Sprinkler systems are key components for fighting a fire. Water needs to move swiftly through the sprinklers to douse flames. This can’t happen if something happens to clog the sprinkler system like sediment.

What is sediment?

Dirt and debris – or sediment – can be found at the bottom of storage tanks, which feed into sprinkler systems. If there’s too much sediment, there’s a chance it will block the sprinkler system pipes.

Unlike potable tanks, the water inside fire protection tanks tends to remain stagnant until it’s needed for an emergency.  So, dirt and sediment settle at the bottom of storage tanks.  If tanks aren’t cleaned regularly, the sediment can pile up several inches.  In extreme cases, there might be more than a foot of sediment in a tank.

How do I get rid of sediment?

The best way to get rid of sediment is to ensure your tank is cleaned regularly. Tanks with cathodic protection

should be professionally inspected every five years, while tanks without cathodic protection should be checked every three years, according to the NFPA.

Dirt and debris find a way inside a tank. Even if you drain and clean your tank every three or five years, there will still be at least a little sediment inside again after a while. Cleanouts are probably one of the most common recommendations contractors will make after professional inspections.

The more sediment there is in the tank, the murkier the water.  That means if you perform an ROV or dive inspection, the quality of their pictures will suffer. Poor visibility makes it harder to identify tank components and their conditions and makes it difficult to complete an inspection.

Different types of tank Cleaning

ROV and divers can be used to inspect and clean out tanks without draining them.  However, if there’s too much sediment, the robot can be ineffective or even inoperable.

Dry cleanouts and inspections are generally the most thorough and have the best picture quality but there are drawbacks. They require emptying the tank and taking it out of service.  That could leave a gap in fire coverage if there’s no backup tank.  Tank owners have the option of renting a temporary tank or hiring a fire watch if necessary.  A fire watch is someone who monitors the building serviced by the storage tank. If there’s a fire, they alert everyone immediately. They can provide 24-hour coverage or just while a building is occupied.

Too much sediment can contribute to paint failure.  If a tank is clean and the water quality is good, that means it’s less corrosive on the steel and paint system, which prolongs the coating life.

Protect your assets

Should a tank owner choose not to follow recommendations – either by ignoring the contractor’s recommendations to clean out their tank or to forgo inspections altogether – it could come back to haunt them. In the event of a fire the sprinkler system could fail due to being clogged with sediment, and insurance companies could rule that not following recommendations is negligence. That could result in a claim’s denial or at least slow down the process.

It’s always better to be prepared for anything.  If there is an issue, you can point back to your documentation and show that you took the steps necessary to avoid catastrophes.

A storage tank is an asset, so it needs preventative maintenance. Cleaning out a tank is one of the best things you can do to protect your asset. It’s also one of the best ways to help prevent water issues with your storage tank.