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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
are three major phases involved in modifying the heating plant.
Phase I: Permit and Planning
• 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.
• File the final draft of the air permit application, incorporating
input from the public and federal and state agencies.
July 2003-July 2005
• Design air pollution removal equipment and other heating
July 2004-April 2008
• Construct air pollution removal equipment and other heating
on future phased plans.
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.
• 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.
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
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.
• 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.
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.