Repairs to underground pipes behind O’Malley Library are getting closer to completion, following a burst steam pipe which caused disruptions to the library and to Hayden Hall.
The repairs, which were contracted out by Manhattan College last November to plumbing company Mr. Rooter, will cost the institution roughly $100,000, according to Andrew Ryan, P.E., the college’s Vice President of Facilities, who oversees the physical plant.
“When the steam leak was identified, it requires excavation, which we don’t have the equipment for, so we brought a company in,” Ryan said about the college’s contract with Mr. Rooter.
The bulk of the repairs were done over the winter intercession, to minimize disruption caused to students and faculty.
Faculty and students in Hayden Hall over the intercession were affected by the repairs, including Constantine Theodosiou, Ph.D., dean of science.
“The classes and offices were cold, some people could not stay, and some people went home,” Theodosiou said. “It was a very uncomfortable thing for many of the faculty.”
The leak was noticed by the staff of O’Malley Library last October and was reported to physical plant.
Susanne Markgren, the library’s assistant director for technical services, first noticed the problem in early October.
“In the very beginning, we noticed steam coming out of [the loading dock steps], and we were like, ‘that’s weird,’ so we called them, and they looked at it and then I’m not sure what happened, and then it continued,” Markgren said.
Eventually, the steam began to creep into the building, causing water damage to the technical services office and even making the walls warm to the touch.
“It did affect us quite a bit in the beginning, because […] it got quite hot, and the steam did go up the wall, and it provided damage in some of our offices,” Markgren said.
Markgren and other employees in technical services also noticed a strange smell to the steam, which Markgren described as similar to that of sulfur.
“The smell of it was pretty bad,” Markgren said.
Markgren said employees bothered by the smell were free to work in another part of the building if they felt they had to.
Peggy McKiernan, a library assistant who works in technical services, said she was made sick by the smell of the steam.
“I’m asthmatic so the smell was getting to me,” McKiernan said.
As the repairs have pressed on, conditions in the library have improved.
The physical plant department will repair any damage caused to the library by the steam leak when the repairs are finished.
“If there’s issues, we’ll take care of it,” Ryan said. “If there’s any collateral damage that happened as a result of it, that has to get fixed. But we’re not going to go in and scrape and paint walls and everything else, when I’ve got a twelve foot trench that’s still open next to the building.”
The contractors are still waiting on a fitting to repair a leaky water pipe which was discovered next to the steam line.
“It’s a drip, I think, once every fourteen seconds,” Ryan said about the water pipe. “That leak could’ve been going on for quite some time and we would never know about it because of the magnitude of it, and the fact that it’s down fourteen feet.”
Disruptions to the Thomas Hall driveway will continue until the fitting arrives and the water pipe is fixed.
Handicapped parking spaces behind the library are currently occupied by a pile of excavated soil and are rendered unusable.
McKiernan, who relies upon the parking, has had to find parking elsewhere.
“I park up at the gym. I go to the gym and I park and then I come through the gymnasium, and then Thomas Hall and down,” McKiernan said.
Full service to the O’Malley loading dock, back entrance and handicapped parking area cannot be restored until the new part for the leaking water pipe arrives and is installed. Ryan could not comment on when that part will arrive.
The stairs from the driveway to the back door to the library, which had cracked under pressure from the steam, will likely also be replaced after the excavation is filled in.
Those affected by the leak are eager for a return to normalcy.
“It’s going back to normal now,” Theodosiou said. “Of course we understand, these are old buildings, old pipes, and things happen.”
For Ryan, tackling the steam pipe repair is just another day on the job.
“These things happen. It’s why you have a maintenance department,” Ryan said.