Water main break leaves rooms flooded

Abbey Brown

Basketball guard Mike Wells was welcomed back to his Northeast Hall dorm room this semester with a drawer full of wet sheets and a closet full of mildewed clothes.

As much as five inches of water stood in Northeast dorm rooms over the break after the first floor flooded.

Wells was joined by teammates and other Northeast residents in discovering personal possessions had been boxed up by the university. Some items were cleaned, but some were damaged.

Campus police received a phone call Dec. 30 from spectators leaving a Western women’s basketball game who saw water pouring out of the doors of the newly renovated hall, said Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life.

After a four-inch water line broke and sprayed water with a force “similar to a fire hydrant” for an estimated hour and a half, the university had a problem on its hands, Kuster said.

The joint connecting the line to another water line had failed. Kuster said Lee Mechanical Company’s insurers investigated the incident and are now determining who is liable.

“We thought it was not joined properly,” Kuster said. “We anticipate they will accept responsibility. We don’t feel like there will be any issues with it.”

Kuster said the company who installed the water system has been working on it every day since the line broke. Lee has also checked all of the other water lines to ensure that they were joined properly.

Every other joint had the brace that was missing from the line that broke, Kuster said.

“The mechanical contractor has responded very, very well to this,” said Pat Hall, project manager for the Student Life Foundation. “We wanted to get everything cleaned up and put back together before the students arrived on campus. I think we’ve done a really good job doing that for them.”

Wells didn’t agree.

“Everything was soured,” he said. “They shrunk a lot of my brand name sweaters, too.”

Once someone is held liable, students will be given the chance to make claims and receive money for their damaged belongings. Kuster has estimated that there is more than $75,000 in damage to the building and student’s property.

But for Western center Nate Williams, some of his stuff can’t be replaced. His most improved player plaque is “completely messed up.”

“I worked hard for that plaque,” he said.

The student rooms most affected were in the men’s basketball wing of the hall. Kuster said there was more than four inches of water in those rooms.

The mechanical room, in the building’s basement, had about three feet of water in it. This room houses the hot water boilers, water pumps and other electrical equipment.

“(The mechanical room) was our major concern,” Kuster said. “We were there until 1 a.m. pumping out water.”

Most of the equipment in the mechanical room worked properly after being dried out, and everything else has already been replaced by Lee.

Kuster said HRL put letters explaining the flooding in the affected residents’ mailboxes. Students will be reimbursed for items that were ruined in the flood by Lee’s insurance company if they are determined liable for the flooding.

All of the damaged rooms have been cleaned and repainted.

The only thing that remains damaged is the computer network. Northeast, along with Southwest Hall and Bates-Runner Hall, will not have access to the Internet until the end of this week. The flooding damaged the network switches that control the three buildings, but they should soon be replaced, Kuster said.

Luckily most of the residents of the flooded wings had taken belongings off the floor because the university sprays and fogs for insects over Christmas break, Kuster said.

Reach Abbey Brown at [email protected].