Due to the growth of tree roots into Trumbower’s clay pipes, construction was necessary to replace the aging pipes and ensure plumbing integrity. David Budnick/The Muhlenberg Weekly

You might have noticed, or heard, the construction work going on outside of Trumbower this past week on your way down Academic Row; the bright orange bulldozer might have caught your attention, but Plant Operations here on campus is more concerned with what’s beneath the surface – literally.

Plant Operations, nicknamed “Plant Ops” across campus, covers a multitude of responsibilities, ranging from repairing machinery and planning maintenance on equipment, moving offices around campus, cleaning, painting, HVAC, chemical control of the pool and trimming of shrubs to clearing bird capture areas at Muhlenberg’s Biological Field Station in Germansville.

They’re also in charge of, particularly in this case, “any and all changes to the physical structure of any building or to any land area of the campus,” as their webpage states. Plant Ops is, in essence, responsible for all of the buildings and grounds on campus; you might have seen them putting down mulch, installing an air conditioning unit or driving past in various vehicles.

The Trumbower operation seems sudden and unexpected – what is really going on, and why? Head of Plant Ops, Tim Korn, was able to explain and clear up some of the mystery about the abrupt, and seemingly quite serious, procedure.

“The work outside of Trumbower was an emergency repair to a sewer line. We had a few back-ups in the basement ladies’ room that led us to camera the lines and determine that tree roots were penetrating the lateral line going to the main sewer line,” Korn said.

“A couple of weeks ago we did our best to clear it in hopes to suspend the work until fall break when there would be an opportunity to shut down the building’s bathrooms to replace the line,” Korn added. “The project started on Thursday prior to break in order to expose the line so it could be removed and replaced on Monday when there would not be any classes.”

Korn’s official title here on campus is Muhlenberg’s “Facilities Trades and Systems Manager,” and was able to describe in depth exactly what the issue was, and how to deal with it.

“There was 20’ of existing 6” terra-cotta pipe, 9’ below grade, going to the main sewer from the building that had three open joints where the roots were restricting flow.”

Plant Ops is also extremely involved in sustainability issues here on campus, and help keep Muhlenberg environmentally friendly by always seeking more ways to create a greener campus. In accordance with ‘Berg’s Healthy Environment Policy, “The Plant Operations staff is trained to respond to all environmental concerns and has the ability to provide service up to a certain level of exposure.”

In fact, Plant Ops often works alongside the Office of Campus Sustainability, as well as stu-
dent environmental groups, to continue to improve issues such as the campus’s energy and/or water sustainability. Solar panels installed on the roof of Seegers Union that have helped avoid 23,164.92 kg of CO2 being released into the air, and the student-initiated “Just Tap It!” water systems all across campus that have reduced water bottle consumption are just two of the many sustainable initiatives that Plant Ops has assisted in taking over the past few years.

Thankfully, the mission was a success, making the ladies’ room of Trumbower’s basement safe to use once again. Korn stated, “At this point the work was a success and today would have been the final phase if the weather would cooperate so we could topsoil and seed.”

From saving the world to saving students’ bladders, Plant Ops helps make Muhlenberg a better campus one step at a time.


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