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University of Virginia Plant Photo
U.Va.'s Heating Plant

On January 15, 2003, one of the University's two primary boilers went down at its main heating plant. The following day, a second boiler went down, leaving the University with only two operating boilers to heat the entire University, including the Hospital.

Plant PhotoThe temperatures dipped into the teens on January 16, and it snowed until about 9 p.m.

Of immediate concern, and the University's top priority, was patient safety and continuing to get enough heat to the Hospital. For almost 12 hours the University cut off heat to administrative buildings and concentrated steam and heat on the Hospital. About 40 people worked throughout the night to redirect the steam while others worked to repair one of the boilers. Repairs were completed at about 3:30 a.m. and, although it was a close call, a crisis with the Hospital was avoided until a third boiler was brought back on line.

This is the first time that the University has had two of its primary boilers go down at one time, and all efforts were focused on keeping heat to the Hospital.

During this emergency period, two boilers -- one gas and one coal -- were worked hard. While we do not believe EPA rules, which allow for occasional emergencies, were violated, more soot settled on parts of the Venable neighborhood than any of us would have wanted. It appears to have been heaviest in blocks adjacent to 14th Street and the Gordon Avenue Library.

The University is concerned about this situation and its effects on the neighbors and their homes. To that end, we have designated a phone line in the Office of Risk Management to take your calls and assess the situation. You should call Barbara Palmore at 924-3850 with your questions and concerns.

U.Va. Heat Plant Project

U.Va. continues to meet with DEQ to work cooperatively to develop a plan for burning the fuel needed to heat University buildings. The University has hired an outside engineering firm to help with the required studies and analyses, which will determine what kinds of equipment the University needs to install to reduce emissions and to meet clean air requirements.

Options being considered include controls on the smokestack, modifications inside the boilers to achieve cleaner combustion, and/or replacing one or more of the oldest boilers. The mix of fuels that the University burns is also being studied. U.Va. will install equipment and controls as though it is not exempt, event though DEQ agrees that we are exempt from some of the regulations.

There are three major phases involved in modifying the heating plant.

Phase I: Permit and Planning
March 2003:
• Complete the 20-year facility/heating master plan.
• Evaluate and select air pollution control options.
• Complete air modeling and air impact analysis.
• Submit draft air permit application.

February 2004
• File the final draft of the air permit application, incorporating input from the public and federal and state agencies.

Phase II: Design
July 2003-July 2005
• Design air pollution removal equipment and other heating plant upgrades.

Phase III: Construction
July 2004-April 2008
• Construct air pollution removal equipment and other heating plant upgrades.

More on future phased plans.


Related Links
  Contact Us
Topnews: U.Va. Working to Clean Soot
Health Issues and Carbon Deposits Facts
Inside UVA: U.Va., DEQ share same goal — an efficient, effective heating plant
The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act (EPA)
Glossary and The Common Air Pollutants (EPA)

What U.Va. Has Done to Clean the Soot
We realize what an inconvenience this has been for Venable residents and share their concern that cleanup efforts get underway. Cleanup work has begun for those who have contacted us.

March 11, 2003
All boilers have been repaired and are operational.
• Risk Management is handling claims.
March 6, 2003
• Powerwashing of all identified areas of the Venable neighborhood was completed on March 6, 2003.
Feb. 5, 2003
• Cleaning of sidewalks in the Venable neighborhood continues.
• The Office of Risk Management is continuing to take calls from Venable residents at 924-3850. Office hours are 8 to 5 p.m. M-F.
Feb. 4, 2003
• With the approval of the City of Charlottesville, and with sustained warm temperatures,
the University began cleaning sidewalks in the Venable neighborhood.
• U.Va. representatives worked with Venable Neighborhood Association President Bobbie
Bruner to map out the proper coverage area.
Feb. 1 & 2, 2003
• U.Va. hired crews to power wash at Venable Elementary School and Martha Jefferson
House. This work has been completed.
See Full Timeline.

• University representatives will be available to answer residents' questions at the Wednesday night neighborhood association meeting.

• University representatives continue to meet one-on-one with Venable residents to assess their cleanup needs. Questions or concerns about cleanup efforts can be directed to Barbara Palmore in U.Va.’s Office of Risk Management at 924-3850 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

• We appreciate the patience of all the neighbors throughout this period and we hope you understand that our decision to keep heat going to the hospital was the only reasonable one that could have been made.

Health Issues

U.Va. officials, who gathered information on health-related questions as a result of the soot settling in parts of the Venable neighborhood, have consulted with a number of experts who assessed that there are no health risks associated with this incident.

Chris Holstege, M.D., director of the Blue Ridge Poison Center, said “I do not believe that this will create any significant health hazards to those in the community. Besides being a visual nuisance and possibly a trigger to those predisposed to airway diseases (asthma, emphysema), I cannot discern any other significant problems that could arise from this exposure.”

Normally, the coal dust particles would have been carried away by the air, but the heavy moisture from the snow that night caused much of the dust to settle in the adjacent neighborhood. Some of you also have expressed concern about our long-term plan for the heating plant. See Heat Plant Project.

• The substance that settled in the Venable neighborhood is fine particles of carbon -- similar to the powdered substance left over from a bag of charcoal briquettes or on the back of a fireplace after burning wood.
• There is no adverse health effect from limited, intermittent exposure such as may have been experienced from the soot that settled Friday and over the weekend.
• The most significant effect is that the soot may be tracked into the house on shoes and pet’s feet, which may soil carpets or floors.

Maintained by: Web Communications Office
Last Modified: Tuesday, 18-Mar-2003 10:39:35 EST
Copyright 2003 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia