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CEDs Approach to a Boiler Failure Investigation


A plant in a commercial town in Pennsylvania used an industrial cleaning fluid as part of the manufacturing process.  A boiler was then used to assist in separating impurities from the cleaning fluid so that the fluid could be reclaimed for continued use in the plant’s manufacturing process.  During the course of operation, a plant engineer noticed a drop in pressure from the boiler.  The engineer traveled to the boiler room to investigate the cause of the pressure drop.  The engineer alleged that he looked through a large inspection port in the boiler to see if the boiler was experiencing a leak or if the pump had failed and to determine if there was a need to shut down the boiler as the procedures of the plant required.  The plant’s engineer claimed that he could not see any leak inside the boiler upon looking through the boiler’s large inspection port. The plants engineer then opened the door only to find the room flooded with scalding hot water, knocking the engineer unconscious causing severe burns and near fatal injuries.

The complaint made by the plaintiff was that the that fluid leak from the boiler was not visible or noticeable from the boiler’s large inspection port so the leak must have been slow and lasting for 45 to 60 minutes prior to the discovery of the problem.

The defense counsel retained CED to validate one main point that could either make or break the case for their client:  “Was the leak from the boiler noticeable or was the leak slow and non-visible?”  To answer this question, CED performed a site inspection to take detailed measurements of the size of the opening in the broken fluid line that caused the leak.  Then CED performed research to determine the fluid line pressure and amount of fluid that would have flowed through the boiler lines during normal operation.  Last, CED, constructed an exemplar or  replica of a section of the boiler that had been involved in this accident; this section included the boiler’s inspection port.

Armed with research and data, CED then performed tests to demonstrate the visibility of leaked fluid from a broken pressurized fluid line.  Video cameras were used to record what could be seen from two locations: (1) view through the boiler’s inspection port, and (2) view of the pressurized fluid spraying from the broken fluid line.  The results were astonishing. I urge you to click on the embedded picture to the left to view the results and determine if the boiler leak was or was not noticeable. Based on CED’s testing, it was determined that the fluid leak was visible through the boiler’s large inspection port and that one had the opportunity to observe that fluid leak through the inspection port.

Testing can sometimes make or break a case for the expert.  Construction of replicas used in testing can be a powerful tool to demonstrate specific points in a case.  Videos that document the testing can provide a lasting impression to a jury or can be used pre-trial to assist in settling a claim.  CED has been providing expertise for over 23 years and utilizes testing when appropriate to enhance and support CED’s opinions, making CED a powerful asset for your case.


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