Residents still treading water

An open hatch caused a section of piping to freeze and break on Feb. 6, flooding the low side of New Residence Hall. Since then, residents in affected areas have had to deal with dry air, uncomfortable heat and the constant humming of dehumidifiers and fans.

Four residents have permanently relocated, one has temporarily relocated and others are sleeping with friends until the living conditions improve.

A dehumidifier and two fans have been running in some of the affected rooms, leaving the air uncomfortably dry and causing dust to blow around the rooms. The fans and dehumidifiers hum loudly and the dehumidifiers give off heat because of the energy used to power them. Eleven fans were running in third-floor hallways on Feb. 15, not counting those in rooms.

Thermostats said the temperature was 82 degrees Fahrenheit in some of the rooms and Caitlin Walsh, sophomore accounting major, said that on Feb. 11 the temperature was hotter than the thermostat could read – more than 90 degrees.

At least two students had breathing problems upon returning to their rooms when officials said it was safe.

One resident returned after a week and spent the first night back coughing and experiencing breathing difficulties.

The resident woke up with a bloody nose and difficulty speaking. Both residents have moved out for now.

Melissa Mijares, sophomore secondary education/English major, said she brought her two beta fish home after she noticed the water level was going down faster than usual with the dehumidifier in the room – about a centimeter over two days.

Walsh, her roommate, had been sleeping on the floor since Feb. 12 because the dehumidifier set up next to her bed was giving off too much heat.

“We’re dealing with it,” they said.

Chris Stewart, sophomore biology major, said he has been sleeping on an air mattress in a friend’s room because his room is uncomfortably hot.

“I just want my room back,” he said.

The drying phase should not take more than three weeks, Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, said, noting that the building materials involved – concrete and plaster – take longer to dry than some other materials like gypsum.

“Unlimited Restoration Inc. has been hired to dry the building and make repairs,” he said. “Progress has been seen in the majority of areas and three rooms have dried entirely.”

The College’s plumbing shop replaced the broken section of pipe and Guy M. Cooper Inc. Mechanical Contractors inspected and tested the sprinkler system, Golden said.

“We maintain temperatures appropriate to avoid the freezing of pipes, but an exterior hatch was left open in this instance and the pipe was exposed to extreme cold,” he said.

He said that the College’s property insurance is expected to cover the costs of the repairs after paying a deductible. Estimates for the repairs have not yet been determined, Golden said.

“Claims for personal damages should be brought to the attention of the office of Residential and Community Development staff,” he said. “If a resident has property insurance coverage, he or she should file a claim with the insurance company. Recovery of deductibles for losses incurred for residents without insurance coverage may be submitted as a Notice of Tort Claims through the State of New Jersey’s Bureau of Risk Management. The College’s manager of risk will assist residents with the tort claims process after the office of Residential and Community Development has completed its documentation.”