MIC: What It Is and How to Treat It

by OFSadmin

For decades, the fire sprinkler industry has grown accustom to seeing various forms of corrosion in their fire sprinkler systems.  Recently, more attention has been given to a unique type of corrosion which has become more prevalent and is causing damage to sprinkler systems at alarming rates and costing business owners significant amounts of money.

MIC is the industry term for microbiologically influenced corrosion.  MIC inside of sprinkler pipe is caused by several different types of microorganisms that combine with other elements present in sprinkler pipe to react to form tubercles and pits inside of sprinkler pipe.  These tubercles can grow to alarming sizes, and in some cases even obstructing entire pipes.  They create pinhole leaks and slime/sludge.  The slime/sludge can restrict the flow of water in the sprinkler piping not allowing the sprinkler system to perform properly.

MIC typically reacts when four criteria are present: metal, water, nutrients, and oxygen.  However, some microorganisms can react without oxygen being present.  These microorganisms, which do not require oxygen, are called anaerobic.  While the microorganisms that need oxygen to react are called aerobic.

The discovery of MIC in sprinkler piping has not been an isolated issue.  It has been discovered in many sprinkler applications all across the United States.  It has been found in industrial facilities, warehouses, hospitals, offices, and residential properties.   MIC does not discriminate amongst fire sprinkler system types.  It has also been known to exist in every type of sprinkler system does not only attack wet pipe sprinkler systems.  Often dry and pre-action systems, due to being filled with compressed air, see advanced cases of MIC because of the oxygen present in these systems.  The water that is left behind after flow testing helps fuel the microbiological reaction.  The threat of MIC is becoming so prevalent that many insurance companies are now offering discounts to business owners who take preventative measures against MIC infestations.

Fortunately, there are new methods available to help prevent MIC and there are ways to eradicate MIC in existing systems.  Water tests can be preformed to see if MIC causing bacteria is present in the water supply and test can be preformed on the pipe being used to determine which treatment is needed.

There are air monitoring devices which help eliminate trapped air in fire sprinkler systems and can also limit oxygen corrosion.  There are corrosion monitoring devices that will simulate the conditions inside the fire sprinkler system and are easily serviced and monitored to catch any corrosion activity.  There are also a variety of chemical treatments available to treat MIC.  It is important to remember that each MIC outbreak is unique and there is no universal way to treat this problem.  Contact your fire sprinkler provider for more details on MIC in fire sprinkler systems.

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