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Dead Men Tales: A $50,000 Mistake

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HeatingHelp
HeatingHelp Administrator Posts: 654
edited November 2020 in THE MAIN WALL



A $50,000 Mistake

If you're staring at an odd, old device and you don't know what it is, put your hands in your pockets and back away until you learn more about it. In this episode, Dan Holohan tells the story of a strange device and a $50,000 mess.

Read the full story here

guzzinerd

Comments

  • SteamCrazy
    SteamCrazy Member Posts: 100
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    Wow! Ouch... That's an expensive lesson to learn. Kool story thanks for sharing Dan
    Grallert
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,839
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    Very cool and very $$$$$!!!!!
  • mitch101
    mitch101 Member Posts: 22
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    We're always ignorant of something. Used to wash my hands in a pail of gasoline after playing in my dad's wrecking yard. Didn't know to put my dirty hands in my pockets and back away 'cause my mom would kill me for ruining my pants -
    EdTheHeaterManMarjPinard
  • Dave_132
    Dave_132 Member Posts: 65
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    It reminds me of the Honeywell gas and zone valves that were activated by sodium in the operator head. When the seals began to leak and come in contact with water, they would explode.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    CLambMarjPinardMad Dog_2
  • Philco
    Philco Member Posts: 3
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    Very well told story.
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,331
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    Real mistake was to panic?
    Clean the Hg yourself instead of calling TheMan?
    Mad Dog_2
  • Jackmartin
    Jackmartin Member Posts: 196
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    I remember when this mercury terror was just beginning in Canada. We had to ,on pain of death ,take every mercury filled vial to the safety officer. This guy was about as bright as a pound of ground round, but he was the law in this here town. He used to take the sealed vials from us after he had put on his tyvex uniform and donned a respirator that the medical profession would love to have for COVID. He always made the same statement “ ya know, that here stuff can kilt you” probably as badly as he killed the English language. Stay Well and Be Blessed Jack
    CLamb
  • John T
    John T Member Posts: 6
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    I can remember playing with mercury on the kitchen table after I accidentally broke mom's thermometer. Things we did 60+ years ago. Great story Dan..
    MarjPinard
  • luketheplumber
    luketheplumber Member Posts: 149
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    I've been collecting mercury bulbs from old thermostats I find in dumpsters. I store the old bulbs in a double container. I know where I can bring them to to safely dispose of them and I should probably get around to it sooner or later.
    I just earned my GED and am looking for a apprenticeship with one of these steam gurus on this site!
    Mad Dog_2
  • Tomato
    Tomato Member Posts: 21
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    Dan, Thanks for sharing this story. Do these look like tall mushrooms?
    Mercury has been used for so many devices. It is probably impossible to be able to recognize all of them. Hence your advice to put our hands in our pockets!
    I saw some good looking 30,000 gallon tanks which were abandoned. When I asked why, they said that the tanks were contaminated with mercury and it would cost more than the tanks were worth to clean them. I asked where the mercury came from and was told that the tanks were equipped with level gages that were filled with mercury until someone used a vacuum truck to clean the oil out. They decided to walk away from the job and leave the cleanup to someone else.
    Owners should require all contractors to have Errors and Omissions insurance.
    MarjPinard
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,568
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    Here you go:

    Retired and loving it.
    MarjPinardMad Dog_2
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,568
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    And what goes on inside of it:

    Retired and loving it.
    MarjPinardMad Dog_2
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,568
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    Here's one at the top of the system with the open expansion tank:

    Retired and loving it.
    MarjPinard
  • Dennis
    Dennis Member Posts: 101
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    The same type of mercury contamination happened in the next neighborhood over from where I currently reside. However lucky for the homeowner the fault was that of the gas utility company, While testing the gas line, some device used spilled a small amount of mercury. The homeowner recognizing it as mercury called the local fire company, they in turn called the EPA. Needless to say the year long ordeal to clean the house ended with the utility company throwing in the towel, purchasing the property, raising the property and carting off the entirety in several sealed hazmat certified dumpsters. 5 years later a developer built a new home, wherein one of my customers resides.
    My customer said the whole affair including the multiple attempts to clean the property before giving up, and legal expenses ran near a million dollars. I guess mercury is good work if you can get it.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    MarjPinard
  • Leon82
    Leon82 Member Posts: 684
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    My 3rd grade teacher had a jar of mercury in her desk. She let us all touch it. I believe she commented how the oxidation transfered to our fingers as it was shiny again.
    CLambMarjPinard
  • Steve_Wheels
    Steve_Wheels Member Posts: 28
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    My early days as a plumbing and heating contractor I came upon one of these. It was just standing there, alone, in the corner, just staring at me, beckoning me to look at it, to play with it. So I did. Just a little. Just like the plumber before me did. He shoved it in the corner and promptly ran away. I however went back to fixing the 100 year old vertical thrush circulator and left my beckoning black cast beauty in the corner. When done, I looked up (yes in a thing called the library, there was no google back then) what this tall skinny thing was. It took hours, but then I was happy I didn't play too much with this thing. Who knows, maybe the mercury was still in there. Maybe today, 40 years later she is still in the corner... looking for someone to play with her, becoming her, like a shed full of running chainsaws.
    MarjPinardMad Dog_2
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,108
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    Luke....I return Hg tstats to wholesale houses, some will take them, however they want the tstat to be intact.
    Not just the bulb they would not take. There may be some sites that will take the bulbs alone.
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,696
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    JUGHNE said:

    Not just the bulb they would not take.

    Kinda makes ya wonder, doesn't it?
  • gypsydoctor
    gypsydoctor Member Posts: 5
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    My dad left a roll of asbestos paper down in the basement. After he passed away, I was cleaning up and found it. I called around and it was going to be a big hassle just to dispose of it--several hundred dollars.

    So I had an idea: I listed it on EBAY and sold it for $75.

    I think they have since made a rule against asbestos. And mercury too.
    mattmia2MarjPinardMad Dog_2
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,959
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    There are probably also federal laws involving mailing asbestos.
    Mad Dog_2
  • LS123
    LS123 Member Posts: 475
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    thank you for this info @DanHolohan ....Note to self... if buying a house with old heating system...check for this device and get lots of home ins.... :)
    Thank you!
    @LS123
    MarjPinard
  • tim smith
    tim smith Member Posts: 2,774
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    Dan, well told story and mantra. I too have been known to move forward when I should look, learn and listen. Thankfully I think I learned many years ago to stop and find out what I am looking at. I have never ran into one of those. New piece of history in my head, yay. Your stories read like we are right there with you. I feel engaged every time I read them.
    Thanks again Dan
    Tim
    mattmia2MarjPinard
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,568
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    Thanks, @tim smith I am right there with you. :)
    Retired and loving it.
    MarjPinard
  • AnthonyReikow
    AnthonyReikow Member Posts: 24
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    Great Story

  • Anthony Menafro
    Anthony Menafro Member Posts: 198
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    I actually have one of these capped off and on display at my local supply house. It is on loan to them to educate those that are interested. I have a copy of the original patent attached to it. Such a great story and a reminder for me.

  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,331
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    I feel so much safer having read this. Some egghead claims she can detect miniscule asbestos in talc so woe to anyone who ever dusted herself.

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,959
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    I happen to have a friend who's mother died from the asbestos contaminating talc.

    jumper
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,245
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    I've run in to two of them in my career. Both in Old homes on Long Island 🏝. One was in a house that I plumber I know lived in his whole life. He never questioned or cared about it. They sold the house and I was asked to replace the boiler. It was a very old gravity HW system and I recognized it immediately from Dan's books. We had the Homeowner take it to one if those hazard waste amnesty days.. The cool things ya see.Mad Dog