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Clean-up Complete and Drilling Resumed for Geothermal Field

Nov 25, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky (Nov. 25, 2009) -- As part of our commitment to sustainability, Bellarmine University is installing a geothermal field that will heat and cool five campus buildings. Throughout the construction process, the project contractor, Parco Constructors of Louisville, has worked with the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to monitor the amount of limestone dust – a non-hazardous material – that runs off the property from drilling. On Oct. 29, MSD instructed the contractor to stop work to install additional filtering systems after limestone dust and water silt from the project entered Beargrass Creek. Once the contractor had complied with additional MSD requirements, the project was cleared to continue.

Bellarmine is deeply concerned with the health of the Beargrass Creek and the incredible natural setting that makes our campus an urban oasis. This past summer, the university started a new Center for Regional Environmental Studies, which is dedicated to environmental literacy, to an interdisciplinary approach to environmental scholarship, and to formation of a more ecologically sustainable society, both on our campus and throughout our region.

The geothermal field will help improve the energy efficiency of campus facilities. A description of the new geothermal field follows:

Crews went to work in September drilling 88 wells, each 500 feet deep. Pipes then will be threaded through the holes and gravel placed around them to hold them in place. Once the system is complete, pumps will send a water feed in one hole, down to the bottom and back up again.

The geothermal technology uses the earth’s temperature to cool and/or warm the water going through the pipes, bringing it back to about 56 degrees. The system then pumps the water through the buildings, helping warm the air in the winter and cool it in the summer.

The buildings were already heated and cooled by water running through internal pipes. The difference is in how the old system returned the water to a usable temperature. Before the geothermal field was created, large fans cooled the water in a tower. The new system will do the same job by tapping the earth's consistent temperature, making it much more energy efficient.

University facilities managers expect to save enough in heating and cooling costs each month to pay for the system within 13 years. With proper maintenance, the system should last at least 50 to 70 years.

But geothermal technology is just part of the current sustainability effort. A rainwater collection system in the Brown Activities Center will collect rainwater off the roofs and use it to operate the flushing systems in toilets and urinals in that building.