Retailers planning to stockpile chlorofluorocarbons beyond the deadline for halting production -- as well as those converting to replacement gases -- recognize the crucial need to control leaks.
Although supermarkets could recycle CFCs for years and still comply with the law, any leakage means lost refrigerant, high replacement costs and potential fines by the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington.
"Leaks are a real problem," said Rolf Fey, director of engineering at Foodland Supermarket, Honolulu. "I don't think anybody's come up with a good way to completely control them yet."
"We have systems that run 24 hours a day, year-round," said Thomas Brodowski, facilities manager at Genuardi Super Markets, Norristown, Pa. "With the vibration setup inside these systems, all the pipings and fittings, as well as store employees working inside the cases, there's potential every day for a major leak."
Although Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C., plans to be nearly completely CFC-free by the end of the year, the retailer is still taking extensive steps to prevent leakage. For example, Bi-Lo requires any new pipes to be "saddled" with protective pads to prevent the pipes from rubbing together.
"We're going from underground piping to overhead piping to help us find leaks a lot quicker," said David Ward, a designer in the retailer's design and engineering department. "We're also using steel lines in lieu of any kind of perforated hose."
King Kullen Grocery Co., Westbury, N.Y., is increasing its use of leak detectors. "We're installing monitoring systems throughout the store," said Stephen Mitchell, director of refrigeration and heating. "Wherever we have a bolt of refrigerant line, I throw a sensor right on that area."