Burst pipe causes minimal damage

Jordan Smith Editor-in-Chief


 The night did not go as planned in The Union on Jan. 21. When a custodian was preparing to leave the building at the end of her shift, she noted that the fire alarm was going off and there was dripping from the ceiling. The dripping turned out to be a burst sprinkler pipe. 

“What we think happened is probably a pipe freezing and thawing due to the extreme temperatures we have been experiencing,” said Executive Director of The Union Jenn Novotny. 

The sprinkler pipe that burst was in an uninsulated area of The Union expansion, said Assistant Director of Student Activities Keith Skogstad. Due to the cold temperatures Brookings has been having, the pipe froze, causing it to burst. This is the only pipe that is in an uninsulated area. 

According to Skogstad, the fire alarms went off at 10:19 p.m. and the basic clean up was finished around 12:30 a.m., but people remained until about 2 a.m. to oversee additional clean up efforts. 

Once the water was shut off, students and Union employees were able to open up the doors and get the water out of the building. The carpet was soaked, Skogstad said. 

“The temperatures have been beastly,” Novotny said. 

There was water coming out of one of the main sprinkler heads and in a matter of minutes there was flooding in the dining area. 

“While the event was stressful, it was also serendipitous because we had people in the right place at the right time,” Novotny said. 

State Tech was finishing up a training in the Volstorff Ballroom, and there were other Union employees around that could assist with the clean up. There was also an Aramark cleaning crew that assisted with the cleanup process. 

“The people working on the cleanup got the carpet dried and any water that leaked up into the drywall was cleaned out [Wedneday] morning, so there is no potential for mold to grow,” Novotny said. 

Much of the seating in front of Extreme Pita was taken out and moved into Main Street of The Union for temporary drying purposes. 

During the day on Jan. 15, the east entrance to The Union was not accessible, but according to Novotny, everyone trained themselves on how to get from point A to point B, although there was just small signage, according to Novotny. Although the building entrance was not accessible, Dining Services was able to meet the needs of operation hours during the day. 

“We had a great community response; I was shocked that we were able to open when we did,” Novotny said. 

Caleb Finck, junior music education and agriculture major, is the equipment manager at State Tech, and they were having a training in the VBR for three new employees. Finck grabbed a radio and helped the Union Manager clear the building when the fire alarm went off, and when he went to clear the Aramark employees out of the kitchens is when he noticed water in the entryway. 

“We grabbed anything we could find to mop up the water, a lot of water was coming in – quick.” Finck said. “The carpet was soaked through in the area in front of Extreme Pita from the Main Street entrance to the tables near where you order.” 

Everyone involved was using anything they could to clean up the water and get it out as quickly as possible. The water was being mopped into a drain in a custodial closet, squeegeed and even shoveled out the doors to the outside, Finck said. Within about an hour an half, the standing water was mopped up 

Facilities and Services hired a cleaning crew to assist with the drywall cleanup. The Union is working with environmental health and safety to ensure that everything got dried enough and there will be no further damage.