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February 15, 2014

Steamy Valentine’s Day

Geisinger’s $320G gizmo vaporizes snow after storm

DANVILLE — To clear its parking lot and campus, Geisinger Medical Center fires up what many property owners only can dream of — a way to convert snow to steam quickly.

A $320,000 melter, purchased six years ago, can handle up to 2 tons of snow per hour, said Rod Kroh, of Geisinger’s facilities and grounds department.

The large yellow Trecan unit was working to capacity in the patient overflow parking lot Friday.

Crews also brought snow gathered from other locations to the melter, Kroh said.

Geisinger employees had been working in 12-hour shifts to clear snow from lots and sidewalks at the medical center.

“We’re pretty well done, except for odds and ends and pushing sidewalks back,” Kroh said Friday morning.

Workers used front-end loaders to toss snow into the melter that contains a tank, boiler and turbine.

Al Neuner said the melter is essentially a boiler, fired by No. 2 fuel oil with a burner and heat traveling through tubes.

“Snow is dumped in the top and falls onto the tubes and melts,” said Neuner, vice president for facilities operations of Geisinger Health System.

“Typically during a snowstorm, snow is piled around light standards in the parking lots, which renders those spaces unavailable for parking,” Neuner said. “It is not unusual for us to lose hundreds of parking spaces to snow.

With the snow melter, we can quickly reacquire those spaces after the storm by converting the snow back to water.”

$10G a day to remove snow in the 1990s

In the1990s, when there were several large snowstorms, Geisinger would spend more than $10,000 a day to pay trucking firms to haul snow away from campus, Neuner said.

“When we have hard winters, as this one has been, the snow melter gets used to avoid those outside costs,” Neuner said.

Depending upon the type of snow, the unit can handle around 2 tons of snow an hour, Kroh said.

“If it’s wet and icy, it takes more time,” he said of Thursday’s storm, which left about 12 inches of snow on many Valley towns. “This was pretty quick.”

Crews plow snow from lots into piles, where they are scooped by loaders and lifted into the melter.

Workers wanted to get the patient overflow parking lot done early Friday, Kroh said, because their main concern was providing parking for patients.

“We will probably be using it again Tuesday,” he said of another storm in the forecast.

n Email comments to kblackledge@dailyitem.com.

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