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Steam leaks
<Richard Trout>
I'm the lead arborist at U.C. Berkeley. Our buildings are heated by steam, and much of the infrastructure is 90+ years old. We lose several trees a year to steam leaks -- a bad leak can heat the soil to 150 degrees F., while a minor leak has lesser but still bad effects. Often, by the time the leak is discovered, major damage has already been done. Does anybody have experience in 1) recovery prospects for steam-damaged trees, and 2) possible treatments to reduce soil temperatures, such as auguring holes to vent hot air, etc. The situation is complicated by the fact that this is a large bureaucracy, and it can take a while from the time of detection before a leak is fixed.
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<John P Sanborn>
Reply to post by Richard Trout, on February 06, 2001 at 00:00:35:

Taking into concideration your mention of bureaucratic inertia, can you get funding to actively search leaks?

Does the University system have a Ground Penetrating Radar sled (GPR)?

Are there any sismic devices that could pick up the sound of a leak from soil monitoring? While in the USMC I had the opertunity to look at some sismic monitors for perimiter defence, I'm sure that a steam leak would have decernablr signature.

How acurate are the maps for subserface inferstructure? At TCI I talked to your counterpart at a PNW univercity (Tom, he was at the Shelter booth, can you give his name?) who stated that the cost of exploritory digging on sewer repairs would have more than paid for the cost of a GPR sled.
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Reply to post by John P Sanborn, on February 06, 2001 at 00:00:35:

I paid $119. for an infra-red temp probe with a laser sight that allows me to scan all sorts of surfaces and watch the variations in temperature. Since there must be maps and drawings of the underground structure available in the plant or maintenance department, it should be easy enough to walk routes as they draw near trees and find the clues of a leaking steam problem.

The best time for this tour of inspection probably would be just before dawn where the sun hasn't yet warmed anything and the length of night has allowed a reasonable equalization across all of the surfaces. If the temperatures reach what you say, a hot spot should stick out like a big red thumb.

I've included a URL ( but for Grainger's on the model that I think I bought. Seems like the price went down. In any case, if you can walk along and read the little numeric readout without tripping and falling on-your-face, you'll be an expert in no time and the .ow of the campus

This is about the cheapest investment I could make and still get accurate answers to my concerns. I can't predict what the results would be and what would be the peculiar details for your locations, but my instinct tells me you will be thrilled and delighted with the outcome.

A reasonable strategy for you to deal with the sloth of bureaucracies is to put together and recommend a program that searches of steam leaks of with an eye toward repairing them and ending their corresponding energy losses. In return, you only ask that they repair the leaks nearest your trees, which sought to keep everyone very happy.

yup, I be back again,

Bob Wulkowicz
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<Tom Dunlap>
Reply to post by Wulkowicz, on February 08, 2001 at 10:07:39:

You might try to contact Paul Sisson. He is the arborist for the University of Seattle.

Write back to me if you have a problem finding him.


PS-Bob, please write to me
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