The fellow from Slow, Silent, and Costly (who, oddly enough, turns out to be the spouse of the lady who runs the greenhouse) has come and gone, and come and gone again.
Now we know what the mysterious white stuff in the R/O water line is.
It’s chunks of biofilm! A biofilm being a layered carpet of bacteria. Yummy! Biofilms are really interesting! They’re usually composed of several different species, intermixed and in layers. When the bottom layer gets smothered by newer layers, it can detach and break away, taking top layers with it. That’s what’s going on here.
That’s right, folks! The building’s reverse osmosis water system is basically a giant bacterial culture! Harmless–they think. But who knows? Apparently R/O systems are quite prone to them. Set up a membrane and pipes and whatnot, and here come the microscopic goobers to glunk it all up. It’s enough to make a body believe in Spontaneous Generation.
They’re really, really hard to get rid of. Steam cleaning the line is out, because the PVC pipe can’t take temperatures that high. Annihilating them entirely would involve running bleach or some other disinfectant through the ENTIRE BUILDING’S system, making sure the disinfectant runs out of every tap on every floor. Then the system has to be flushed out of every tap so that no trace of the cleaning agent remains.
As you can imagine, this is not cheap, so negotiations will have to be begun with Chemistry, who’s in charge of the building.
When I do mischief, I do it right.
The temporary solution is to install a filter to trap all the crud before it comes out the faucet. The fellow from SSC ordered one, but the company sent the wrong size. (I may have helped.) He had them overnight the proper size, and then he came and installed it.
And here it is:
The hoop-y things are wrenches for removing the blue filter cartridges so that the filters can be changed. The human female was told that they’ll unscrew backwards, because one has to pretend one is looking at them from underneath. I bet she forgets.
Now, the whole R/O water question is made more complex by the fact that the Aquatics people also use the water for making the salt water for the aquaria. Prep Staff accuses them of leaving the sprayer nozzle in their big drums of “instant ocean,” which corrodes the spray-y bits, so that over time, the nozzle doesn’t shut off very well, eventually becoming totally useless. Prep Staff has tried to get them to quit, but hasn’t had much luck, so Prep Staff bought a splitter, along with a hose and a nozzle for the aquatic techs’ particular use, in the hopes they’d leave Prep Staff’s alone (so far, it hasn’t worked.)
So now that particular corner of the Plants and Animals room is a plumber’s nightmare. Pipes galore, the water line for the ice machine, the splitter, the filter system, two hoses, two nozzles…
…and the new valve setup for the now-filtered R/O system.
The human female, needing to fill some jugs with R/O water for the plants, was the first person to try it out. She had good water pressure at first, but it soon slowed to a trickle. She tried opening the red R/O master valve. Same result. She fiddled with the splitter. She tried the master valve again, in both the parallel and perpendicular positions. Same result–lots of water, then nothing at all.
Now, humans are nothing if not predictable. There are standards. Usually, when the valve handle is inline, the valve is open, and perpendicular usually means “off.” Neither position worked here.
With a little trial and error, the human female and one of her techs determined that “open”, in this case, is about 23 degrees off of inline. (Why? Because I like the number twenty-three…)
The human female, ever helpful, decided to mark the valve and the pipe so that other users wouldn’t have to thrash about, trying to get more than a trickle. Unfortunately for her, she sometimes suffers from sleep-deprivation aphasia. It can cause trouble with her vocabulary—she’ll say or write a random word that sounds a bit like the one she wants, sometimes with hilariously nonsensical results.
And sometimes it’s just laughably accurate.