The Asbestos Dining Hall

When a boiler exploded in the power plant at the University of Wisconsin’s Whitewater campus, it left the entire community without heat or hot water. Of course, cold showers are great for circulatory health (ask any Scandinavian), and one can always put on more layers of clothing, which as it happens wasn’t an issue, since the weather at the time was exceptionally mild. The main problem was asbestos, which managed to travel from the site of the explosion to the campus dining hall. The explosion was the result of a routine maintenance operation that somehow went wrong. The maintenance was part of a conversion operation being performed on the backup boiler, switching it from clean-burning LP gas to fuel oil (the reasons for the switch were not mentioned in local news reports). The fuel injectors–delicate instruments to begin with–became clogged; pressure built up and the boiler exploded.

Nobody was injured, at least not immediately, and the building seems to have suffered no structural damage. However, asbestos fibers were released into the building and managed to spread as far as the intake vents of the dining hall. Although the dining hall itself tested negative for asbestos, the university is taking no chances; Esker Dining Hall was closed for the duration. Meanwhile, the asbestos cleanup is underway, as repair personnel attempting to restore steam heat to the rest of the campus will have to wear HAZMAT suits for the time being. While the cleanup and repairs are underway, students will have to make a few sacrifices. Hot showers (for those who fail to appreciate the health benefits of cold showers) will be made available at the Athletic Services Building at the south end of the stadium at certain times; student residents are asked to conserve water and keep them short. One can only imagine whether or not this will cause student unrest, since one of the advantages of dorm living was the privilege of taking long hot showers without limits.