Upon returning to campus after winter break, residents of HiRise and LoRise apartments received an email from Physical Plant informing them of a problem with the pipe that is responsible for bringing hot water and heat into the complex. The email explained that a temporary boiler would be installed in the parking lot of the apartment complex to provide heat and hot water to the buildings for the rest of the semester.
“There’s an issue with the [water] pipe between HiRise and LoRise,” said Area Coordinator Brian Nangle. “It cannot be fixed right now so [Physical Plant] is waiting until summer to fix it.”
Laura Wasnick ’15, a resident of the HiRise apartment building, said that her apartment was without heat for an extended period of time this winter.
“As a winter athlete, I was in HiRise over winter break, and for about 10 days we were without heat and hot water,” Wasnick said. “It was miserable as my apartment’s temperature dropped into the low 50s. There were nights when I had to sleep with a heating pad to stop my body from shivering, as well as nights when mittens were worn to bed.”
Jacob Rosenbloom ’15, a resident of LoRise, said he has been forced to take cold showers in his apartment building due to the current pipe issues.
The temporary boiler will remain in place until the summer.
“[The biggest issue is that] the mobile heater takes up three to four prime spots in the junior village parking lot,” Rosenbloom said.
Wasnick added that she is uncertain about the effectiveness of the temporary boiler.
“[A break is] most likely going to occur, as both HiRise and LoRise have been without hot water numerous times this year while using this same temporary boiler,” Wasnick said.
Indeed, Physical Plant had to turn off all heat and hot water on Monday, Jan. 27 in order to provide more to all residents. Heating systems were turned off in the morning and reactivated in the late afternoon.
Director of Utilities Management Peter Staye noted that these problems occurred primarily as a result of the extreme drop in temperature this winter.
“The problems stem from the fact that the facility is designed to get hot water at a steady temperature and volume and not from a temporary boiler,” Staye wrote in an email to The Argus.
Staye added that everything was working effectively until the outdoor temperature fell below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
“As the boiler cycles from on to off and back again the temperature of the water falls too much and as a result, the buildings get ‘gulps’ of hot, 190 [degrees Fahrenheit] water then a ‘gulp’ of water that is not hot enough,” Staye wrote. “Essentially, the average of the two would be enough to keep the buildings warm at 15 [degrees Fahrenheit], but not below.”
In order to resolve the issue, Physical Plant is in the process of changing the controls on the boiler so that it will allow the boiler to modulate, rather than simply turn on and off.
“There are multiple ways to resolve this, but each comes with different risks and varying amounts of time to complete,” Staye wrote.
Physical Plant is installing replacement underground piping along Williams Street in order to ensure that the facility can be reconnected to the central power plant. According to Staye, Physical Plant is planning for construction to start in a few weeks.
The fix that will occur this summer should ultimately end the pipe issues.
“The pipe…is old enough and it needs a repair,” Nangle said. “It is time for that repair.”
There have been three other pipe-related issues in the HiRise and LoRise apartment buildings over the course of the past two years.
“Rather than quick fix it, they are going to really do some work so that these problems will not occur again,” Nangle said.