By: Bill Seawell, Induron Technical Service Manager

Aqua Pennsylvania Sproul Road Water TankBack in 2017, Induron’s National Sales Manager, Andy Odorzynski wrote an article emphasizing the need to define the challenges our industry faces in standardizing its approach to coatings in the water industry at large. Now, five years later, the water industry is still facing these fundamental issues. Below, I categorize, itemize and discuss some of these challenges. 

Corrosion is slow and human lives (or careers) are short 

Nobody likes record keeping. Show me a functional organization, and I’ll show you employees who hate the paperwork. But, what is the purpose of paperwork? Why do we keep records at all? Because paper and computers are better at remembering things than our minds in the long term. The average layman who has nothing to do with industrial construction or engineering is always shocked to hear how many treatment plant operators I’ve spoken to who have no idea what their secondary clarifier was lined with last time. 

Seven figures were spent having it constructed and lined the last time (whenever that was), but here we are again X years later talking about lining it again. This is a major issue we have in our industry. Operators often do not keep long-term records of what materials were used in years prior, so manufacturers are forced to select products for them virtually from scratch. We can do that. We do it every day. However, a customer that has a record of the lining or coating he used last time and knows whether or not they were happy with its performance, is a customer who can be much better served by the manufacturer. No lab test is as good as on-site testing at the actual site of service. Don’t let that valuable data go to waste. Keep it and incorporate it into your future specifications/projects. For example, “we used a polyurea last time and it didn’t work. Here’s why…” is a cheap conversation to have.

Commercial interests

Here at Induron, we love coatings, treatment plants, and everything about the coatings industry. We love you, too. That said, we want to sell you paint. It’s not a secret. We are in the business of manufacturing coating materials, marketing them, and ultimately, selling them to applicators and end users. 

We aren’t unique in that regard, though. Everyone in this industry has a commercial interest. Paint manufacturers, contractors, sub-contractors, owners, engineers, and consultants etc., all have a profit motive that colors the decisions they make. This is not inherently bad and only becomes an issue when it prevents the best possible outcome being reached for a given project. Engineers and owners should be open to hearing a second opinion from both manufacturers and contractors. There may be a coatings technology out there that better suits the specific project at hand, and there may even be a better way to specify it or apply it. When evaluating a given coatings solution, consider the source of your information on that specific technology.

Chronic risk averseness

 “If it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it” is an old man’s truism that carries a lot of wisdom–especially in coatings. In this very article, I advised treatment plant operators to keep records of which coatings are applied so that they can use that information going forward. That old quote does not read “It’s broken in an incessantly annoying yet predictable way so don’t try and fix it”. New technologies and solutions do arise. 

The prototypical example in the coatings industry is the tried-and-true moisture-cured urethane zinc primer. Do they work? Absolutely. We sell one at Induron, and it’s a good one. Those products have a multi-decadal track record of protecting steel. The performance of zinc primer is impressive, no doubt. But, does anyone really like applying zinc? If you could do the same thing or better with single-leg airless applied ceramic epoxy, would you? Most would and many are, but it requires a certain sense of curiosity to take a small risk on a new technology that may pay off big time. 

Some contractors try new products and fall on their faces. At the same time, the ones that have true competitive advantages got there by trying out new technologies and techniques. Similarly, someone has to specify that new technology for it to even get that far. Business and engineering are both arts built around the spirit of calculated risk and even the products we’ve known for 50 years were new at one point.

Tracking the wrong dollars

This is obvious to anyone looking from the outside into any construction project, but in the heat of the moment, this very apparent truth is often missed: Upfront cost means nothing without a full lifetime cost analysis. Municipalities and treatment plant operators constantly struggle with this due to the political pressures of their organizations and the way their finances work. But, this concept applies to everyone and should be part of the decision making process on every job. 

Lifetime cost estimates can be very difficult to get at with accurate numbers, but it’s an important exercise to run even with round numbers to help inform decisions around product choices and design considerations. There are several industry documents (AMPP has theirs here) that can help estimate coatings lifetimes, but there’s no denying lifetime cost estimating is more of an art than a science. That’s not to say it’s any less important. 

Large dollars hang in the balance and the time scales involved are often so large that no one person usually holds accountability over these decisions, which makes it even more important that these things are done right. As we move into these recent economic times with high labor costs, high inflation and unpredictable supply chains, these sort of future cost analyses pay even greater dividends, relatively speaking, for those willing to take the time to do them.


This is not unique to 2022, or coatings or treatment plants, but is a universal issue everywhere. It’s the human condition some might say. Let me demonstrate to you how important communication can be in our world with a simple question: 

What is chlorine? By chlorine do we mean chlorine gas Cl2? Maybe chlorine bleach NaOCl? Chlor-ide maybe? Maybe one of the various swimming pool chlorine products many have in their backyards? The word “chlorine” can mean a lot of things. If we have a chlorine tank at a treatment plant what does that mean? What kind of concentration is the chlorine present in? Is this wet all the time? Is it ever heated?

All these are questions I might ask if one came to me looking for a chlorine-resistant coating in the context of treatment plants. Specific communication is important. The more information we have at the outset, the better-informed decision can be made. Again, this is obvious but this advice is followed much less than many think.

All in all, these are a few of the various challenges I see our industry facing as we mature and evolve into the next few years. None of these problems will ever go away. They are more facts of life rather than problems to be solved per se, but they do remain as constant challenges. 

Here at Induron, we enjoy these challenges and look forward to continuing working with our customers on state-of-the art, tailor-made coatings solutions in the water tank and treatment plant industries. Contact us today to learn more.