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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.”