New pipes to run through campus

By Lana Groves, Asst. News Editor

Students will continue to see construction work across campus during the next five years as the U begins to tackle a nearly $30 million piping project that will repair failing high temperature water infrastructure.

The project, which began in early August, will replace 65,000 feet of piping throughout campus in three phases.

“The new pipes are six inches, pre-insulated, wrapped around with another steel pipe and then coated with a very thick polymer material,” said Tom Christensen, project manager for U Campus Design and Construction. “It’s supposed to last 40 years so we hope to never see the pipe again.”

New high temperature water piping has been discussed ever since facilities management began noticing failures in the existing pipes. The pipes, which had an intended lifetime of 20 years, have begun leaking water in certain areas and minor repairs have already been made to a section of pipes near the College of Nursing.

“The supply and return of the water runs at different temperatures and can cause it to corrode faster,” Christensen said. “When you have that high of pressure, it is kept liquid, but if it hits the surface, it immediately turns to steam and can be quite volatile.”

Greg Gillard, project superintendent, said the new pipes are unlikely to corrode or have any problems as long as they are placed correctly.

“(The pipe) has two actual barriers to keep out any corrosion,” he said.

The first phase of the project, which starts near the Union building and follows the sidewalk before splitting off in different parts to the Warnock Engineering Building and the HEDCO building, is estimated to cost around $1.5 million. Christensen said the second phase will cost approximately $1 million and runs alongside the existing pipeline that was repaired earlier this year.

The third phase will require further funding before it can begin.

The first phase of the construction project runs along a major thoroughfare, which creates problems and hazards for both work crews and students, Christensen said.

“Most people have been pretty good, but a few people seem to have a death wish,” he said. “We’re hoping to have a bridge for students to walk across, but existing utility work is posing a problem.”

The project is taking longer because the U does not have maps of all campus pipelines. Before the first phase even began, project crews had records of maps that show about 80 percent of the existing utility work.

Before laying down the 2,800 pound sections of pipes, work crews have to dig out enough dirt to fit the pipe in, and make sure it connects without hitting other utilities.

The sprinklers east of the dig site have been turned off because storm drains need to be relocated after piping is done.

“The grass is already becoming a bit dry,” Christensen said.

Any other utility work the crew didn’t know about or couldn’t bypass takes time and money to alter.

“We’ll finish as much as we can before snow falls, and then finish the rest in spring,” Christensen said.

Gillard is positive that once they’re done, students won’t be able to notice the construction occurred.

“We’ll make it better than it was,” he said.

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Tyler Cobb

Dave Mendive Tack welds the new high temp water pipes that are being put in north of the Union. The U plans on replacing 65,000 feet of piping around campus.