Thursday, May 30, 2024

Water pipe breaks, disrupts water supply

By Aleksandra Sidorova

A pipe supplying several campus buildings with water broke near Wilson Hall Feb. 9. As a result, Clinton Dining Hall and DeFredenburgh, Hood, Moffitt and Wilson residence halls lost their water supply from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., when the pipe was fixed. 

For the duration of the emergency, Housing and Community Living granted students in the residence halls which were affected “access to Mason and Macomb Halls to use their bathroom facilities,” as per a mass email from Nikki Deyo-Pugh, administrative assistant at Housing and Community Living.

The email also contained apologies for the inconvenience: “We recognize that this will be a huge inconvenience and we will do our utmost to make sure that you all stay informed.  We of course would not be doing this, if this was not an emergency.”

Until 2:30 p.m., it was uncertain when the issue would be resolved. 

“We don’t know how long the water will be shut off,” the aforementioned email read. 

Without water to clean reusable dishes, Clinton switched to disposable tableware until water access was restored. All the beverage machines were out of order.

In addition to a cut water supply, the water main break resulted in Wilson shutting down its electricity for about an hour.

According to Sherman, because the residence hall is located directly downhill from the broken water main, some water had gotten into the building. In order to prevent a fire or other damage to electrical areas, the electricity was shut off until the water dried out. The lack of internet access prevented some students from attending their online classes.

“It was a very big inconvenience,” Wilson resident Autumn Smith said. “I really wanted to take a shower, because I was so tired, but I couldn’t. It was hard to do work, too.”

James Sherman, assistant director of Campus Housing and Community Living, and Maintenance and Operations Manager Patrick Farrell both said the break likely happened because of the frost and cold temperatures causing the water inside to freeze and expand, damaging the pipe.

To fix the issue, the frozen section of the pipe had to be dug up from deep within the ground and replaced. Sherman said it was fixed “relatively quick,” due to the problem being discovered early.

“Had [the break] not been caught, and it was like a day or so later, it could have damaged the electrical line,” he said. “It could have been a much bigger deal had somebody not caught it right away.”

The Plattsburgh area experienced a few water pipe breaks this winter, and more could occur if temperatures drop. There are no precautions that Maintenance and Operations can take, due to the seasonal nature of the issue.

“I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a common occurrence as the weather gets warmer,” Sherman said. “My supervisor jokes that these types of things don’t usually happen in June.”

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