Main Building flood elicits concern over damage extent
- Published: February 12, 2009
By Diane Chiddister and Lauren Heaton
Yellow Springs community and Antioch College alumni concern over the shutdown of campus buildings reached fever pitch over the weekend, after a burst pipe flooded Main Building on the Antioch College campus beginning late Saturday afternoon and continuing into the night.
Concerns about the fate of Main Building, the castle-like structure that is the heart of the historic Antioch College campus, crescendoed over the weekend when there was no visible evidence of a cleanup effort by Antioch University.
Yellow Springs residents and members of the former Antioch College community held a press conference at Main Building Monday afternoon, attended by about 60 people and reporters from several Dayton-area TV stations. At the conference, area resident Otha Davenport announced that he had engaged a Columbus attorney to investigate possible neglect of the campus by Antioch University.
Following the conference, many of the attendees crossed the street to the offices of Antioch University to seek answers to prepared questions about the state of campus buildings. However, they were turned away from the building by members of the Yellow Springs Police Department.
Tensions between the village, Antioch College supporters and Antioch University lessened when at a Planning Commission meeting Monday night Yellow Springs Village Council President Judith Hempfling and Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman stated that they were satisfied with Antioch University plans to address the flooding. Those plans had been explained during an earlier meeting that day between Village leaders and Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdock.
In a statement on Tuesday, Hempfling said, “The images caught on video of many inches of water on the first floor of Main Building with more water raining down were very shocking and frightening. Many of us were trying to piece together what had occurred and the impact of the water on the building, without good information. Many citizens with great energy worked to pressure for quick and effective action to minimize damage.
It was very helpful that Chancellor Murdock agreed to meet with Village leaders to inform us of the likely cause of the flooding, as well as describe the university’s plan for prompt and thorough cleanup. We were then able to inform the community and combat fears and misunderstanding,” the statement said.
The Main Building flooding incident will not affect the ongoing efforts by the ACCC pro tem board to create an independent college, according to ACCC chair Lee Morgan on Tuesday.
Murdock and Antioch University Chief Financial Officer Tom Faecke were not available for comment, according to Antioch University Director of Pubic Relations Lynda Sirk on Monday. However, Sirk said, “The university regrets this happened.”
A village resident who was walking his dog on campus late Saturday afternoon discovered the flooding, alerted by moisture on the outside walls of Main Building.
“It was shocking,” said Brian Springer, a filmmaker who retrieved his camera from his car and filmed the water that was pouring through the ceiling of the president’s suite in Main Building. Standing water was visible on the floor of the suite. The video appeared on YouTube later that night.
The Miami Township fire department was called in at 5 p.m. Saturday, and department members, along with two Antioch University maintenance workers, turned off the water in the building. However, the flooding and water pouring through the ceiling continued until at least late into the evening, according to two villagers who visited Main Building late Saturday night. By Sunday morning, the water no longer rained from the ceiling on first floor.
According to an Antioch University statement on Monday, the flooding was caused when a pipe broke in the building’s attic sprinkler system sometime Saturday, causing water to flow down all four floors and into the basement.
Last fall, many villagers and alumni expressed concern when university leaders announced that the buildings on campus, which had been shut down over the summer, would not be heated over the winter. University leaders received a letter from Ohio Historic Preservation specialist Glenn Harper requesting that they keep a minimal amount of heat on in the buildings over the winter to prevent bursting pipes and water damage. In response, Faecke said that the buildings would not be heated due to financial constraints, but that the university would hire a professional firm to drain all the pipes.
The building’s pipes are 60 to 70 years old, an estimate given by Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman, who suggested in the Monday night meeting that air pressure in the rusty pipes may have caused one to break.
Asked how long the water was running, Altman in a Monday interview estimated at least an hour before flooding was discovered and the fire department was called. According to the fire department report, “the entire building had significant water damage.”
The attic sprinkler system was a dry system filled with compressed air that kept water from filling the pipes. When the air escaped from the broken pipe, water filled the sprinklers and then flooded the attic before flowing down to lower floors, according to Altman.
“If several inches ended up in the basement, it was a lot of water,” Altman said on Monday.
The Main Building sprinkler system, in which the only sprinkler was in the attic, was compliant with the fire code in operation at the time of its installation, Altman said. Because the system is relatively old, it is not connected to the building’s fire alarm, so that when it filled with water, the fire department was not alerted.
According to the Antioch University statement on Monday, “Even though public outcry runs counter, cold weather, lack of heat in the facilities, neglect on the part of the university, and quick rebound in outside temperature is not the cause of the current flooding in Main building. Once again the cause, most likely, can be attributed to the many years of neglect in routine maintenance.”
While standing water was visible on Sunday morning, it was mostly gone by Monday afternoon, according to Altman, who stated that he toured the building at that time. He was impressed, he said, with the efforts of the university maintenance crew of four people who had removed the water.
“In my opinion, they did a great job,” he said, stating that he found no safety and fire violations on Monday.
However, Antioch College supporters and community members expressed concern that two days had passed and further efforts had not been made by then to dry out the building.
“The longer you wait, the greater the chance for microbial and bacterial growth,” said William Treasure in an interview Monday morning. A certified microbial remediation supervisor who oversaw the college’s mold remediation in Spalt Hall several years ago, Treasure said that the university had a window of 48 to 72 hours after Saturday’s flood before mold could begin to grow.
While water escaping from pipes is considered clean, it quickly becomes contaminated with organic matter as it flows downward, according to Treasure.
Remediation is considered necessary if there are more than 10 square feet of mold in a commercial building, he said, stating “It doesn’t take a lot to get to that point.”
If the building is dried out quickly, the cleanup effort may cost from around $12,000 to $20,000, Treasure said, stating that he was using a rough estimate. However, if mold has taken hold, the effort could easily run into the “tens of thousands” of dollars, he said.
In a statement released on Monday, Murdock stated that the cleanup effort included the removal of any remaining standing water beginning Tuesday morning, and the hiring of a professional company that specilizes in remediation efforts in the near future.
According to the Antioch University statement on Monday, the firm will use 150 fans, plus auxiliary heat to dry out the buildings, along with removing wet ceiling tiles and carpet.
“Great care will be taken to dry and preserve the wood paneling prevalent in Main Building,” the statement said. Also, it stated that “initial inspection detects no structural damage to Main Building so the damage appears to be superficial water damage only.”
Asked about the university’s efforts to remediate the situation, Sirk on Monday stated that the university had moved quickly to remedy the situation. “We’re being very aggressive,” she said.
The university’s efforts by that point were mainly documenting the damage and developing a plan for remediation, she said, stating that Faecke had taken photographs of the damage on Sunday to send to the insurance company. Insurance is expected to cover the damage, she said.
“Nothing could be done until the documentation took place,” she said. Faecke had been alerted to the problem as soon as it happened Saturday afternoon, she said.
The university did not hire a firm to begin the remediation prior to Monday because “On Sunday, companies don’t work,” she said.
The flooding in Main Building was not the first problem with campus buildings this winter. On Dec. 24, a similar situation took place in South Hall, when a pipe in the building’s dry sprinkler system also broke, causing the system to fill with water and flood the building. Since that system is connected to a fire alarm, the fire department was immediately alerted and the university crew cleaned up the flooding, which was mainly in the east side of the building and did not affect Herndon Gallery, according to Altman.
In a recent walk through South Hall, the building appeared to have been adequately cleaned up and no problems were visible other than a small amount of crumbling dry wall, according to Altman. In that incident, university crews were used to dry out the building and remediation specialists were not hired.
But if remediation specialists were necessary to clean up Main Building, they should also have been used in South Hall, Springer said this week, stating that he did not believe Chief Altman is a specialist in water damage and mold.
The ACCC has hired the Iowa-based Stanley Consultants to look over the buildings soon to determine how useable they are, according to Lee Morgan on Tuesday. The ACCC facilities committee will meet on campus Feb. 20 to assess the situation, he said.