Pipe burst empties The Union

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

A pipe burst in The Union on Jan. 30 forced the facility to close for nearly 13 hours.

Students were evacuated from the building when the fire alarms went off at approximately 6:20 p.m. after a sprinkler pipe in the southwest side of The Union froze and burst, releasing “multiple gallons” of water into the entrance, the Information Exchange office and the basement, according to Keith Skogstad, assistant director for The Union. He said that he’s not sure exactly how much water leaked into the building, but it drained from a one-inch pipe for about 40 minutes, leaving about three to four inches of standing water.

The Union remained close until 7 a.m. the next day because the sprinkler system was shut off until repair. Skogstad said they hoped to enable the sprinkler system by 8:30 a.m. Jan. 31. A plan was designed in case of a fire until the sprinklers were turned on again or if this incident happens again.

Skogstad said there is an identical pipe on the east side entrance that is being examined to prevent an identical situation.

Both Skogstad and Jenn Novotny, director of The Union, said the burst caused very little structural damage. The water pooled on concrete, not on carpet. They were worried about University Bookstore storage in the basement, but they only found a little standing water-“dribbles”-that soaked cardboard boxes and “disposable” things, Novotny said. Some water leaked outside and froze, but the newly-formed ice has been treated with ice melt.

This frozen pipe incident is not related to a similar incident in The Union last semester, Novotny said. In November, a pipe burst over The Market that was caused by a mechanical malfunction while this burst was caused by a design problem. Skogstad said this happened because there are sprinkler pipes filled with water running through an unheated space. He said the pipes were added during the remodel of The Union a year-and-a-half ago.

There are options to prevent this in the future, Skogstad said. One option is to remove the sprinklers from the vestibule and put in smoke detectors, but this may not be possible due to building codes. Another option is to use dry pipes in the vestibules. With this, the pipes running to the sprinklers in the entrance would only have water running in them if the alarm system is activated.

Both Skogstad and Novotny were impressed by how much help students that were in the building when the pipe burst helped to clean up the mess.

#1.883848:2020779518.jpg:unionflooding.jn.jpg:Water flows out of a Union door after a sprinkler pipe burst Jan. 30.: