Flood in Olin quickly addressed
Water damage in Olin displaced two professors from their offices and damaged four computer labs, two classrooms, the science library, over 400 books, lab equipment and parts of the ceiling. The trouble began when a 2'x3' heating unit coil suddenly failed and began to flood portions of the building from March 19 to 21.
Security reported the flooding to the Physical Plant Department (PPD), who immediately called in custodians and a plumber to turn off the water, PPD Director Patricia Murphy said. PPD also hired Advance One, a cleaning service company that brought in moisture meters and infrared equipment to detect damage in the ceiling.
"[Some] of the fears some people may have [are] mold and mildew, which is why we tried to work very quickly," Murphy said. "The first 72 hours are critical to get wet materials out. That was a real priority of ours right away."
Construction crews worked to replace the ceiling and lighting in Olin, fixed the scaffolding and cleaned the carpet, among other projects, Murphy said.
College officials estimate repair costs at several hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to an e-mail Associate Dean Michael Donihue sent to students, faculty and staff. Contingency funds will cover the cost of the damage, David Eaton, director of communications and marketing at the College, said.
Much of the funding will cover the damaged lab equipment, estimated to cost around $100,000 alone, Murphy said. The water damage significantly affected the plywood benches and new ones will not arrive for 10 to 12 weeks.
PPD moved Oak Professor of Biological Sciences Russell Cole and Clara C. Piper Professor of Environmental Studies David Firmage's offices to two computer labs, which will remain offline for the rest of the semester. Donihue alerted Firmage of the incident through an e-mail over spring break, asking Firmage, who was away on vacation, to "call [him] immediately," Firmage said. "[Donihue] told me right away that they were going to have to move everything and gut my office," Firmage said. "We talked about where things could go and so forth and movers came in and took everything from my office and brought it into [former computer lab Olin 236]."
Firmage returned to campus on March 25 and began to sort through his materials. "I figured I was going to see drowned books and papers and everything, but it really wasn't bad," he said. "I'm still trying to find this and that and there was one shelf of books that got hit, [but] they really were [books] that didn't matter too much."
Classes, which usually meet in Olin 1, met in alternate locations until the room re-opened on Monday, April 5. PPD had quickly restored the other classroom, Olin 234, in time for classes to resume as scheduled on Monday, March 29. Additional repairs will occur in Olin throughout the coming months, with new carpeting to arrive over the summer.
"I had a 9 a.m. class in [Olin] 234 and [ITS] finished putting the computer in 15 minutes before the class," Firmage said. "I was very impressed with how fast and efficiently they got at things." Firmage said materials from his office and lab, including "a bunch of equipment and things we're not using this semester," remain in off campus storage.
Several hundred books remain off campus. Although "the ideal thing is to keep [the books] tight and let them dry naturally," some books went into freezers to restore them to their previous state, science librarian Suzi Cole said. According to Cole, library workers are "running lists to identify what's no longer here."
Although books "were taken off the shelf randomly" after the flooding, library staff worked to supply students with the materials they needed, Cole said. Librarians provided request forms in Olin, which opened for limited hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, March 29 through Friday, April 2, and in Miller, where the reserves are currently held, so that students could access materials. The library returned to its normal hours of operation on Saturday, April 3. "My goal was to provide a means for students to get materials. If people need a particular thing, we will attempt to retrieve it," Cole said.
Cole double-staffed student library workers' shifts to ensure that everyone would receive pay for the week despite the reduced hours. Students and librarians "organized...and put back the non water-damaged books," worker Sarah Trankle '12 said.
The water damage also affected students completing long-term projects in the Olin computer labs. Before the flood Ian McCullogh '10 used the Geographic Information System computer program in the lab in Olin 222 to work on his honors thesis. Some of his materials went missing in the aftermath of the flooding.
"The computer is fine [but] I'm not sure where some of my papers are," he said. "I was pretty much the only student that used that computer and it was a reliable workspace." McCullogh now shares the lab in Olin 229 with other students.
"It's just an inconvenience for a lot of people, more so than actually losing stuff. I think people understand that this was out of everyone's control and they're working as fast as they can to get things going again. People realize that what can be done is being done."
Murphy recognized the efforts of several different departments who dealt with the event. "When things like this happen, so many people have to pull together... and I think it's really good that we can do that here," she said.