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Cold water in cold weather: Blair staffers leave building to wash hands

By Jennifer Bruinton
On February 14, 2014

  • Staffers in Blair Hall were forced to wash their hands with cold water for several days after a boiler malfunction. Arlington County http
  • Jennifer Bruinton

For a few days, the staffers in one campus building had to use cold water to wash their hands.

Because of recent cold weather conditions a plant boiler's pressure decreased and caused cold water to flow from the faucets in the restrooms of Blair Hall Administration Building. The three-story structure houses offices of various Winston-Salem State officials including the chancellor and the provost.

Dianne Walker, director of Facilities Operations said that the boiler experienced mechanical problems, and it wasn't building enough pressure. A plant boiler is an enclosed vessel where water is heated and circulated either as hot water or as steam for heating or power.

"The school is looped in on a steam line, and the steam line carries mostly the older buildings like Blair, Fine Arts, Eller Hall and with the hot water being offline the water pressure dropped," Walker said.

Walker said that the boiler malfunction occurred Jan. 29 and lasted for two days, although the boiler was doing its job. The boiler usually runs a little more than 100-pound pressure, but was running on 90-pound pressure.

"We were able to repair it to a point, where it's able to run until we get a warm spot. Everything we do is targeted to make the students as comfortable as possible," she said.

The plant boiler room is behind the Campus Police building on Cromatrie Street. There are three boilers. Throughout the day the boilers are monitored.

"The boiler room has alarms that will alert the staff when there is some type of critical adjustment. Think of it as if it were a tea pot," she said.

She said that three boilers are not all running at once and that they are always required to have them on standby mode.

Two boilers weigh 30,000 pounds and one that's 15,000 pounds. Depending on the size, boilers can cost $10,000 to $200,000.

"The one that we have running now is pretty large," Walker said.

Blair Hall officer workers were asked to use restroom facilities in Eller Hall another University administration building nearby.

"I didn't have to go anywhere else to use the bathroom and it didn't really affect me much, except we couldn't wash our hands," said a source in the building.

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