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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities
Plumber II Jeff Heikes works to fix a sewage problem Shaw Hall.

Plumber II Jeff Heikes works to fix a sewage problem Shaw Hall.

Sewage setback


Oct. 31, 2012

The Physical Plant* always provides excellent service to its customers on campus, and a recent particularly difficult sewage back-up was no exception.

On Sunday, Aug. 26 – official move-in day for MSU residents – Plumber II Jeff Heikes received a call around 10 a.m. from Residence Education and Housing Services’ Assistant Facilities Manager Ken Hoffman informing him that there was a plumbing problem in East Shaw Hall.

Heikes quickly figured out that the problem was not an easy one to solve and called for back-up. Plumber II Randy Hubbert, Trades Helper II Jason Crowell and Mechanical and Skilled Trades Supervisor Bill Behnke all went on site to assist. Stockroom Attendant Carmen Trowbridge was on-call for any stockroom materials that the crew needed.

Because the water in East Shaw Hall needed to be turned off to prevent any further water damage, the group was under pressure to get the work done for the 450 residents of East Shaw Hall that needed to use the facilities.

“We got to the Residence Life staff quickly so that they could inform the students of what was happening. We made two promises to them. The first promise being that we weren’t leaving until the facilities were open for use again. The second that we would have the facilities re-opened by Monday morning,” said Facilities Director for Residence Education and Housing Services Paul Manson.

The Physical Plant crew members understood the urgency of the problem. They worked to solve the problem efficiently and quickly for the incoming students who, after a long day of moving in, wanted to be able to use convenient restroom facilities.  

The crew worked hard to find the problem and a solution. At 10 p.m., after about 12 hours of work, everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the clog was found and flushed out. They didn’t leave just yet, though. Some members stayed an extra hour or two to make sure everything was running smoothly and that there weren’t any other problems.

“Our customer was happy that we stayed, worked the problem out, and once we got it, we stayed longer to make sure everything was running well. We stayed to confirm that there wasn’t going to be the same problem in the immediate future,” said Behnke.

 Manson couldn’t be thankful enough for the Physical Plant, “At the time when I need them the most, there was no doubt that I was going to get the help I needed. I could give you countless stories of partnerships with the Phys Plant, and we’ve been through everything from fires to floods and other assorted major mechanical failures within the buildings over the years.”

The Phys Plant was also responsible for the clean-up of the area. Mold Planner/Inspector/Analyst II Paul Coonrod was called to handle this job. “My main job is to handle catastrophic events, and the water intrusion in the mechanical room, resident rooms and restrooms needed to be cleared up and the areas needed to be sanitized,” said Coonrod.

Coonrod worked with an external contractor to clear the water that was flowing into the building from the backup. By doing this, damage to other rooms in the building was prevented.

“There wasn’t a single person on site that was complaining – we were all trying to be helpful. Everyone wanted to help solve the problem,” said Manson. The quick coordination and problem-solving demonstrates how the Physical Plant is prepared to help solve difficult problems for its customers.

September/October 2012

*Prior to the creation of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities in January 2013, several IPF departments were a part of the now-dissolved MSU Physical Plant. Some historical articles on this website reference that former unit.