Broken steam pipe won’t be repaired this semester

Steam escapes from beneath the street and sidewalk in front of Minton Hall at sunrise on Sunday morning, Feb. 27 2011. 

Katherine Wade

Billowing steam from a broken pipe outside of Minton Hall will continue flowing at least until this summer.

Dale Dyer, plant operations manager for Facilities Management, said WKU will have to wait until after spring commencement to finish the project, which consists of repairing a pipe that originally broke in January.

John Osborne, vice president for Campus Services and Facilities, said WKU has fixed what it could so far, but the project is going to take longer than estimated to finish.

Construction on the area began before students returned for the spring semester. It involved digging up part of the Minton Circle as well as the sidewalk leading to Downing University Center.

But steam continues to seep out of the ground after initial repairs.

Dyer said that groundwater lying around the pipe caused it to corrode and disappear. Although the line was not very old, he said it did not last nearly as long as it should have.

Dyer said that when functioning properly, the pipe returns steam to the Central Steam Plant as hot water to be reused and sent out again.

But now the pipe that normally brings the water back to the Central Steam Plant has failed and is allowing the hot water to go into the ground.

Dyer said the broken pipe does not affect anything inside the buildings.

“You see some vapor coming up out of the ground outside that looks a little wild,” he said. “But it doesn’t affect the heating in the dorms at all.”

It does, however, affect the grass in Minton Hall’s front lawn.

Somerset freshman Emily Stout, who lives in Minton Hall, said she could see that where the steam hits the ground, the grass is turning brown and dying.

She said she tries to avoid the steam “at all costs.”

“It’s the weirdest smell. I’ve never smelled anything like it,” she said. “When I first saw it, I thought it came from the dryers. But that wouldn’t smell that weird.”

Louisville freshman Chadd Coomer said he was disappointed in how long it is taking to repair the damage because of how it is affecting the plant life as well as the student life.

“It’s kind of uncomfortable when you want to walk to DUC and you have to walk through it,” he said. “We also have tours on campus, and it’s not the most attractive thing.”

Stout said although she hopes it is fixed soon, she doesn’t miss the construction.

“It was really annoying,” she said. “It’s loud, so it’s hard to take naps, and it’s hard to concentrate if you’re trying to study.”

Osborne said this pipe is one of several areas around campus with similar problems.

“We’re going to be a very busy bunch of people this summer repairing underground steam lines,” he said.