The University of IowaAnnual Report 2008-09


Power Plant surges back after shutdown

Ferman Milster, associate director of UI Power Plant.


When the water exceeded the 1993 levels, we started taking water into the steam tunnels, which are connected to the Power Plant—that’s how we distribute the steam, through pipes in the steam tunnels. It was uncontrolled flooding. It was coming faster than we could pump or sandbag the water, and it became evident that we needed to shut the Power Plant down. This was a different experience than 1993, where we were able to control the water coming in.

The plant flooded 21 feet of water in the basement, so the entire campus—east and west side—lost steam. All the electrical wiring and components that were in the basement had to be replaced because of water damage. It involved 42 miles of wire being replaced, four miles of insulation, and about 100 instruments and control valves that were necessary to operate the facility.

It took 16 weeks, from the time we flooded until President Mason came down one lunch and blew the steam plant whistle. That was our declaration that we were fully back in service with all of our boilers operational.

From the flood we’ve gained a much more complete understanding of our electric system, its compliance with code, but basically it’s also the cleanest it’s probably ever been since the plant was built back in the 1920s. We also replaced the lighting system in the basement, which was totally destroyed, and we’ve used a modern, energy-efficient lighting system that helps see the cleanliness. I’m an old Navy guy, and you gotta see dirt to clean dirt, and this is letting us do that very effectively.

For the long term, we really need to look at siting another facility on the west campus that will utilize renewable energy.