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Antioch College Main Building flood—Dry-out, clean-up progresses

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Remediation work began last Thursday, Feb. 12, in Main Building on the Antioch College campus, following extensive damage caused by water that flooded through the building on Saturday, Feb. 7.

Antioch University hired Munters remediation workers to dry out the building. Munters is a global company that specializes in humidity control, climate control services and restoration after water and fire damage, according to the company’s Web site.

“They had far more experience than anyone else,” Antioch University Director of Public Relations Lynda Sirk said on Monday. Three companies had bid for the job, she said, but Munters was chosen because it’s a “world leader in damage restoration and owns the world’s largest fleet of drying equipment.”

According to an update that Sirk provided to Village government leaders Friday, Munter technicians would install “robust dehumidifiers bringing heat and 2 percent humidity air into the building to dry affected areas and to control the environment.” The project is estimated to take 10 to 14 days.

“All work will continue in an effort for a full and fast recovery,” Sirk’s statement said.

The Feb. 7 flooding sparked intense community concern about the fate of Main Building, which is the heart of the historic Antioch College campus. Concerns have also been raised about the conditions of other buildings on the closed campus, which have not been heated over the winter.

By Friday Munters workers had installed 12 desiccant driers that were pumping air into Main Building. Four dryers pumped air through the front door of the building, six were positioned in the door on the south side and two smaller dryers pumped air through two upper story windows on the building’s northwest side.

The flooding began on Saturday, Feb. 7, at an unknown time and was discovered by villager Brian Springer when he was walking through campus at 5 p.m. that day. At that time, water was pouring through the roof of the president’s suite on the first floor, and several inches of standing water could be observed. Springer contacted the Miami Township fire department, who contacted Antioch University maintenance workers, and the fire fighters and maintenance workers turned off the water, which had poured from a burst pipe in the building’s attic.

The burst pipe was part of the building’s only sprinkler system. The aged system was not connected to the fire department, so that the department did not know about the flooding until department volunteers received Springer’s call. Water was still pouring through the Main Building first floor ceiling late into the night of Feb. 7, although the flooding had ceased by the next morning.

In a written statement last week, Antioch University Chancellor Toni Murdock stated that the pipe burst due to decades of deferred maintenance.

Cleanup efforts

According to Sirk last week, university maintenance workers began working Monday morning, Feb. 9, two days after the flooding, to remove standing water from the buildings.

About 60 former Antioch College community members and Yellow Springers rallied on campus that day to express their concern about the flooding, which many saw as the result of neglect of the buildings. At the rally, a Dayton-area certified microbial remediation supervisor, Bill Treasure of Turn-Key Environmental Consultants, who oversaw the remediation in Spalt Hall several years ago, stated that mold could begin growing as soon as 72 hours after the initial flooding.

Dave Summers of ServPro, a company with 1,400 franchises that specializes in remediation after water damage, toured Main Building on Monday morning, he said in an interview this week.

“There was extensive water damage. It needs to get dried,” Summers said. Based in Beavercreek, he also bid on the job, Summers said, but his firm was not chosen.

Reached on Monday, Dave Pullen of a Munters franchise in northern Kentucky, who is overseeing the Main Building cleanup job, said he had been asked not to speak to the press. However, he said, he could say that he had seen no visible signs of mold in the building.

According to Treasure of Turn-Key this week, “not seeing visible mold does not mean there is no mold problem.” Along with visibly inspecting for mold, he said, a remediation expert would often do air testing to determine the number of spores, both dead and alive, in the building. While mold may not be immediately visible, it could be dormant and become visible only in warmer weather, he said.

Asked this week about air testing in Main Building, Sirk stated that workers are “testing constantly” for mold. However, Pullen this week stated his company was not conducting air testing.

While he will request that initial air testing be done if he suspects mold growth, Pullen stated that the relatively cold weather when the flood occurred — it was in the 40s — – and the historic building’s plaster walls, which inhibit mold growth, both made mold growth unlikely.

Treasure agreed with Pullen that those factors most likely worked against the growth of mold in Main Building. But the company would be wise to test the air after the drying process is complete to ensure that there is no mold present, he said.

Citizens seek investigation

A group of Greene County citizens will soon submit a petition to the Ohio Attorney General asking for an investigation of factors leading to the closure of the college and the current care of the college campus, group leaders stated at a press conference last Friday. The group is represented by Columbus attorney Robert Fitrakis.

The Ohio Revised Code gives citizens the right to seek an investigation into nonprofits that may be failing to serve the public interest. The petition asserts that “there are many instances of poor judgement, poor planning, poor fund raising, poor academic changes on the part of the current administration and the current Antioch University Board of Trustees…”

The flooding in Main Building prompted several of the citizens to sign on to the petition, according to Otha Davenport, who initiated the action. A retired engineer for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Davenport has followed the closing of Antioch College with concern, he said at the press conference. The recent damage to college buildings sparked the action, he said.

Other Greene County residents who signed the petition include retired physician Carl Hyde, former Antioch College faculty member and president Bob Devine and Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute faculty member Jean Gregorek.

The Feb. 7 flooding in Main Building also prompted him to sign on to the petition, according to Devine, who stated his concern that university officials chose to leave historic buildings unheated over the winter rather than maintain a minimal level of heat, as had been advised by Ohio Historic Preservation specialist Glenn Harper.

“The bottom line is that so many people with experience warned and implored them to exercise modest care when they mothballed the buildings and they refused to do it,” Devine said. “Someone has the obligation to exercise reasonable care based on what was advised.”

In an interview on Tuesday, Harper stated that it seemed likely that the lack of heat did not play a part in the Main Building flooding, since the pipe that burst was in the attic, which would not be heated even if a minimal level of heat had been maintained.

However, the citizens who signed the petition cite a similar incident of flooding that took place in South Hall on Christmas Eve day, after a sprinkler pipe burst in that building on the fourth floor and flooded the eastern side of the building. While the fire department responded quickly because that sprinkler is connected to the fire department, and university workers dried the building, the university did not in that instance bring in remediation experts to use high-tech driers to prevent the spread of mold. Fire Chief Colin Altman has reported peeling dry wall as a result of that incident.

“Someone should say, why isn’t the school giving as much attention to South Hall as to Main Building?” Treasure said ths week.

Asked this week for a response to the citizens’ petition, Sirk stated that university officials have not yet seen the petition, and therefore have no comment.

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