The steam coming out of the sidewalk on Appian way is not dangerous. According to Bill Rymes, Plumbing and Heating advisor, the steam is caused by a condensate leak coming from a small hole in some old piping.
The campus buildings are heated using a steam distribution system.The steam is generated in the plant and then moved to all the buildings. Once the steam is used, it turns back to a liquid, condensate, form and is sent back to the plant to be reused. The leaks that have steam coming from them are happening when the condensate is on its way back to the plant to be reused. So the pipes aren’t actually leaking steam, they are leaking hot liquid from the pipes that is turning into steam once it catches the air.
Due to Keene’s extremely high water table, Rymes said they have a problem keeping the water in the ground away from the pipes to prevent them from rotting and having leaks.
Although there are mass amounts of steam coming from the ground at some points on campus, the holes that its coming from are probably about the size of the tip of a pencil.
Some of the newer steam coming from the ground is due to the work being done on the addition to the Library. The vibrations from the site caused two different leaks where there is now steam coming from the ground. This, however, was anticipated by Rymes.
There is only one food grade chemical added to the water in the power plant, and it has no effect on human health. Despite this, the steam still has some students wondering if it’s really safe to be breathing in. “Sometimes I wonder if the steam is the safest to be walking through or inhaling, it looks kind of dangerous,” said by Jed, a first-year at Keene State.
To fix the problem, Rymes stated they they are planning on replacing the affected area with a newer, better insulated pipe to prevent against further rot that will last for a longer period of time. This process, however can not be done in the cold weather. So as long as the steam doesn’t pose any health or safety risks, they are going to let it go until the cold weather subsides.
Matt Goselin can be contacted at