What is the deal with that @#*&ing downtown steam pipe?

By Kristen Alberti
Listen Up, Lansing

For a few years now, as Martha Mello has walked down East Michigan Avenue five days a week to and from work, she hasn’t helped but notice the large steam volcano, as the Lansing Board of Water and Light calls it, coming out of the ground on the south side of the Radisson Hotel Lansing at the Capitol, just past Troppo, a local restaurant. “I see it every day, so you kind of get accustomed to it,” said Mello, “but I certainly think we could do a better job with it.”

With its stacked rusty reddish-orange barrels surrounded by a small set of thin bars and a “Caution Hot” sign, it’s no wonder that both employees and visitors of Downtown can’t miss the towering steam volcano, not to mention the copious amounts of steam it releases. According to Stephen Serkaian, executive director of public affairs for the Lansing Board of Water and Light, the steam emerges from the volcano from a cogeneration plant in Reo Town, meaning it produces both steam energy and electricity. The steam goes through almost 10 miles of underground piping, serving around 185 businesses and a handful of residents in and around the Downtown area. Some of the businesses include General Motors and state office buildings.