A sprinkler pipe that burst on the third floor of New Residence Hall on Tuesday afternoon caused major water damage to several residents’ rooms, forcing students to evacuate until they were allowed back in around 11 p.m. on Wednesday night.
Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, said a sprinkler pipe froze, causing it to burst.
“The most significant damage was confined to the third floor,” Golden said. “There was some less severe damage to other areas, though.” The low side on the second floor also received damage.
According to Bill Yeager of Building Repairs, the pipe froze because of the “incredibly cold weather and the wind.”
Yeager said the wind and cold temperatures reached the pipes because of a vent on the roof of the building.
“(The placement of the vent) is a fairly common thing,” Yeager said. “I don’t think we’ve experienced this kind of weather or these particular conditions before. It was a fluke of weather.”
Yeager said the pipe was repaired immediately, but clean-up crews from Unlimited Restoration Inc. are still in the building implementing measures that will prevent mold damage and other interior health issues.
Residents return to their rooms
At a meeting held Wednesday night in the New Residence main lounge, residents were informed that they would be allowed back into their rooms that night.
Phil Hernandez, a Residence Director (RD), said that if the residents’ possessions had been damaged, they needed to make a very detailed list of what was damaged. If someone’s computer was damaged, for example, the person would need to write down the computer’s serial number.
Hernandez said the list would be documented with Community Advisors (CAs) and then given to the RD of the building, who would work with Brian Webb, manager of Risk, Occupational Safety and Environmental Services.
“There is a Tort claim process with the state of New Jersey and that information will be provided to you once that information reaches Mr. Webb,” Hernandez said. “If your parents have (a) homeowner’s insurance policy or you yourself have purchased a policy regarding personal property, we strongly suggest that you contact them regarding this issue.”
A letter distributed to the residents said that Webb will provide each student with a State of New Jersey Tort Claim form after the student gives the detailed list of damaged possessions to the office of Residence Life.
Webb instructed students to avoid throwing out any ruined books or other possessions, so when the Tort claim is filed the College can specifically identify all of the possessions on the list.
Golden said that the College contacted the state’s risk management representatives on Tuesday and videotaped the damaged areas for documentation of insurance claims.
Hernandez informed the residents that dehumidifiers had been placed in all the rooms and that they must remain on at all times. He also said that the furniture had been moved around, and that it must remain six inches away from the walls.
“The contractors attempted to move your furniture to the center of the rooms so they could dry what was underneath,” he said.
Hernandez told the residents that there might be Styrofoam under some of the furniture that had been used to lift it up. He also explained that a device had been installed in the hallways designed to extract the liquid from the air and asked the students not to tamper with it.
“As we continue to move forward you may notice that the building is going to be drier,” Hernandez said. “Please understand that that is an effort to remove the moisture from the building.”
Webb explained that the emphasis is on the concrete behind the walls and under the carpet, which could retain moisture even if the walls are dry to the touch.
Despite the initial damage, Yeager said further problems were avoided because there were “so many staff members there in such a short time.”
“A whole lot more damage could have occurred if we weren’t on alert,” he said.
During the time residents were displaced, Campus Police officers were stationed in front of the residence hall to keep students away from the damaged areas and to safeguard students’ belongings.
The College arranged for the displaced residents to sleep in Brower Student Center room 202 for the duration of repairs on the building.
“We set up beds in Brower (Tuesday night),” Golden said. “Many, though, opted to go home or stay with friends, rather than stay in Brower.”
Sophomore biology major Mike Merkowsky lives in room 305, two doors down from where the pipe burst. Merkowsky said that a Building Attendant told him the pipe burst around 2 p.m. on Tuesday and stopped around 3 p.m., so water was running in the halls for about an hour.
Merkowsky left for class right before the pipe burst, and when he returned he saw people standing outside the building. The CAs were not letting people inside the building at first but eventually let people into the main lounge.
Merkowsky said the CAs started escorting people up to the rooms with water damage around 4:45 p.m, but it was very rushed.
“I secured anything I didn’t want to get super-damaged,” Merkowsky said.
Although Merkowsky was able to take his laptop, he said his roommate’s desk and bed were covered in water, and that water from the ceiling was leaking onto their TV, DVD player and VCR.
“Outside my room, the whole ceiling had collapsed,” he said.
He also said there had been about two to three inches of water on the floor, but Facilities had tried to clean it up before the students came in to get their belongings. When the water started leaking, CAs went through the building and tried to unplug electronics and lift things off the floor.
Sophomore biology major Chris Stewart lives in room 311, next to the room where the pipe burst.
Stewart said his room smelled when he returned to it Wednesday night, and was upset that the cleaning crew put his books in boxes, and then put his wet things on top of the books.
In addition to a musty smell, the room also had discoloring of the carpet.
In the hallway of the third floor, there were garbage cans and fans running Wednesday night, and a long plastic tube hung from the ceiling and ran the length of the hallway. Some ceiling tiles had also been taken down, exposing the pipes, and caution tape roped off a corner off the hall.
Stewart said that he would not be sleeping in his room Wednesday night.
He said that when he was allowed into his room on Tuesday, there was a puddle above carpet level, his bathroom was flooded and all his surge protectors were on the floor soaking wet.
“Now that we understand the situation completely, there’s nothing else the campus can really do,” Stewart said. “It’s just all around a pretty crappy situation.”