By Felix Chrome
Last Thursday night, Feb. 25, a sprinkler pipe burst in Seminar II and the water flooded the system of tunnels that connect campus buildings.The next day campus was closed as they worked to ascertain the source of the flooding and asses the damage done. While campus reopened later Friday in time for evening classes, the flooding caused problems that are still ongoing.
The water burst through the wall in the basement of the library, flooding the Library Underground and Archives. This damaged many books, documents, and artifacts that were stored in the bottom floor of the library. Library staff worked to salvage and dry much of the affected material, but the area remained closed after the flooding.
The school estimates that the tunnel system was flooded with 129,000 gallons of water. Besides the library basement, Lab II and Seminar I buildings were damaged, as well electrical infrastructure that is housed within the maintenance tunnels.
Lab II seems to have sustained the worst damage and is partially closed as a result. Jeanne Rynne, Director of Facilities describes, “The mechanical room that serves the Lab II building was entirely submerged, severely damaging the electrical, security, elevator motor, and HVAC service to the building.” This means that the building no longer has heat, air circulation, security systems, or sprinklers. The fire department said that do to safety concerns the building should only be occupied under “limited conditions” until further repairs can take place.
The flooding of these maintenance tunnels also lead to the darkness you may have noticed on campus, causing temporary problems with some of the outdoor and pathway lighting. In an email the administration explained, “All the electrical panels are located in the tunnel and were either submerged in water or subject to high humidity. As a result, sometimes the site lighting works and sometimes it doesn’t. This will continue until the panels have a chance to dry out.”
In the meantime, they have placed lights with a generator along some walkways and others remain closed off until all of the electrical problems can be repaired as the tunnels dry out and become safer to enter. In an email sent out to students Evergreen administration stated, “We are working as fast as we can to address the multitude of problems that have arisen due to the flood. Thanks for your patience.”
The type of asbestos insulation used in Evergreen’s buildings, most of which were built in the seventies, becomes corrosive when wet, so the insulation around all the water and steam piping in these tunnels will have to be replaced. There will also be extensive testing of the sprinkler system to attempt to prevent future flooding.
Evergreen estimates the full cost of the emergency repairs will be $1.9 million. Facilities management has asked for emergency repair funds, and agreed to cancel or postpone previously planned projects to divert that money toward repairs. “Thank you for your support and your patience during the repair effort. I anticipate that we will be dealing with the impacts of this flood for many months to come,” wrote Rynne.