & Report

Investigation into a plumbing related construction accident, Chicago, IL


House Explosion & Fire

Investigation of a propane gas explosion & fire that resulted in one death & one serious injury to another. Mr. George provided an investigation and report outlining events that led up to the explosion and fire. The gas supplier filled the propane tank for the new owners without checking to see that all the gas pipes were capped. It appears that improper procedures by the gas company and odor fade may have been a contributing factor in this case. New Braunfels, TX


Nursing Home Hot Water System Investigation & Report

Macomb, MI. Mr. George was hired to investigate problems with the hot water temperatures in a nursing home in Macomb, MI.


Scald Investigation

Boston, MA. A three year old child was scalded over 50 percent of his body in a bathtub without proper temperature controls. Apartment Building, Boston, MA


Pipe Explosion/Injury Investigation

Beaumont, TX. Mr. George provided an investigation into a Plastic pipe explosion that severely injured a worker when the plastic pipe was filled with compressed air for testing and it exploded. Beaumont, Texas.


Scald Investigation

Scald of an elderly tenant in a Seniors Apartment Building bathtub/shower. Fort Worth, TX


Scald Investigation

Scald Death of an 8 year old girl in the State of Georgia - Capital Murder Case


Scald Investigation

Scald investigation of a teenage girl who suffered an epileptic seizure in a shower and was scalded. No- anti-scald valve installed on the tub/shower and no thermostatic mixing valve installed on the water heater. San Antonio, TX

 

Code Investigation/Product Evaluation

Investigation of a floor mounted water closet fixture to wall connection. for a manufacturer of a water closet. A fixture manufacturer developed a push-on type water closet connection to the drainage system. Mr. George provided a report covering the code equivalence for this type of joint.


Water Damage Investigation

Investigation and report on a sewage backup incident in the basement of a residence which was caused by a water utility contractor crushing a plastic building sewer line. The damage occurred while the contractor was working on repairs to a building water service pipe nearby. The resulting damage to the sewer caused significant sewage back-up into the home and subsequent mold damage and physical ailments to the occupants.

 

Underground PEX Plumbing Pipes

Mr. George was asked to investigate why a homeowner could not get hot water at the master bath shower and at nearby fixtures. Upon investigation, it was discovered the homeowner had originally specified insulated copper tubing for the underground plumbing and the contractor and a sales representative suggested using cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) tubing in lieu of copper. The contractor chose not to install insulation and the piping runs were over 270ft long. The contractor stated the homeowner felt he did not need piping insulation on the underground piping because plastic has an insulating value better than copper. Mr. George explained that without insulation the water pipe that was in contact with over 270 feet of sand/soil underground was loosing most of its heat to the ground and what he had was similar to a floor warming system. In addition the PEX tubing was bundled with the hot and cold water pipes together and the hot water pipes were recirculated. The heat loss from the hot water pipes was a heat gain in the cold water pipes causing the cold water piping to be hot and the hot water piping to be cold. Mr. George recommended corrective actions.

 

Steam Scald Case

A customer at a health club was severely scalded when he passed out in the steam room due to high temperature. Mr. George investigated an found that there was no temperature sensor or automatic temperature control valve serving the steam room. The only controls on the industrial heating boiler steam piping serving the steam room were the pressure controls on the discharge header for controlling the steam boiler burner and a manual shut-off valve.