Facilities Management said it finished a temporary repair of a broken pipe that delivers hot water to Tydings Hall from Marie Mount Hall on Monday, although it still doesn’t know the cause of the breakdown.
As of Tuesday, however, workers were still outside the building working on the pipe.
Students walking near Tydings Hall noticed hot water flowing outside of the building as early as Monday of last week.
Marie Mount Hall is one of the campus’ Satellite Central Utility Buildings, said Jack Baker, Facilities Management operations and maintenance director. These buildings are responsible for the heating and cooling systems of several campus buildings. Marie Mount is responsible for the heating of buildings such as Francis Scott Key Hall, the Skinner Building and Taliaferro Hall.
Repairs to the burst pipe began last Wednesday, but Facilities Management did not shut water off immediately because it did not want to leave the building without heat, Baker said. When building heating is lost for an extended period of time, classes and research are often canceled.
The area around Tydings Hall was closed off with caution tape, but some students still walked through hot water on the grass and sidewalk.
A temporary repair to the pipe was performed Monday to restore heat to the building. If the temporary repair fails or the weather warms up, a permanent repair will be scheduled, Baker said.
“We hope that the temporary repair lasts,” Baker said. “But it’s a possibility we could have to wait until the end of heating season to do the permanent repair.”
The cause of the pipe break is undetermined, Baker said. Pipe breaks are not unusual during this time of year because of the colder weather. The pipes that connect Satellite Central Utility Buildings to campus buildings break once or twice a year, Baker said.
It took Facilities Management about three to four days to locate the pipe break, Baker said.
“Water travels really funny underground and the water may bubble up in the one place and that might not even be where the break is,” Baker said. “So it took us several days to actually get down to the pipe.”
Junior economics major Richard Luna, who had to walk through the taped off area to get to class, said he wants to see this university allocate more funds to infrastructure repair and less to athletic facilities.
“They should be focusing on stuff that makes students feel safe on campus, rather than using money on other things that aren’t as important,” Luna said.
In the last few years, about $6 million has been spent on this university’s piping systems, but a lot more needs to be done, Baker said.
“The pipes have gotten to a point where they’re aging and they’re not repairable and just need to be replaced,” said Bill Olen, Facilities Management capital projects director.
Frequent pipe bursts persist due to the large scope of a replacement plan and the lack of funds to complete it, Baker said.
“There are miles of pipes underground on campus and there certainly is not one plan to replace all of these pipes at once,” Baker said. “It would be impossible to replace them all at once anyway because it would take literally years.”
In 2012, the state began to allocate additional money for facilities renewal, but this was “sort of” an exception, Olen said. The state stopped allocating additional funds for infrastructure repair in 2016 because there wasn’t enough money to cover the additional demands, Olen said.
Facilities Renewal estimates that the university’s backlog is now approaching $1 billion, Baker said.
“There were additional demands on the budget in the years that followed, and there wasn’t enough money to fund that,” Olen said. “The university is still putting requests for those funds, but they aren’t always available.”