Crews fix UIC steam plant outage

Power out at UIC; Second time in week
December 8, 2009 (CHICAGO) For the second time in less than a week, a UIC steam plant lost power, affecting two hospitals- Rush Medical Center and UIC.

Both are accepting walk-ins and performing emergency procedures at the hospitals, but the ambulances are being rerouted to other facilities. They expect to be off the bypass by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Some parts of the campus lost power Monday night. ComEd crews said there's a problem with the university's the steam plant at Paulina and Taylor, which generates heat and hot water and is used to sterilize medical equipment.

As many as 40 buildings- including the hospital and university's science building- were impacted. The hospital has backup generators, so at no time was it without electricity.

"At the time that we lost steam, we had onsite an emergency generator and we've isolated our boiler from the electrical system, and are powering the boilers with the emergency generator. So at this time, in fact all morning, we've had both steam capability on the west side," said Bill Burton, UIC spokesperson. "We had a malfunction in our electrical switch gear that enables us to handle electrical power."

Engineers have been brought in to investigate and find a permanent fix for the problem.

"We have engineers working on this around-the-clock and we have outside consultants and are working to isolate the problem and to correct it," said Burton.

Both UIC and Rush University Medical Center hospitals were impacted and placed on bypass- which means ambulances will not be sent to them. Rush is keeping its schedule, however UIC cancelled all elective surgeries.

"We don't have total confidence that this problem is solved. We have thought it was solved earlier and it hasn't been and so we're just being cautious and want to make sure that the problem really is under control before we end up with a full house," said Jane Llewellyn, Rush University Medical Center.

Rush has its own steam plant-- but it is not yet fully in use. For now, most of the Rush campus depends on the UIC plant.

"We do look forward to the day when we can open our beautiful new steam plant and that we can be fully independent and within control of that really important resource for our patients," said Llewellyn.

This is the same plant had problems on Friday.

Rush's plant will be up and running in about a year. Most of the facility will then be using that plant.

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