Leaking pipe causes portion of Watzek ceiling to collapse

Photo by Lexie Boren

By Mackenzie Herring

Passing student discovered that a section of the Watzek Library ceiling collapsed, resulting in water damage to numerous periodicals. In reference to the event on Feb. 6, Vice President of Facilities Michel George said over email that the leak was caused by a faulty pipe that had put too much weight on the ceiling tiles.

“The leak was caused by a malfunctioning pressure relief valve in the hot water portion of the heating system,” George said. “The leaking water saturated the porous ceiling tiles that then collapsed. Generally, these systems have isolation valves to shut down parts of the system, unfortunately this section didn’t have isolation valves.”

George said that in order to stop the leak and relieve pressure, the heating system had to be temporarily turned off. Facilities then drained the affected area. George also said that the leak was fixed promptly and that facilities is now focused on replacing the tiles.

“The repairs were completed the day after the leak was detected and all systems were restored,” George said. “Now that the system is repaired new tiles are on order to replace the affected tiles.”

Head of Access Services Jennifer Jacobs said that several periodicals were damaged but were quickly attended to.

“It was all back issues of periodicals and there were about 30 individual items that did get wet and about half of those I would say got very wet,” Jacobs said. “We set them all out for air drying. We fanned them out. We asked facilities to drop the temperature back where we were drying them. We got some fans to help with circulation to prevent any mold from growing and kept everything in isolation for a few days just to make sure we didn’t see any mold growth.”

All damaged books are now available for use except for three volumes, one of which may be unsalvageable. Jacobs said that the library has a procedure for any type of event that may damage the collections and that she does not believe this will be a common occurrence.

“There are no threats that we are aware of. As far as we know, the building maintenance is in good condition,” Jacobs said. “However, we do have a plan in place for anytime something like this might happen, so we were very prepared when this happened.”

The leak was first discovered and reported by Daniel Elliott ’18 and was immediately reported to Watzek staff.

“I just kind of walked by it and there was a bunch of stuff all over the bookcases and on the ground,” Elliott said. “There was water dripping from the pipe onto the stacks.”

Elliott had considered that the problem was already reported but decided to contact staff due to the leak needing immediate attention.

“I had kind of figured that because it was so noticeable I figured that someone would have seen it,” Elliott said. “I almost didn’t say something, but the water was actively dripping.”

Upon discovering the leak, Elliott had noticed that the pipe did not seem to have been maintenanced for two decades.

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