Monday, May 10, 2010
Inside the Ghost Ship
Like a seafarers oft-told tale about an abandoned ship discovered on the high seas years after disappearing with everything aboard still intact except for the entire crew; or a once in a generation heat wave lowers the levels at the Quabbin Reservoir enough to expose the abandoned remains of what were once sleepy little towns forcefully abandoned to make room for one of the largest man made water supplies in the country, the Umass Tillson Farm Steam Plant is every bit as spooky.
Translucent panels on the upper floors allow sunlight to naturally filter in reflecting off a hive of interconnected aluminum pipes most with a layer of dust but still seemingly brand new. The 19,000 sqare foot 4 floor heating plant would normally be a busy noisy environment. Now it is all but empty--and deathly quiet.
Built for $9.3 million in tax dollars and first tested in 1973 the oil fired steam heating plant never threw a BTU of heat. According to an abstract of the Ward Commission tasked with investigating corruption in pubic buildings during the 1970s published in the Boston Globe (1/3/1981):
"The $9 million steam power plant is a white elephant - now standing idle because the 1.5-mile pipeline designed to carry steam to the campus contains irreparable defects caused by backward operation during startup. After $96,492 paid to contractors produced neither a solution of the problem nor even identification of its cause, workers renovated an old plant at a cost of over $2 million. Meanwhile, attempts to "mothball" the new plant resulted in corrosion of valves and pipes."
And a recent Umass "Building Condition Report" pegs the cost of demolition for the idle plant at $5 million.