Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Flooding in East Quad

Published: October 28, 2005
Section: News

Around 6:30 pm Sunday night, a fire-suppression sprinkler on Pomerantz 6 in East Quad was activated after being accidentally struck by a football. By the time Facilities was able to shut it off, the sprinkler had expelled hundreds of gallons of water into the hallway and residents rooms. The water also seeped through cracks in the floor and gushed through data pipes, pipes carrying cable and Ethernet, into rooms on the fifth floor, causing damage to personal property and soaking beds and carpets.

Many students were required to seek refuge for the next several nights while their water-logged rooms were cleaned with high-powered extractors, fans, and anti-fungal chemicals.

Students also packed their belongings into bags and moved them into various places for storage. Fortunately, storage space was made available in the club storage room on Pomerantz 1.

The flood came at an inopportune time for several students who had midterms the next day. The hall also had a strong fish-type smell that also reached the individual rooms.
East Quad Senator Jacob Baime is leading an investigation into the incident. Among other things, he has an eye on preventing similar accidents in the future. Questions remain about the sensitivity of the sprinkler system and the speed of the Universitys initial response to the incident. Baime said, In order to avoid this type of damage in the future, these questions are worth pursuing, but are secondary to more immediate cleanup and recovery efforts.

Two similar incidents occurred at the beginning of last Academic year and Baime wants to know if the circumstances were similar.

This sudden crisis became apparent to Pomerantz residents when the fire alarm sounded, prompting an evacuation of the building. Public Safety officers quickly arrived on the scene and contacted Facilities.

According to several eyewitness accounts, it took between thirty and forty minutes to stop the flow of water from the sprinkler. Facilities was able to remove much of the water with wetvacs and high-powered extractors by Tuesday morning.

It was definitely difficult to shut off the water quickly in a big building like Pomerantz. They had between 10-15 police on the scene. I feel they responded quickly but not much could have been done before half an hour anyway, said Pom 6 resident Michael Werner 08.

Residents who suffered any property damage were advised to document all damages and to report them to their Community Advisors. In addition to the private property that was destroyed, some university-owned furniture was damaged. Some mattresses were replaced because of immense water damage but mattresses made of vinyl material were not initially replaced.

Residents were advised to clean and disinfect them on their own. If dirty discolored water fell through the walls and ceiling onto my mattress, I would be pretty uncomfortable about sleeping on it, said Baime, telling residents to wipe off their mattresses simply is not enough.

At a meeting with residents on Tuesday evening, Director of Residence Life Maggie Balch pledged to replace the damaged mattresses and tried to reassure the victims of the flood. We think its okay to live here, she told the gathered students, but we also know that there are questions that come up and were trying to be proactive. Balch also offered to relocate affected residents to different rooms on campus on a temporary or permanent basis.

The University also offered emergency laundry service to residents whose clothing and bedding were drenched. The numerous bags of laundry were returned to the East Quad Office for students to retrieve.

Because many datapipes were flooded, Library and Technology Services was given a list of data ports and computers to check, which were investigated in the days following the incident.

Baime made his cause clear by declaring, I am working to ensure that the university reimburses students for damaged property and repairs or replaces affected university-owned furniture. Baime added, [Director of Residence Life] Maggie Balch and [East Quad Director] Megan Drangstveit have done a terrific job for us so far.

But some of the affected residents are less convinced. One student hit heavily by the flood was Jason Fenster 08. Fenster stated, It is great that they have had people coming in to clean the rooms and disinfect the carpets, but it still isnt entirely enough. The rooms smell terrible, some have wet carpets, and other people still do not have clean mattresses.

Another worry is that much of the water from the incident could still be inside the walls of Pomerantz, evoking a fear of mold growth. On Tuesday night, Balch said she would look into that possibility. Despite these concerns, Fenster considers himself fortunate to have been present during the crisis. Had I not been in my room I wouldve had more damage, he said, all of my clothes and my computer would be gone.

Another question that remains is why the sprinklers took so long to shut off. Nikki Salzman 08 stated, The water started coming into our floor almost immediately. Were talking within maybe 5 minutes I had water coming into my closet. And it just kept on moving. By the time the water was shut off–40 minutes later–it was over my bed. After that, the water actually started to come down harder because it was still seeping through the floor. I cant help but wonder how much damage could have been prevented for everyone if the water was shut off faster.

The incident will continue to be investigated while the University said that it would take appropriate actions against the instigators of the flood.