WKU will repair five steam lines this summer

Katherine Wade

WKU officials have determined that construction on broken steam lines around campus would be more aesthetically unpleasing than the constant leaks now, such as the one outside Minton Hall.

Five broken steam lines will be replaced this summer, said Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction.

President Gary Ransdell said the project was saved until the summer because of the inconvenience it may bring people on campus.

“It’s just going to be ugly and disruptive,” he said.

The process involves digging up steam pipes in five different locations: between Minton Hall and Downing University Center, by Bemis Lawrence Hall and Barnes-Campbell Hall, by Wetherby Administration Building and Potter Hall,  by Bates-Runner Hall and at the steam plant itself.

Russell said it was not unusual for steam to erupt from manholes on the ground, but this past winter, there has been a lot more coming from the ground.

“When they catastrophically fail, like at DUC, it becomes very obvious that, ‘Oh my goodness, we have a real problem here,’” he said.

Russell said the engineering work on the replacement project is complete and now has been put up for competitive bidding.

“We held our first pre-bid conference last week, and we had good coverage of potential bidders,” he said.

Russell said the company with the lowest, most qualified bid will be selected. Once these bids are in, WKU will choose the winning company on April 19, and then the construction will begin. The replacement should be done before school starts back in August.

John Osborne, vice-president of Campus Services and Facilities, said WKU is working on more steam-related projects this summer compared to previous summers.

“We did several last summer, but we’re doing much more this summer,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where we’re just trying to keep up.”

Once the old pipes are removed, new ones will be installed.

This construction is funded by WKU’s critical needs allotment, money set aside to fix things such as steam lines and roofs, Russell said.

Osborne said the project will cost close to $1 million.

Russell said the pipe replacement is necessary because of aging infrastructure on campus.

“These pipes have been in the ground up to 50 years, and they have just deteriorated from the outside and the inside due to nature,” he said.

Russell said every year, the Facilities Management department pressure tests the lines and identifies the lines that need to be repaired. He said this year, failures appeared even though they had been tested.

“Catastrophic failures like that just happen like breaks on a car,” he said. “Even if you inspect them.”