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Two freshwater tanks (0.81 mm (0.032 in) thick, type 321 stainless steel) were removed from aircraft service because of leakage due to pitting and rusting on the bottoms of the tanks. One tank had been in service for 321 h, the other for 10 h. There had been departures from the specified procedure for chemical cleaning of the tanks in preparation for potable water storage. The sodium hypochlorite sterilizing solution used was three times the prescribed strength, and the process exposed the bottom of the tanks to hypochlorite solution that had collected near the outlet. Investigation (visual inspection, 95x unetched images, chemical testing with a 5% salt spray, chemical testing with sodium hypochlorite at three strength levels, samples were also pickled in an aqueous solution containing 15 vol% concentrated nitric acid (HNO3) and 3 vol% concentrated hydrofluoric acid (HF) and were then immersed in the three sodium hypochlorite solutions for several days) supported the conclusion that failure of the stainless steel tanks by chloride-induced pitting resulted from using an overly strong hypochlorite solution for sterilization and neglecting to rinse the tanks promptly afterward. Recommendations included revising directions for sterilization and rinsing.

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