Leaking cables causes power outage

Recent power outage on campus linked to leaking cables, awaiting repairs

By Kamal Kamalaldin

Outage: Students gather outisde of the Weimer K. Hicks Center on Tuesday evening following a power outage and subsequent fire alarm. According to Director of Dining Services James Chantanasombut, the alarm was set off by steam from the pizza oven.

Fixing the cables permanently will require an excavation and another power outage that would last until the new cables are in place.

If you were on Kalamazoo College’s campus at the end of eighth week, you might have experienced the power outage that struck students soon after midnight on Friday, May 23, 2014.

Although the outage was drastic, it affected only seven buildings. These included Olds Upton Hall and Markin Racquet Center, as well as Harmon, Hoben, Crissey, and Severn Resident Halls.

he outage lasted for over 24 hours, and was caused by a leak from one of the three main cables that feed the seven aforementioned buildings. Although only one of three cables was shorted, all three cables had to be disabled because some equipment inside each building requires power from all three cables, or else their motors would malfunction, reports Paul Manstrom of Facilities Management.

However, since some buildings had been equipped with backup generators, emergency lights within them were activated. Others, however, like Markin, Crissey, and Severn relied only on battery powered backup lights. Since the battery ran out by the end of the day, Facilities Management provided lanterns within staircases to illuminate steps and prevent accidents.

To try to fix the issue, FacMan changed the fuse, but the fuse burned again, twice, then thrice, after its installation. After further examination, FacMan determined that that problem was caused by a leak from one of the three main cables running through conduit.

In order to restore electricity, K had to replace the cables. However, since it does not have the equipment to carry out such procedures, a contractor was hired.

The contractor tried to pull the cables out of the conduit without avail. As digging down the street would elongate the power outage, an undesirable option by students and faculty, the contractor decided to run three new cables through another route. The route runs aboveground from a manhole in front of Mandelle to another manhole in the driveway next to Olds Upton. Full of warning signs, the path the cables take is now restricted, with the driveway being closed to protect the cables.

Even though it was only a one-day job, the repairs were highly expensive. The contractor employed up to eight workers and many trucks and equipment, raising the costs to more than an estimated $100,000.

The leaking cable has been in the ground since Harmon was build, 55 years ago. Although there are different ways to test the cables underground, maintaining them is nearly impossible.

Fixing the cables permanently will require an excavation and another power outage that would last until the new cables are in place. FacMan plans to postpone this procedure until the summer, when there is not as high of a demand for electricity.

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