Starting approximately two weeks ago, the McMaster University Student Centre basement has been hit with a series of floods, causing costly damages and prompting administration to begin formulating an extensive repair plan.
On July 3, a drain pipe burst in the CFMU station offices, causing a flood. The following afternoon, another drain pipe burst in the Silhouette office. Water streamed from the ceiling for several hours, causing it to pool and leak below the walls to neighbouring offices.
In the days that followed, pipes burst in the hallway outside the Silhouette office and inside the Student Accessibility Services office.
According to Lori Diamond, MUSC administrative director, the flood was caused by a corroded drain pipe from the La Piazza kitchens. Grease and food that had built up in the pipe caused a clog, and the pipe sprung a leak as a result of the intense pressure.
Throughout the following week, there was an unpleasant odour in the basement of MUSC from the grease and food buildup that burst from the pipe. Furthermore, staff were concerned about the health risks of continuing to work near the flooded area.
Some offices had to be closed, and staff members in those offices relocated. However, not everyone is able to easily work remotely, since they rely on equipment and technology that cannot be moved from their offices.
The full extent of the flood damage is still being assessed, but it is clear that repairs and replacements will be costly. The water leaked from the Silhouette to parts of the CFMU, Underground, and AVTEK offices. Facilities staff, MSU personnel, and employees working in the basement offices worked to move equipment out of the spaces as quickly as possible, but damages occurred nonetheless.
Two computers, a scanner and a tablet were damaged in the Silhouette office, and the Underground lost an estimated $1200 worth of paper.
In addition to property damage, the costs of cleanup and pipe replacement or repair will also factor into the cost of damages. The exact costs are not yet known, but Diamond estimates that they will be in the range of tens of thousands of dollars.
The drains in the flooded areas have been repaired enough to withstand wear in the short term. However, the initial clog is still present, so plumbers will continue the repair work down the drain line to ensure that no new cracks will emerge long-term, once the clog is cleared.
To prevent future floods, Diamond stated that they plan to bring in a mechanical engineer to determine how to replace the existing drain system.
This was not the first time that floods occurred in the MUSC basement. Last year, a drain pipe in the CFMU telecom room burst. According to Diamond, the area was particularly vulnerable because it was located below dishwashers, which use corrosive detergents that could have led to the rapid deterioration of the pipes.
Diamond stated that, since other pipes were not exposed to the same detergents, it was unclear why they were so corroded. The pipes were built to last for over 30 years, but only lasted 17 before bursting.
Diamond stated that the cause of the rapid corrosion is as yet unknown, but suggested that it could have been due to a range of factors including insufficient maintenance, incorrect size or type of pipes installed initially, or the volume of activity in the La Piazza kitchen.
In addition to the floods, staff from the Underground and CFMU also indicate that their offices have been experiencing smaller, more consistent leaks for years.
According to Diamond, some of the dripping water in the Underground is coming from the floor of the La Piazza kitchen. It is also possible that some leaks are coming from the joints between two connecting pipes. Diamond stated that these issues can be quickly and easily repaired.
“The key is to, whenever possible, respond to the leaks when they’re small so they don’t lead to bigger problems,” said Diamond.