Inspection of hot water pipes finds scary spots

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Inspection of hot water pipes finds scary spots

After the rupture of a hot water pipe killed one man and scalded dozens of people last week, the Korea District Heating Corporation (KDHC) inspected 686 kilometers (426 miles) of hot water piping that is more than 20 years old and found irregularities in 203 places.

At 16 spots, it found a huge difference in the ground temperature above the pipes, which could indicate leaking, that could lead to an accident like the one near Baekseok Station in Ilsan District, Goyang, Gyeonggi, on Dec. 4, which created a 10-story geyser of boiling water.

The 686 kilometers of pipe that was inspected accounts for 32 percent of the 2,164-kilometer hot water pipe network nationwide.
Ninety-three agents using 21 heat-reading cameras inspected the pipes.

The KDHC said it inspected five of the 16 potentially dangerous pipes and found no problems with four while one pipe had to be exchanged due to a small leak.

It plans to dig up the remaining 11.

The KDHC added that it has already dug up 443 places in which welds similar to the burst pipe in Ilsan were used. It plans on either repairing or replacing the old pipes in bad condition this winter.

The corporation said it will come up with safety management measures by the end of January based on detailed inspections employing the latest equipment on areas that were seen to have problems.

“We will undergo a bold shakeup within the organization and expand the participation of outside experts,” said Hwang Chang-hwa, the CEO of the KDHC.

He said the organization will put safety as its top priority from now on.

“We will reform personnel, the budget, our manual and the way we work,” Hwang said.

He said the bursting of the pipe in Ilsan was the biggest accident the company has ever faced.

“We failed to reflect changing internal and external environments sufficiently and also failed to act at the early stage of the accident,” Hwang said.

The KDHC said it will raise its budget for maintenance and repair from 20 billion won ($17.7 million) to 100 billion won.

Also, it will upgrade all 112 outside workers who inspect and monitor pipes to its affiliate employees within this year and create a monitoring system using surveillance cameras operated by regional governments.

The KDHC apologized to the family of the man who died near Baekseok Station when his car fell into a huge pothole and was filled with boiling water, as well as the people who were injured.

Some 55 people are said to have suffered burns from the bursting of the pipe.

The company is currently negotiating funeral expenses for the sole victim and medical treatments for the injured.

The KDHC said it will also provide compensation to households whose heating was cut off because of the accident.

“We will reduce 12 days from the basic bill for the heat cutting off for 11 hours,” Hwang said.

Although repairs on the busted pipe near Baekseok Station were completed on Tuesday, fear over deteriorating pipes continued.

Early Tuesday, a hot water pipe was damaged at an apartment in Mok-dong, western Seoul. The damage led to 1,882 households losing heat for 17 hours.

On Wednesday in Ansan, Gyeonggi, another water heat pipe was damaged, cutting off heat to 1,137 households. The damaged pipe took four hours to repair.

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