Campus / Featured / News / March 6, 2019

Steam pipes leaking

(Graphic by Michelle Dudley)

On the day of Chief Financial Officer Paul Eisenmenger’s first on-campus interview for the job, Director of Facilities Scott Maust took him on a tour of the campus on a gator. The first thing he told him was that the college had an old steam pipe system that needed to be replaced.

“It’s a vital part of the campus because just about, well all the academic buildings, all the quad buildings and stuff are all heated with steam,” Maust told TKS. “We use steam for showers in the dorms, cooking, dish washing, hot water showers.”

The steam  pipe system, which was installed in the 1980s, has been leaking 15,000 gallons of water per day, which totals to a loss of $200,000 per year. On average, it only utilizes about 1,000 gallons per day.

The leaks are hard to find because they have not caused surface leaks as is typical, Maust said. As leaks are often easy to spot and fix, he believes the water from this leak leads to a storm drain rather than surfacing.

Last fall we noticed that we were really starting to lose a lot more water than we had in the past. And of course in the past we’ve always had some place that it was surfacing so we could figure out where it was coming from,” Maust said. “Well, this time for some reason we can’t find anything. We have a general idea where it’s at but we think it’s probably leaking down a path where its just going down the storm drain.”

The college will begin repairing the steam pipe system this summer, beginning the day after commencement, since it would be too disruptive to have the construction be done during the school year. The project itself will not be completed for two years.

The total replacement cost is estimated at $2.5 million.

“There’s always things that once you start digging, you don’t always know what you’re going to find, but you know these are pretty good faith estimates from people who do that work,” Eisenmenger said.

The funds for the project come from the Board Restricted Endowment, a part of Knox’s endowment that is specifically reserved for funds approved by the Board of Trustees. After working with environmental analysts and getting several different bids, Maust and Eisenmenger proposed the project at the February Board of Trustees meeting, where it was approved.

The Board Restricted Endowment has about $25 million, currently.

“It is, kind of, if you will, a rainy day fund,” Eisenmenger said. “It’s not endowed scholarships, it’s not funding chairs, or other initiatives, but nevertheless it’s a pool of resources that is available to the institution, and this is where it gets really important, per board approval, to access those funds.”

The new pipes will be made out of a different material than the original pipes, which were made of iron. The new pipes will be highly insulated and coated. Maust is also increasing the size of the pipes; the 6-inch steam pipes will be upped to 8 inches, and the 3-inch condensate lines will be upped to 4 inches. This will help expansion in the future.

The condensate lines pump the condensed steam back to the heating plant to be reused. Typically, this system is supposed to have about a 90 to 95 percent return rate. Knox’s system is currently running at 20 percent, says Maust.

Currently, Maust and the rest of grounds are mapping out pathways and preparing to begin immediately after commencement. They’ve been marking the lawn using flags to designate where they will be working underground.

Maust is looking forward to working on the steam pipes, which he said he has wanted to replace since he got to Knox.

“It’s gonna be a fun project — it’s been my dream 22 years,” Maust said.


Sam Jacobson, Co-News Editor
Sam Jacobson is a junior majoring in philosophy and potentially minoring in creative writing or psychology. She started volunteer writing during spring term of her freshman year, and worked as a staff writer during her sophomore year.
Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  Boards Restricted Endowment infrastructure leaks pipes scott maust steam pipes water

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