What’s with all the steam?

What could possibly go wrong with having two boilers, two miles of pipes, and truck loads of woodchips? Unfortunately, some things can go wrong, and that is being shown on campus. Built in 1986, the steam plant is running on old age, causing some holes to disrupt the pipes.

Four years ago, the college was in the process of replacing the older pipes with new and dependable pipes, but not every pipe was replaced, creating this issue of unexpected holes. During this past semester, a few holes started showing up, but with winter being on the warmer side it was not an issue yet. It has only become one now.

The pipes, which rely on the stem plant, are still able to function and heat the buildings. The excess steam from the manholes does not harm the environment or students. Over winter break, the steam plant was able to shut down and make some repairs, fixing some of the holes that are producing the extra steam.

Hot steam blocks sidewalk outside of Davis Hall.

Photo Creds: Maleah Wooten

The plant is only able to be shut down for 24 hours, which restricts the amount of work that can be accomplished. Since winter break the pipes have been damaged with more holes. Due to the weather, Reggie Dailey, the physical plant director, and his coworkers cannot shut down the steam plant to work on it until summer.

Though the excess steam is not doing any physical harm, it is costing the school to have a higher heating bill. When the steam — which is created by burning woodchips — is in the pipes, it produces 60 pounds of pressure. The volume of the steam will expand when in the atmosphere, generating 10 to 15 percent more steam.

Since the cost of the extra steam on the heating bill is not as severe as the cost of fixing the pipes right now, having more steam for a few more months is the “lesser of two evils,” Reggie Dailey said.

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