December 15, 2008

Steam Malfunction Disables University Heating Supply

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Updated at 8:00 p.m.

At 12:20 p.m. the University alerted the community that the Central Heating Plant, which is responsible for providing heat and hot water to about 250 buildings, is not exporting steam. An e-mail alert requested that all people on campus shut their windows and minimize hot water consumption until the plant could begin exporting steam again.
According to Dan Tier, assistant fire chief at the Ithaca Fire Department, the cause of the malfunction was due to an initial breakdown in one of the exhaust fans at the Central Heating Plant. When functioning properly, the fan drains the byproducts from the boilers in the plant and funnels the waste out of the building through a chimney. Since the fan was not working, the heat and the smoke from the boilers that is normally released was backed up into the building.
The fire department was dispatched at 8:54 a.m. and arrived at the Central Heating Plant at 8:59 a.m. There was a large amount of black smoke in and around the building, as well as a small fire in one of the office spaces in the plant, according to Tier.
The excessive heat and smoke that backed up into the building melted plastic objects and caused damage to one of the boilers and a coal hopper. Once the fire department contained the smoke and the fire, and monitored the carbon monoxide level to make sure it was safe for people to reenter the building, the last units left the plant at 11:48 a.m. The fire department is now completely disengaged from the plant.
At 4:20 p.m. back-up boilers were online and by 8:00 p.m. the Central Heating Plant restored heating and hot water to campus.

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