Kalamazoo, MI
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Steam Leak Caused by Faulty Heating System

A public safety officer exits Olds Upton Hall after assessing a steam leak in the building’s basement. (Courtesy of Kalamazoo College)

A steam leak was discovered in the basement of Olds Upton on the east side of the building on Saturday April 4 at around 9:00 a.m.

At around 7:30 a.m. security officer Phyllis Marsh saw that the lights were flashing. The system was disabled, and when she tried to enter the building at around 8:30 a.m. she felt the warm door and noticed “smoke” coming from the door. She called the police and fire departments and evacuated the building which had one person in it. Within 15 minutes 3 fire trucks and 2 police cars arrived at the scene.

According to Paul Manstrom, Associate Vice President of Facilities Management (FacMan) the relief valve, which is on the water system in case something goes wrong, failed.

“This isn’t a device that is checked often since it’s not a part that gives out that often,” said Manstrom.

Water leaked in the basement and caused limited damage to the building; a few electrical equipment like panels and pumps got wet but most of it stayed on the ground.

In order to fix the issue a worker in FacMan drove to Grand Rapids to get the relief valve and it was fixed by the end of the day on Monday. The heating system for the building was disconnected and wasn’t put back on the valve was fixed.

“Early Monday classes may have been chilly,” said Manstrom. “Lucky it didn’t happen in 0 degree weather.”

Director of Security Eric Wimbley commented on the quick response from the Kalamazoo fire and police departments and the “calm and controlled” environment they created when dealing with the issue.

“Emergency response was great,” said Wimbley, “they were very good about giving out information to us but that’s what happens when we have a good relationship with the local [police and fire] departments.”

Manstrom joked about “three fourths of the city responding to the problem,” and hopes to check the valve more frequently so that the issue can be prevented.

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Steam Leak Caused by Faulty Heating System