Heating Plant Testing At LU

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

FARMVILLE – Longwood University will test and evaluate the wood-fired boilers at its heating plant this week.

And there may be smoke as consultants investigate the cause of the smoky emissions.

“Testing and evaluation will require stressing the system,” a university statement noted, “and smoking may occur.”

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The tests and evaluations are planned for Wednesday and Thursday, April 4 and 5, with the re-firing of one boiler planned for this Tuesday night.

“Experts from two engineering firms, the boiler manufacturer and a boiler controls engineering firm will be on hand for the re-firing and the testing,” the university reports. “They will be monitoring the plant during this process, and will determine after the first day of testing whether to proceed with the second day of testing and evaluation.”

The university explains that after the on-site testing and evaluation, the consultant will provide Longwood with recommendations “for maintaining optimal operation of the plant.”

Based on those recommendations, the university's statement continues, “any additional tuning of controls and any necessary modifications to the plant will take place over the next several months.”

Longwood will have a total five engineering firms trying to solve the smoke emission problems of its state-of-the-art wood-fire heating plant.

Of the need to stress the system, which may produce smoky emissions, LU's Associate Vice-President for Marketing and Communications, Sabrina Brown, explained to The Herald that, “They're going to have to stress the system. They're going to have it working and stress it so that they can see what's causing it-sort of like you take your car to the shop (and) you gotta make it make that sound for the mechanics to be able to figure it out,” Ms. Brown explained.

Longwood has told Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) about the smoke emission problems of the heating plant and apologized for the smoke that has periodically covered portions of downtown and pledged to solve the problem.

Farmville's Town Council expressed its concern with the excessive emissions during its March work session and the issue was raised again during council's regular March meeting.

During Town Council's March work session council member Tommy Pairet raised the subject by relating, “I had two customers yesterday come in who literally had their coat over their face because the smoke was so strong that they said they were having problems breathing.” Pairet's is located on Main Street.

Town Manager Gerald Spates said the smoke was so bad one day that, “I had several calls about it-wanted to know if there was a fire downtown.”

During Town Council's regular March meeting Farmville Mayor Sydnor C. Newman, Jr., emphasized the need for the Town to remain vigilant and make certain the problem is solved by Longwood.

“I think the Town ought to stand behind it and make sure they are working on it because it is a nuisance,” Mayor Newman said, “and if you're walking downtown when the smoke is blowing sometimes it's kind of rough on you.”

Council member, and physician, Dr. Edward I. Gordon said, “It affects the town. You walk into town, or come into the town and it's not going to be good for the town or the college.”

Dr. Gordon, also a member of Longwood University's board of visitors, added, “that kind of smoke is going to be an irritant to the lungs of people with respiratory problems, even if it doesn't contain the sulfur and stuff like that.”

In a statement released by LU in March, Dick Bratcher, LU's Vice President for Facilities Management and Real Property, said, “We apologize for the recent unintentional episodes of smoke that have caused uncomfortable conditions throughout parts of town. It is our goal to be a good neighbor as we strive also to be good stewards of the state's resources.”

Ms. Brown told The Herald, “I really do think that it's good for the planet if we do get these wood-fire boilers working right. Overall it's better for the planet than fuel oil…So we're going to try. They're doing everything they can. They're really putting a lot of effort into it.

“Sometimes when you're on the cutting edge of technology,” she continued, “there's bugs to be worked out.”

LU Media Specialist, Gina Caldwell, said, “Hopefully it will be resolved very soon.”