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Government Idle

GSA Emails Recount Inside Story of Exploding Toilets 119

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-where-you-sit dept.
First time accepted submitter v3rgEz writes "Six months ago, the toilets of the General Services Administration started exploding, injuring two employees and beginning the agency's spiral down the drain of bad press (this is the same GSA now under fire for pricey Vegas conference flings). E-mails just released under FOIA now show the culprit: Compressed air + ancient plumbing + leaving it all unattended."
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GSA Emails Recount Inside Story of Exploding Toilets

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  • by busyqth (2566075) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:48PM (#39729709)
    I think that if my posterior was injured by an exploding toilet, I'd feel justified in taking a two-week junket to Las Vegas.
    • I can't say your posterior would thank you for it though.

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        Uhhh, if your posterior is sore after a two week junket to Las Vegas I don't think you're doing it right. Unless you have a booth at the AVN or something...

        • by philip.paradis (2580427) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @06:47AM (#39732407)

          What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. If what happens in your posterior stays in your posterior, you need to consult a doctor, unless you developed an interest in a certain variety of beadwork in Vegas, in which case the problem is bound to work itself out in due time. If it persists longer than three days, you still need to consult a doctor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They should have hired Encyclopedia Brown to investigate. He's solved similar cases before.
      • That was my first thought too. I still remember eraser and "The First Battle of Bull Run" and toreador petticoats.

        Anyone who grew up reading Encylopedia Brown stores -- you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Joe Meno's wistfully spare The Boy Detective Fails [goodreads.com]. If you can imagine indie shoegazer music put into book form, this would surely by part of that imaginary genre's major canon.

      • by Lorens (597774)

        They should have called Arthur Weasley! He's quite the expert on regurgitating toilets [wikia.com]

    • by operagost (62405)
      You don't want to walk into a casino with that kind of luck.
  • I hate to be one of those nogoodniks who responds, "Why is this news for nerds?" but... why is this news for nerds?

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:55PM (#39729787)

      There's probably a linux distribution for exploding toilets and no doubt an emacs command to make your toilet explode.

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by ClintJCL (264898) <clintjcl+slashdo ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:59PM (#39729821) Homepage Journal
      nerds poop. perhaps even more than average.
      • I would have guessed a diet of Mountain Dew and Cheetos would lead in the other direction.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Because it's technical and explosive?

    • Because they said that somebody left the air compressor on unattended and left it at that. To most people this would be a perfectly rational explanation, but when I read it I have a lot more things come to mind, like why was the air compressor even connected to the water supply system of an occupied building? Before learning of this compressor, my thought was a leak in the basement or a loss of water pressure from the street which caused the water to drain out of the system as the system filled with air f
      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        I thought air compressors were an integral part of the low-flow toilets (the high pressure forces the waste down the hole).

      • Re:So what? (Score:5, Informative)

        by jbengt (874751) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @10:38PM (#39730791)

        No air compressor need be connected to the water system in order to get compressed air in the system.
        This [washingtonpost.com] has a better explanation.

        Though very rare, it is not unheard of for flush valve water closets to explode. The flush valves need 20+psig to operate, and most codes allow up to 80 psig. Water is, practically, incompressible, so the release of pressure from a suddenly opening valve will create sudden acceleration that may cause "water hammer" and jerk the pipes some. But air is compressible, and if there is air in the pipes, a sudden release of pressure can cause the air to expand explosively, adding much greater acceleration and velocity to the water entering the fixture, and possibly rupturing the brittle ceramics that the fixture is made of.

        In most buildings more than a few stories high, you need a pump to raise the water to the top floors and still have enough pressure. Especially in older buildings, this pump is a constant RPM centrifugal pump, which cannot adjust to the variability in flow rates, especially at times of low usage. So the discharge of the pump fills a bladder tank, which contains water on one side of the bladder and air compressed by the water on the other. The pump does not have to turn on and off all the time, because the bladder tank holds enough water and pressure to keep the water flowing for a minute or two after the pump turns off (much longer in times of low flow) and it takes a minute or two for the tank to fill to full pressure while the pump is running ( longer at times of high demand).

        Apparently, in this case, the air got into the system because some part of the system failed, the water pressure dropped, and air got sucked in. It was then pressurized by the normal water pressures.

        • No air compressor need be connected to the water system in order to get compressed air in the system.

          This [washingtonpost.com] has a better explanation.

          Though very rare, it is not unheard of for flush valve water closets to explode. The flush valves need 20+psig to operate, and most codes allow up to 80 psig. Water is, practically, incompressible, so the release of pressure from a suddenly opening valve will create sudden acceleration that may cause "water hammer" and jerk the pipes some. But air is compressible, and if there is air in the pipes, a sudden release of pressure can cause the air to expand explosively, adding much greater acceleration and velocity to the water entering the fixture, and possibly rupturing the brittle ceramics that the fixture is made of.

          In most buildings more than a few stories high, you need a pump to raise the water to the top floors and still have enough pressure. Especially in older buildings, this pump is a constant RPM centrifugal pump, which cannot adjust to the variability in flow rates, especially at times of low usage. So the discharge of the pump fills a bladder tank, which contains water on one side of the bladder and air compressed by the water on the other. The pump does not have to turn on and off all the time, because the bladder tank holds enough water and pressure to keep the water flowing for a minute or two after the pump turns off (much longer in times of low flow) and it takes a minute or two for the tank to fill to full pressure while the pump is running ( longer at times of high demand).

          Apparently, in this case, the air got into the system because some part of the system failed, the water pressure dropped, and air got sucked in. It was then pressurized by the normal water pressures.

          Thanks for the great explanation. If I could I would reward you with points.

    • Some of us work in govenment buildings and are wondering if our shitters are going to explode.

    • Re:So what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:15PM (#39730357)

      im stealing this from somebody's old post, but "news for turds, stuff that splatters"

    • by Xtifr (1323)

      why is this news for nerds?

      Um, it mentions email? Best guess I can come up with.

      Well, actually, not the best, but definitely the most charitable. :)

    • by dudpixel (1429789)

      explosions are cool

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      There' s a Mythbuster episode about exploding toilets, is that not enough nerdy?

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Huh? You're a nerd and you don't like blowing shit up? I almost got expelled in the 7th grade for a science project. [slashdot.org] When toilets explode for no apparent reason, finding out why is good nerdy fun.

  • God I love Frank Zappa lyrics.
  • by codepunk (167897) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:54PM (#39729775)

    The GSA is a prime example of why raising taxes on anyone I don't care what class is beyond stupid.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Really? Because they aren't perfect, because there are fallible human beings involved?

      If that's bothering you, you really should curl into the fetal position because it can happen anywhere. Your plumber, your auto mechanic, the guy who runs the red light, the priest at the local church, anybody anywhere can be up to no good.

      And if you think cutting pay will be any thing but a disincentive to honesty, you any want to ask yourself how you'd feel if you got abused into anything.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The difference is that the plumber, mechanic, and guy running the red light aren't doing it with the money that was taken from me by threat of force.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I notice you left out the bit about the priest. That's at least tacitly acknowledging their use of coercion.

          But you really need to talk to people who have felt pressured and intimated by plumbers and mechanics who were taking advantage of them. And the guy running a red light can easily be one who is threatening you.

          So no, there's no real difference in my experience. Especially since the tax collection is so distant from the actual spending, that it's not actually a serious connection between the two. I

        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @01:40AM (#39731403)

          I'm sorry, when my toilet is spewing sewage and the plumber asks for money to fix it, that's pretty heavy handed coercion!

          I don't understand this rabid anti-tax stance. You get something in return for taxes, maybe not as much as we'd like but it's a necessity. If no one is taxed then you have no roads, no sewage, no water, no defense, no social security or medicare, no police, no fire departments, no free schools, etc. Unless you're wealthy of course and just buy your own.

          The point of the GSA is to centralize administrative services and save money. Maybe they can be better at it but if you throw them out the deficit gets worse. As for Vegas conferences, these occurred every year in the past as well, and they were damned expensive even when Bush was president, and yet people are treating this like it's suddenly a new thing.

          One thing I find amusing is that cities that have outsourced government services and end up paying more in the long run, and some folk actually claim to be happier this way because even though they pay more taxes at least there are fewer direct government employees. The logic is absurd and does not make sense until you understand that politics is just another form of religion.

          • by rohan972 (880586)

            I'm sorry, when my toilet is spewing sewage and the plumber asks for money to fix it, that's pretty heavy handed coercion!

            No, it isn't coercion at all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coercion [wikipedia.org]
            Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to behave in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats or intimidation or some other form of pressure or force.

            "If you don't pay me I won't work for you" is not a threat. To the extent you are being forced, it is your own sewerage doing the forcing, not the plumber and you are the one who put it there. You can also call another plumber if you don't wan

          • I don't understand this rabid anti-tax stance.

            Look up "sociopath". ;)

            In the USA, we've gone from an idea that our economic and political systems should be designed and implemented so that they can survive immoral participants who purposely work against the good of their own group, to a completely different idea, that immoral participants are heroic and sociopath behaviour is something our children should aspire to. We used to say "the system should function despite the presence of greedy men" and now we sa

            • We used to say "the system should function despite the presence of greedy men" and now we say "greed is good"

              The term 'political sophistication' really means 'training normal people to think like psychopaths'. This is because the current political system is based on violence, so to use it successfully you have to think that way.

              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                What violence? There's no more violence towards tax collection than there is to collect from unpaid parking tickets. This is fee for service, if you take the service and don't pay the fee it is stealing. It is reasonable though to complain that the services aren't worth the fee or that that parts of the fee are wasted. If you want to be a member of society then you play by society's rules. The US has some of the lowest tax rates for the industrialized world and yet has some of the highest whining. Mos

                • What violence? There's no more violence towards tax collection than there is to collect from unpaid parking tickets.

                  Try not going along with the abstract constructions of those who lay claim to taxes and see what happens to you. This [youtube.com] explains the problem in 4 minutes.

                  This is fee for service, if you take the service and don't pay the fee it is stealing. It is reasonable though to complain that the services aren't worth the fee or that that parts of the fee are wasted.

                  How about that I never agreed to accept a

          • If no one is taxed then you have no roads, no sewage, no water, no defense, no social security or medicare, no police, no fire departments, no free schools, etc. Unless you're wealthy of course and just buy your own.

            There is voluminous scholarship showing historical systems that have used other models and there are even better proposals for systems that achieve all that, and much more, for the same level of spending that the State apparatus.

            For just one small example that disproves the rule, I live on a roa

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cpu6502 (1960974)

        If the GSA ceased to exist, it wouldn't matter if they were perfect or imperfect human beings. Meanwhile we the people would be richer (less government spending). In fact I'm reaching the point where I think NO central government would be a good plan, except to provide a navy and army for defense, and build roads for internal transport, and that's about it.

        Anything else could, like Europe, be left to the member states. Or private companies (mail, trains, cars). Or both (regulated monopolies like utiliti

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2012 @12:27AM (#39731221)

          That assumes there would be no consequences from the elimination of the GSA. Their budget is about 20 billion. You're flipping out over a tiny portion of it, and ignoring the other work they do because you have no personal experience with their functions.

          Keep making assumptions like that. After all, if you don't recognize the benefits, it can't be that important. The GSA actually does a lot to avoid excess duplication of effort on the part of the other government agencies, even including those who you would support.

          And your concept of the EU is...amusing. The reasons they are separate nations is cultural and historical, not because of any deliberate political decisions, and no, they will not be adopting your libertarian wet dream.

          Mostly because they realize there's more to good government than national defense and highways. I don't know why, maybe it's because they think about power generation, environmental pollution, health care and the like. And sometimes, it's a bigger concern than a single US state can handle. Heck, sometimes the US even has to work with other countries in a co-operative framework.

          Damn centralization! It gets in the way of anarchist individuality which means somebody somewhere is being coerced! To Arms!

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Anything else could, like Europe, be left to the member states. Or private companies (mail, trains, cars). Or both (regulated monopolies like utilities).

          Yeah... Things are not that great over here actually. The financial problems in the Euro Zone are a good example of why we need central monetary policy. In the UK we privatised mail, trains and are now having private road building too, and all have been a disaster. Mail is expensive, the service is crap and the company is failing. Trains are expensive, the service is crap and the system works less well than when the government was in charge.

          Regulation doesn't work very well, and we are at the stage now wher

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            >>>The financial problems in the Euro Zone are a good example of why we need central monetary policy.

            It was central monetary policy that CAUSED the financial collapse. The old method of competing currencies actually worked better (not for the bankers, but for the common people).

        • by jpstanle (1604059)

          In fact I'm reaching the point where I think NO central government would be a good plan, except to provide a navy and army for defense, and build roads for internal transport, and that's about it.

          Yeah, because that whole Articles of Confederation thing and 13 different currencies worked out real well, didn't it?

        • by msi (641841)
          You do realise that the most right wing European leaders would have problems getting elected as democrats in the USA due to their policy’s, such as socialised medicine and social security.
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:36PM (#39730147)

      The GSA is a prime example of why raising taxes on anyone I don't care what class is beyond stupid.

      Be thankful you don't get all the government you pay for.

    • by forand (530402) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:10PM (#39730337) Homepage

      Perhaps you should familiarize yourself where tax dollars are being spent [dailyfinance.com]. We are not over spending on maintenance of government facilities (see the article), we are over spending by spending 20% of our budget on defense and even more out of budget [warresisters.org]. Instead of investing in infrastructure, a time proven way to stimulate long term growth, we are neglecting it and talking about cutting taxes when we are not taking in sufficient fund to pay the current budget.

      As US citizens we live in one of the most affluent countries in the world and pay one of the smallest tax rates. While I disagree with how we spend some of the Federal budget I find it difficult to imagine how I am not getting far more than I pay for in taxes from my government. Living in a democracy requires that we compromise; that we accept that some things will be done that we disagree with; that we will not be happy with every decision our government makes. We, as citizens, have a duty to hold our elected officials accountable for their failing and to seek better representation when they do fail. We also have a duty to call out those within government who see it as a cash cow, as is the case with the GSA spending, as well as those outside government, as in the case of oil companies being given tax subsidies. Regardless of these few failings, hampering our government further will not lead to some magical land of plenty but to a cyberpunk dystopian brubdom.

      • by spearway (169040)

        Smallest tax rate???? Really????

        The only reason for this is that taxes in the US are split between various level of government and that health insurance is not included in taxes as it is in most countries. When you compare oranges with oranges the tax rates are quite similar. It is for example only a few percentage point lower than Canada even through Canada has tax funded universal health coverage.

        I thing there is large space for improvement. And also I thoroughly dislike the tea party they have a point.

        • by forand (530402)

          Fair point, however, you then directly use the opposite assumption in your statement: "[The US tax rate] is for example only a few percentage point lower than Canada even through Canada has tax funded universal health coverage." So you too are comparing apples to orange by your own accounting.

          That being said while Canada provides universal health care with their taxes they do it at a very low cost relative to even similar service in the US. That is Canada provides the same coverage for less. While the US co

          • Yeah, no difference in coverage except for huge waiting lists on many surgeries and treatments.

            Other than that, no difference...

            With reforms in the U.S. insurance industry, we would maintain the better patient treatment the U.S. offers, while also having costs lower.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Huge waiting lists?

              Not really. The wait times you see are a statistical myth, based on misinterpreted data.

              If you factor out the people in Rural Canada, who for some reason, don't have hospitals down the block, the times are comparable.

              The only difference? Canadians actually get to go to the doctor before they need emergency care, so they can wait and work on their health before the surgery rather than having to be rushed into an OR.

              The same applies in the UK, France, etc.

            • With reforms in the U.S. insurance industry, we would maintain the better patient treatment the U.S. offers, while also having costs lower.

              Shouldn't we be focusing on 'healthcare' instead of 'insurance'?

              There are good arguments that the so-called insurance system we have today has driven the cost escalations that bring healthcare out of the reach of most people.

      • Perhaps you should familiarize yourself where tax dollars are being spent.

        So you are saying that if one government agency is vastly overspending for something it's OK as long as other agonies are vastly overspending more.

        Got it.

        Oh wait. Actually that is stupid. If you are trying to save money, to cut spending, you do it for ALL categories of spending, not just really large ones.

        Your point then is totally irrelevant.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      The GSA is a prime example of why raising taxes on anyone I don't care what class is beyond stupid.

      Congratulations, you're drawing the exact conclusion you're being lead to by all the hype. Forget the fact that the Las Vegas conference cost the same as 3 minutes [armscontrolcenter.org] of the Iraq war. Forget the fact that the same and worse is standard in private industry, except the executives in those cases also make tens of millions of dollars per year in takehome pay. Just make a simple emotional association, draw a knee

      • by Leebert (1694) *

        Forget the fact that the Las Vegas conference cost the same as 3 minutes [armscontrolcenter.org] of the Iraq war.

        It's that thinking that perpetuates the problem. A whole lot of "it's not as bad as..." adds up quickly, no different than all of those little incidentals on a day-to-day cumulatively impact your budget more than most people realize. Just because the Iraq war is a grossly egregious waste of money doesn't mean that we ignore waste elsewhere.

        Forget the fact that the same and worse is standard in private industry

        Private industry (with a few notable exceptions) that wastes too much money will go out of business because its products will be too expensive. The government has no s

        • by StikyPad (445176)

          Just because the Iraq war is a grossly egregious waste of money doesn't mean that we ignore waste elsewhere.

          The problem is that the public has a limited attention span. If we're going to focus on government waste, then let's focus on the *biggest* sources of waste where it can have the most impact while we can. It's all well and good to get rid of the most sensational examples, but let's use that as a springboard to tackle the bigger problems rather than patting ourselves on the backs and getting back to

      • by El Torico (732160)

        Forget the fact that the Las Vegas conference cost the same as 3 minutes [armscontrolcenter.org] of the Iraq war.

        The Iraq War and government junkets are both examples of waste; why are you assuming that condemning one is supporting the other?

    • by lanner (107308)

      That sentence is totally incomprehensible, and it was modded +3?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The fact that you think the GSA and current tax rates across socio-economic boundaries are somehow correlary to one another, shows just how you really know about how government works. Or in this case, doesn't work.

      Here's a hint: this has likely been going on for the last 30 years. But please, don't let that stop the misguided direction of disgust. Clearly you need to vent.

    • Yeah, but as long as we are being pointlessly gouged, I want the rich to pay their fair share.  Especially since they're the ones who write the tax laws that tax me to pay for this stupid shit in the first place.

    • by Tore S B (711705)

      The GSA is a prime example of why raising taxes on anyone I don't care what class is beyond stupid.

      Actually, to my mind the GSA is a prime example of a few other things - firstly, of the irony that when there are failures in the public sector, it is effectively used as an argument to lower the expectations to the public sector, rather than taking advantage of one of the main advantages of the public sector in that it is controlled by elected officials and thus, people can actually actually do something about the failure!

      Secondly, it is a misguided move to confront government failing to meet expectations

  • by mc6809e (214243) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:55PM (#39729781)

    A corrupt government allows one of the most basic necessities of civilization, indoor plumbing, to decay while money is literally spent on wine, clowns, and magicians.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You, and many other people, seem to overlook that they where caught, and are being called out on it.

      And the GSA does not equal the whole American government. Rome fell because the leader weren't accountable.

      People are people and shit happens. The response is important.

      • by codepunk (167897)

        No they are just the part of the government which is supposed to be the poster child for responsible spending.

        Don't worry I cannot think of a single person that is really shocked by any of it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are you really implying our "leaders" are accountable? Every godamn vote is only a vote against the other guy, nobody votes because they think their candidate will do a great job.

      • by El Torico (732160)

        You, and many other people, seem to overlook that they where caught, and are being called out on it.

        Have they been fired? Made to pay back the costs? Formally charged at least?

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      I'd argue that roads are slightly more of a basic necessity.
      And that's a national priority, not just an accident due to a mistake in one government building.

      • by mc6809e (214243)

        I'd argue that roads are slightly more of a basic necessity.
        And that's a national priority, not just an accident due to a mistake in one government building.

        Many more have died for want of proper sanitation than have for want of a road.

        Good roads in some sense are actually killing people. The roads we have today are so good that people drive instead of walk and so increase illness and death associated with obesity.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Toilets should be more industrialized by now, I blew up my parents when I was 16 with a waterproof M-80, more than a decade ago!

    /Sigh. Standards....Forever following Yahoo's stock.

  • Rank hypocrisy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:49PM (#39730245)

    this is the same GSA now under fire for pricey Vegas conference flings

    Which is more outrageous than it sounds, because it's the GSA that sets the rates that lots of public institutions use to limit how much their employees can spend for hotel rooms, etc.

    • "because it's the GSA that sets the rates that government agencies use to limit how much their employees can spend for hotel rooms, etc."

      FTFY. The GSA rates are done for internal federal government purposes, not for other institutions. Other people use them because they are freely published, updated regularly, and represent a reasonable limit on local expenditures. They are not limits for spending, by the way, but limits for reimbursement. I once had TDY at Kennedy Space Center and rented a convertible.

    • Re:Rank hypocrisy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tailhook (98486) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @10:43PM (#39730825)

      GSA that sets the rates

      There are no rates. There is only pull. If you have the pull you can invoke whatever exception is necessary and reserve whatever hotel room you want, because exceptions are baked into all of those rate schedules and spending rules. You only need enough pull to get away with invoking them.

      Neely ran his little fiefdom just like a gangster. Mess with him and he ruined your career. There are thousands just like him at every level of government.

      Booze and hookers for the Secret Service. Planet wide GSA jet set. $800k/year city managers. One boondoggle 'green energy' political payoff after another.

      I'm looking forward to the US credit crisis. It's been a long time coming and nothing short of an extinction level caldera eruption can stop it now.

      • by Gogo0 (877020)
        That is incorrect, though you are probably just speaking as an ignorant cynic and are already aware of the fact.
        I can book any hotel room i want, below or above the area lodging rate (most hotels know what the rate is and lock their govt rate to it). however if i go above that rate, i pay the difference out of my own pocket (and you dont get to keep unused lodging funds). you must provide receipts for lodging, so anything billed to the room that cant be proven to be in direct support of your work (internet,
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Right. Except folks like Neely have the hotel gift them a 2000 sq. ft. suite for booking all the peon attendees at that hotel. Zero cost, so no problem. Cha-ching. Shit went on for years, will continue, and 99% won't ever be caught.

          The difference is you're one of the peons that has to follow the rules.

          Here is another [washingtonpost.com] 140+ DC city employees fraudulently collecting unemployment while employed. This shit with the GSA isn't surprising; the place is full of corruption [federaltimes.com].

          You're either a cynic, a sucker or both

          • by Gogo0 (877020)
            im not following the "news" de jour, so i may be misunderstanding you when you say "cha-ching".
            This Neely fella doesnt pocket any of the lodging money. if he cant even claim it via receipt, then he has no opportunity to even get at it. its not like they give us wads of cash, its all on a govt travel card or a personal credit card. if its not on the govt travel card, it doesnt exist. if its not on your personal credit card, it would be silly to ask for reimbursement.
            if you're getting at the hotel giving free
  • Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! We can blame terrorists and have our budget increased 500 percent!

    Leela: But we investigated and found that it was just compressed air in the system.

    Farnsworth: Oh.....

  • look in the govt, 'maintenance man' is the lowest you can go on the totem pole/cast system.

    you will be a fucking GS3 making 20k/year or some horrible shit while congressman doing coke off hookers in the lincoln bedroom get perks out the ass, etc etc etc.

    of course, their toilets wont work because maintenance men won't be allowed overtime, won't be encouraged to get more education, won't ever get promoted, etc etc etc... but hey, whatever. they didn't go to MI fucking T right? am i right?

    this is a symptom of

  • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @10:02PM (#39730627) Journal

    After all the jokes about exploding toilets and bashing the GSA, I'm just curious about something. I read the article and came across this:

    [Supervisory Property Manager Chris] Litsey put out an announcement that the restrooms had closed and purged the system of compressed air that had been flowing into the building’s water tank. [...] Litsey’s theory was that someone had turned the compressor on manually and “left it unattended.”

    Now, I'm not a plumber, nor have I ever played one on television. But why would you have compressed air flowing into the building's water tank? And if this is a good idea, why would it be a manual thing that you would turn on and off?

    I'm sure there's a good reason, I'm just curious as to what it is.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I doubt it. The timing is unabashedly suspicious. In all likelihood the tale is as bogus as it sounds, only invented as a ploy to try to drum up some sympathy for our poor fatcat civil servants, and offset what is exclusively a negative view of them right now. Should work fabulously on the dummies, which has always been communists' only real chance of gaining power in democracies.

      Picked up by Slashdot because this place isn't news for nerds, it's just a venue where leftist commoners gather to practice ways

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Picked up by Slashdot because this place isn't news for nerds, it's just a venue where leftist commoners gather to practice ways of wording whatever is their movement's deception of that week, as if in the hopes of eventually joining their brethren the ruling elites. Naturally all aspiring fascists dream of going pro some day.

        So that's why you hang out here so much.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Repairs - they were probably using the compressor to clear a line that was to be repaired (in a big building letting it drain naturally would take a loooong time) and they forgot to disconnect it. That's my guess.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2012 @03:04AM (#39731623)

      In large buildings you need a pump to move the water to the upper floors with adequate pressure. You don't want to have to wait for the pump to start every time you use water, but you don't want it running all the time even when there is no flow.

      So you have a system which consists of water-utility -> pump -> pressure-switch -> pressure-tank -> building-pipes. The pressure take is a take with the inlet/outlet on the bottom. The so long as the pressure-switch reads low enough the pump runs and pushes water into the building— if the building isn't using water it accumulates in the tank. The incoming water compresses air in the top of the tank and eventually the pump turns off. When someone uses water the air expands and pushes the water out. Eventually the pump turns back on until the pressure is back to the set point.

      The air is very important in all this— water is almost incompressible if the tank only had water in it then as soon as a faucet was turned on the pressure would fall rapidly. So there needs to be a good amount of air in the take to store energy to push the water until the pump switches back on.

      Over time the air can escape from this system— either through leaks in the tank or by dissolving in the water. To fix this someone would connect an air compressor to a fill valve at the top of the pressure tank and pump air back into it.

      It sounds like in this case they started it and then forgot about it. Eventually all the water was pushed out of the tank and the system filled up with high pressure air. The pump did not activate because the pressure was still high. Because the air is so compressible it was storing a lot of energy in the pipes. When toilets were flushed this energy was released, rocketing out the small amounts of remaining water at high speed and causing things to blow up.

      It sounds like they made an additional mistake of trying to refill the system with water with it closed. This would have just caused the water to repressureize the air wherever it was stuck in the system making for more explosive results. To fix this they should have first opened every thing up that they could before turning the water back on and only allowed the system to go back to normal operating pressure once they had most of the air out of it.

    • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @03:22AM (#39731691) Journal

      But why would you have compressed air flowing into the building's water tank?

      Water doesn't flow uphill, and water towers are out of fashion. An unpressurized tank at ground level would just barely dribble out of wide-open faucets on the first floor, at best. And finally, water is non-compressible, itself, so air is used as a propellant.

      A water tank typically comes with an air-filled bladder taking up most of the volume. When your well pump kicks-in, water flows into the opposite side of the bladder, compressing the air behind the bladder in the process. When the tank is nearly full, the pump shuts off, and the water is under pressure. This means you have significant water pressure, and more importantly, the well pump doesn't have to turn on to maintain pressure, every single time someone uses a tiny amount of water (otherwise it would burn out the motor in short-order).

      There are also (cheaper) bladder-less tank designs, where there's no hard barrier strictly keeping the air and water separate, and those are the ones that most often need to have a compressor hooked-up to them and air added, as a routine maintenance step.

      http://inspectapedia.com/water/WaterTankAir2.htm [inspectapedia.com]

      Look-up "Hydro-pneumatic tank" if you want to know more about them. If you ever get off of city water, you'll really, really need to.

      http://www.highlandtank.com/PressureVessels/Products.asp?ProdID=Hydropneumatic [highlandtank.com]

      • by CompMD (522020)

        I have bladderless, pressurized toilet tanks in my house. There's a trade name for them, but I can't remember it. Basically, water flows into a sealed, pressurized tank, compressing the air in the tank. When its full, the valve to the water line closes. Then, when you flush, the compressed air is used to force the water out. The end result is a very powerful flush that requires very little water.

  • by IonOtter (629215) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @10:42PM (#39730821) Homepage

    FTA: "I'm afraid to pee..."

    I laughed so hard when I read that, I don't have to pee anymore.

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @06:30AM (#39732365)

    In a few months, I expect the trees will be filled with underwear.

  • The toilets were exploding because they flushed a few stacks of money too much for the old plumbing to handle.
  • Damn, their shit is explosive!
  • This is something straight out of a Monty Python Flick!.

    exploding toliets, set it to the william tell overature.

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