On Friday, June 23, a pipe on the second floor of Fairhaven Complex stack 8 broke, filling a sink with water and spilling onto the floor. Over the weekend, the sink continued to overflow, causing a large amount of the second floor to become flooded before draining through the ceiling and into a lounge one floor below.
As of July 10, Facilities Management staff were still in the process of repairing the damage to the building.
“It’s hard to say how much water [there was], other than I think it had been leaking for probably the course of the weekend,” said Western’s Central Shops’ construction manager Brian McCaulley. “The ceiling of the lounge below has an area that’s affected of probably 60 square feet of ceiling that will need to be removed.”
As of June 30, what used to be the foam-tiled ceiling of the first floor lounge of stack 8 was a dark, damp gaping hole. However, maintenance staff did not know the exact specifics of what caused the pipe to break.
The Fairhaven stacks have been vacated for the summer, so no students were affected by the incident, Associate Director of Residence Facilities Terence Symonds said. Although outside groups sometimes use the stacks for conferences, other accommodations can be made readily available for them, he said.
Symonds, who was previously an electrical engineer, is familiar with the amount of work that goes into keeping Western’s facilities in working order.
“You name the building and I can tell you what we’ve got going on [there],” Symonds said.
Although he was not directly working on the recovery effort for the flood, he had an idea of what Facilities Management was going to need to do.
“When you get that much water on the ground, you’ve got to dry it out before you can start doing recovery,” Symonds said. “The dry out process is closing the rooms, getting air de-humidifiers and air movers to get that [drying] done.”
Water leaks can be a common problem in old buildings, Western has a response team trained in water mitigation to deal with these types of situations. One of the first to arrive at the scene of the flood, special supervisor and building inspector Gennaro Carbone said floods, sewer leakages and pipe breakages happen relatively often due to the age of the plumbing in Western buildings.
While the drying process of flood recovery can be long and tedious, the importance of this step would be hard to water down.
“The worst scenario is to take wet things away, have an interior wall cavity that still has moisture in it and then encapsulate it because that’s the formula for mold” McCaulley said. “Mold starts growing in about 72 hours. Basically, [mold] needs a fuel, which on drywall would be paper, and it needs some heat. That’s it.”
Although drying can potentially help salvage many of the flood-affected areas, McCaulley said if drywall retains a moisture level between 15-17 percent, it needs to be removed before mold starts growing.
“Second floor, we cut out almost 100 square feet of Sheetrock. First floor lounge we cut 200 square feet of Sheetrock [on the] ceiling,” Carbone said.
Because many of Westerns buildings are relatively old, hazardous building materials remain a potential danger when opening up walls and ceilings. The recovery team working on the stack 8 flood had to take special precautions, wearing coveralls and masks to remove asbestos-containing adhesive.
“In every dorm, the old glue dots have asbestos in them,” Carbone said.
The use of asbestos-containing adhesive in construction was common practice for decades, and poses no danger to students unless it is directly handled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When handled, asbestos can separate into microscopic particles that are easily inhaled and potentially harmful.
As of Friday, June 30, McCaulley said he is unsure of the cost of the repairs in progress, but much larger floods in the past, such as the 2010 flood in Old Main, have ended up costing up to $250,000. The timeframe for these repairs depends entirely on how long the drying process takes.