Leaky pipes at Lesar Law Building may lead to Power Plant troubles

By Gus Bode

One noticeable leak in a pipe near the Lesar Law Building led to the discovery of more holes and a potential problem for the flow of campus electricity, Physical Plant Director Phil Gatton said.

Hot water from the pipes goes to the university Power Plant’s boilers, which create steam that is used to heat and cool the university. One of those boilers also provides roughly 15 percent of the campus’s electricity, said Neil Saffelder, the chief engineer at the plant.

“Our main function here is steam,” Saffelder said. “We provide all the steam for the university. It’s used in heating, cooling and in the kitchens as well, to heat their hot water. Our secondary function is generating electricity.”


The circulating fluid bed boiler that uses steam to create electricity saves the university roughly $1 million a year in energy expenses, Saffelder said. It is one of four boilers housed in the Power Plant that is capable of producing electricity.

The university’s Power Plant houses four boilers, three that run on coal and one natural gas boiler used as a back-up when the other boilers are out of commission. The natural gas boiler is used only in rare situations because of its high cost of operation.

“In the power business, efficiency is the name of the game,” Saffelder said. “You’re always looking for a way to cut costs or keep costs down.”

Meters around campus measure condensate in pipes and help Plant and Service Operations employees discover potential problems before they affect the boilers, Gatton said.

He said leaks such as this are a continual problem partially because of soil conditions when pipes are directly buried in the ground, but occur in pipes that are not buried as well.

The problem should not be serious, Gatton said, but it could potentially affect the way the boilers run.

“We just found a hole in the pipe and when we went in, we keep finding more and more holes,” Gatton said.


Brandy Oxford can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 255 or [email protected].