Water main break part of larger project

A water main break has left Gordon Wilson, Van Meter, and Cherry Hall without power on Monday, August 3, 2015. 

Jonah Phillips

Few people knew on Monday when Cherry, Van Meter, and Gordon Wilson Hall lost water due to a main break that—while it was an unintended emergency repair—it was part of a larger planned project.

The project involves making the University’s campus more wheelchair accessible, which is what WKU’s facilities staff was doing to Cherry and Gordon Wilson Hall when an old water main that had rotted was exposed.

The project began last winter when several steam pipes were replaced running underground at the top of the Hill that provide heat to Cherry and Van Meter Hall.  The steam pipes have since been replaced, but that isn’t where the project ends.

“With (the replacement of the steam pipes) we had removed some large sections of side walk,” Russell said. “The thing about Cherry Hall is the only (wheelchair accessible) entrance is on the ground floor of the building.”

Russell said that the facilities team continually makes decisions when they have the opportunity to do so to make improvements across campus in the way of handicap accessibility.

“I saw an opportunity to create a handicap-accessible entrance in the back of Cherry Hall,” Russell said, realizing they had already removed a good chunk of the sidewalk needed to do so. “We were reworking and taking the steps out of the side walk and putting in the slopes so Cherry Hall is more readily accessible.”

On Monday crews began tearing up the remaining concrete and surrounding landscape to create more accessible wheelchair entrances for Cherry and Gordon Wilson Hall when the problem was literally unearthed. Gordon Wilson previously did not have a wheelchair accessible entrance.

“For Gordon Wilson Hall the only (wheelchair accessible) entrance is the back door,” Russell said. “I wanted to create a much shorter route into the building for people that were coming from Garrett Conference Center and Potter Hall.

“Similarly to Cherry Hall we started to rip up the concrete, and in creating a more accessible path we exposed an old water main that had rotted and it just crumbled on the outside,” Russell said.

At this point the three halls lost water and sizable leak began gushing across the top of the Hill.

“We disturbed it, we had a leak, we had the leak fixed by about 1:30 on Monday, and we have a project right now where we are putting in a new water main.”

For Russell, the opportunity for improvement did not stop there.

“We are also installing new isolation valves so we can in the future shut off the water to one building without shutting off the water to the other two.”

Correction: A previous version of this story omitted that Gordon Wilson Hall did not previously have a wheelchair accessible entrance. It has since been corrected.