A Bolt? Are you serious?

Well, yes. Yes, I am. Let me explain.

OSH Water Tower in Berkeley

Rusty bolt holds water tower

When I am out and about, I often will happen across something that makes me wonder “how did that happen”? It could be shadows on a wall, leaching minerals, or paint that drips. In this case, it is a combination of the paint and the rust. While out at a local hardware store in Berkeley, my attention was drawn to a large water tower that seems to have had better days. Water towers in small towns are quite common. They are not all that common in the middle of the urban landscape. How did it get here? What is its history? How did the city grow up around it?

As I was photographing the tower, this bolt caught my attention. Clearly, it is one of the key structural elements in this water tower. It is holding up tons and tons of material. If the tank is full (I have no idea), there are enormous pressures on this one bolt.  As is painfully obvious, it hasn’t been painted in quite a while.  The rust has clearly taken hold.  How long can that last?  When will the structural integrity fail?

Let me take a photographic diversion here.  Photoshop has pretty amazing abilities in mixing the red, green, and blue channels to make black and white.  Rust is pretty cool in black and white.  It is mostly red and yellow (red+green).  That means the blue channel is darker in areas with rust.  Mixing in blue while turning down the red/green channels can produce dramatic effects.  This might be worth a post on its own to explain fully, so I’ll stop here.

Perhaps a structural engineer can explain me something else. The force comes down through the support element and transfers to the protruding bolt. The big nut holds that on, of course. What intrigues me is the open space in the support element. One might think that if the nut fails or is loosened even a bit, the whole element might slide down. Seems precarious to me. But, I’m not an engineer.