The pipes behind the Hillsdale College Dow Leadership Center have been a thorn in the side of the college administration since steam first seeped out through the open manhole at the start of the 2011 fall semester.
Mending that damaged pipe has proved to be a difficult task.
After a failed attempt to discover the source of the leak with sonar, the contractor dug up the entire length of pipe behind the Dow Center. He discovered that the joints where the pipe turned a corner had been installed incorrectly, and the resulting weakness left the pipes susceptible to corrosion. More than 10 years after the pipes were installed, water from outside finally eroded away the protective coating, resulting in the steam leak.
The original contractor, whose name the college did not reveal for legal reasons, failed to put a reinforcement piece called a “boot” on the curved part of the pipe, and this caused the weakness.
Larry Stonitsch, president of Rovanco Piping Systems — the company that provided the materials for the pipe’s installation — said the company’s policy is to have men on-site during construction.
“The pipe supplier certified that everything was installed properly,” Vice President for Administration Rich Péwé said.
Stonitsch, however, said the responsibility to install the pipe correctly belonged to the contractor. “Why it got installed improperly is a bone of contention now,” he said. “It’s not like everyone is pointing fingers. We just don’t know what happened. We don’t know if he purposely cut corners or if he just didn’t know what to do.”
The original contractor no longer has a commercial plumbing license, and is therefore unable to help fix the problem.
Brian Runde, the vice presi- dent of engineering at Peter Basso Associates Inc. — the engineering company responsible for the project 10 years ago — said the company is reviewing a quote for pricing materials but that the project could take a few more months to complete.
Péwé said the engineering company had been very helpful in terms of providing engineer- ing assistance at a low cost. Though the administration is looking at quotes from mul- tiple pipe installation companies, it plans to stick with Peter Basso.
“They’ve been really good to work with,” Péwé said.
While the administration works out the kinks in the installation process, the college has been renting a temporary boiler on a month-to-month basis. Péwé is hopeful, saying he is ordering the new pieces of pipe and expecting the pipe to be mended in approximately 60 days.
Péwé said that despite the problems the pipe has caused, he does not regret installing it all those years ago.
“In the end [the pipe] replaced a failing boiler that would have been just as expensive to replace,” he said. “For 10-and-a-half years of signifi- cant efficiency, I don’t regret it. It’s still more cost effective to replace the pipe and we will still get significant benefit.”