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July 2000

Delphi Questions: Auto-flush technology, flag flying

Question #448 (received 13 April):

I've been wondering ever since they were installed exactly how the "auto-flush" toilets are supposed to save water . . . or are they? I've never seen the advantage in them, but when, recently, and not for the first time, one flushed three times while I was in the stall, I thought they must actually be wasting water. I'd like to get an explanation of what their advantages are and what causes them to get out of adjustment. Does Maintenance rely on employees to call and report malfunctions, or do they check the mechanisms routinely? Thank you.

Response (April 26):

Auto-flush (sensor-operated) valves on toilets and urinals primarily serve a sanitary function by insuring that waste is not left standing in the fixtures. When combined with low-flush-rate fixtures, sensor- operated valves will conserve water. Fixtures in the Mesa Lab operate at between 2 and 3 gallons per flush. Recommended flush rates for water conservation fixtures are 1.6 gallons for toilets and 1.0 gallons for urinals. The sensor-operated valves at the Mesa Lab were installed approximately nine years ago based on recommendations at that time from the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). I have been unable to find a current FEMP recommendation for sensor-operated valves as a water conservation tool except for hand washing. A documented account of water conservation utilizing sensor-operated valves at the Denver Federal Center can be found on the Web.

I spoke with a customer service engineer at Sloan Valve Company, the manufacturer of the sensor-operated valves at ML, about your question. The infrared sensor operating the valve is part of a microprocessor circuit that is affected by power problems and can cause the sensor to malfunction. In most cases the problem can be corrected by resetting the microchip. I have passed this information and the procedure for resetting the units on to the maintenance people responsible in this area.

Although maintenance personnel do regularly check bathroom facilities for leaks, there is no routine check of sensor operation. Maintenance does rely on employees to report malfunctions to the maintenance request line at X1120.

Thank you for you question.

–John Pereira, director
Physical Plant Services

Question #451 (received 14 June):

On the occasion of Flag Day, I have a question for you: Why is it that there is no flag being flown at the Mesa Lab (recognizing the obvious answer that there is no flagpole!)? As a national institution, and being a site that is frequented by the public, it seems odd that we do not have one at least somewhere on the grounds. Even in the Main Seminar Room, the American flag gets shoved around more like it's a nuisance than an official emblem of our nation. Shouldn't we try to do a little better than that?

Delphi coordinator's note: Questions about flying the American flag at UCAR/NCAR facilities have been raised several times in the past: 1975, 1983, 1991, and 1994.

Response (June 21):

The question posed is both complicated and simple. It is complicated because there is a wide range of opinions among staff regarding the appropriate display of the flag. What pleases one person may seem inappropriate to another. It is simple in that UCAR and NCAR management have addressed this issue numerous times since the 1970s, at which time it was decided to display the flag in the lobby area at ML and more recently in the lobby of FL. This practice has been successful and is deemed by management as the most appropriate way to show respect for the flag. As for the flag in the ML Main Seminar Room, it will be moved to an appropriate location in the ML lobby.

–Steve Sadler, director
Safety and Site Services

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the coordinator, Janet Evans (ext. 1114, ML room 517). They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential; they must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2. Questions and answers of general interest to staff are submitted to Staff Notes Monthly by Janet. They may be edited for publication. For more information, including links to questions and answers published in Staff Notes Monthly and a log of all questions submitted since 1995, see the Delphi Service Web page.

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Wed Jul 19 13:56:38 MDT 2000