UNI campus was in danger of losing heat in December

CEDAR FALLS — The University of Northern Iowa campus was in danger of losing all its heat this past winter after problems were discovered with a steam boiler.

UNI Senior Vice President Michael Hager says they discovered an issue with the brackets in the primary steam tunnel during a routine inspection in December. “It could have been very catastrophic,” Hager says, “these are the two lines, redundant lines by design from the power plant to the main campus. And when we have temperatures below zero, we could have frozen the campus if we’d lost those. So we did bring in a temporary boiler.”

Hager explained the issue during last week’s Board of Regents meeting as they approved the five-point-four million dollar emergency repair contract. He says they have a steam tunnel that’s close to 100 years old, but the one that raised the concern was not nearly as ancient.
“Our engineer tells us this particular steam tunnel is a toddler in terms of age — we wouldn’t have expected to see this kind of thing — but through routine maintenance, we found the brackets that were bad,” he says.

Hager says they believe an installation issue led to the problems with the steam tunnel. “It would appear and I’m gonna be careful how I say that it would appear that perhaps they weren’t designed properly, and we won’t know till we get back in the tunnel to see if they were even installed properly”, he says. ” In visiting with legal counsel, including the board’s legal counsel, we think we’re well past the statute of limitations and are unable to go to any other source to try to get it remediated.”

They installed a temporary boiler and steam line after finding the problem and emergency repair work is underway on a permanent fix.