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Older stoppers are non-starters in rec center showers

The showers at the Durango Community Recreation Center run hot and cold, and cold and hot.

What’s with the Durango rec center shower control knobs? They keep changing directions. One day, you turn the handle to the left for hot water. The next day, it’s to the right. Also, it varies by individual shower. – Louise

When it comes to the Durango Community Recreation Center, people love the facility but hate it when things are broken.

Thus, feelings run hot and cold. Why not the showers? It’s plumb crazy.

But there’s a logical explanation for temperamental temperatures. It’s the result of time and zealous bathers.

That’s the word from Cathy Metz, director of Durango Parks and Recreation, who comes clean about this slippery situation.

As you know, Action Line showers our good friend with question after question about the rec center. Sometimes it can be draining. But we’re not going to throw in the towel.

“There’s a stopper in the shower’s plumbing behind the tile walls,” Cathy said. “As you can imagine, the plumbing control parts are old and well-used.”

She explained that if shower users really crank on the control knob, “the worn-down stoppers will reverse hot and cold,” she said warmly while keeping her cool.

The temperature swap will remain until maintenance crews open the mechanism and restore it to the correct direction, she said.

All goes swimmingly until the next person vigorously cranks on the shower handle.

Cathy said her team started seeking new stoppers.

So let’s hope things “work out” with rec center plumbing.

In the meantime, users should “exercise” care in the locker room.


Speaking of temperatures, last week’s column about the inferno-like readings by the Trimble Crossing sign really heated up the ol’ Mea Culpa Mailbag.

If you recall, a Purgatory-goer asked if 489 degrees was “hot as hell,” to which Action Line quoted a biblical description of Hades being a lake of brimstone, otherwise known as sulfur.

Hell’s bells! Whodda thunk that Durango has a liquid sulfur expert!

He’s Malcolm E. Leader, a professional engineer and owner of Applied Machinery Dynamics.

His extraordinary explanatory email is heaven sent.

“Brimstone – or sulfur – is an interesting material,” Malcom writes.

“It’s a byproduct of oil refining and is a valuable material,” adding that “refineries handle the sulfur in liquid form – studiously kept at 300 degrees at all times,” Malcom points out.

Here’s why: “Sulfur becomes liquid at about 240 degrees. However, it doesn’t behave in a way most solids follow when they become liquid.”

Malcom is a renowned bearing designer for rotating equipment including liquid sulfur pumps, “so I need to know the viscosity of the liquid.”

Viscosity is a liquid’s “thickness,” and most materials get “thinner” as they get hotter, he points out fluidly.

“Not so with sulfur. It does get thinner as it reaches 300 degrees but then something remarkable happens,” Malcom writes.

“At 350 degrees, the viscosity of sulfur increases by a factor of 12,000!”

So if a hellish brimstone lake were at Trimble Crossing’s posted 489 degrees, “you could easily walk across the surface of a vat of liquid sulfur at this temperature if you were protected from the heat,” he points out.

Which is good news for banished souls.

“If the sinners are condemned to hell in vats of brimstone, it would only be around 300 degrees,” Malcom postulates.

“If it were hotter, they would be in liquid so thick they couldn’t move (or even sink in).”

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you wonder if Durango’s loved-to-death fitness facility will soon have to be called the Wreck Center.

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