Pipe burst floods dorms, scatters students

By Assistant Campus Editor

Anthony Soave
Carpets and wall trims are being replaced after the 8th floor of the University Center flooded on Jan. 8. The damage has displaced 16 students.

A frozen pipe that burst Jan. 8 in the University Center displaced Columbia students and led to flooding during winter break.

The water damage from the exploded pipe started in an apartment unit on the 8th floor of the University Center, 525 S. State St., and trickled down to the lobby, according to Marlene Levine, executive director at U.S. Equities Student Housing, the realty company that manages the University Center. She said the pipe broke because of ice thawing and expanding.

“The pressure literally blew out the drywall,” Levine said. “The water comes out, goes onto the ground, seeps through the walls [and] starts kind of following its own path through the building.”

She said the most affected areas were the 7th and 8th floors, which mostly house Columbia students, but added that there was water damage all the way down to the first floor lobby.

Bob Brophy, the University Center’s director of Residence Life, said the pipe froze during the “polar vortex” that plagued the city with dangerous sub-zero temperatures from Jan. 6–7. However, maintenance personnel told some UC residents that the pipe froze because a window was left open for an extended period of time in the apartment unit where the damage originated.

Brophy said he was unable to comment on whether a window was left open because of insurance investigation restrictions, but said the pipe could have frozen even if a window was not left open.

Levine said there are approximately 50 affected units currently under construction.

“I know it’s difficult for [students] to come back and see their room like that,” Levine said. “But it’s going remarkably fast. Cleaners, movers, painters and carpenters are all working simultaneously.”

Levine said students living in water-damaged rooms have been temporarily placed in other open units in the University Center or The Buckingham, 59 E. Van Buren St. She said approximately nine students have been relocated within the UC and approximately seven have been placed in The Buckingham. She said most affected students were away on winter break when the pipe burst, leaving fewer students with a need to relocate. She added that every student who was relocated was given a complimentary meal plan to the

UC’s cafeteria.

Levine said students are expected to be able to move back into their units by Jan. 25 but added that construction might still be taking place in hallways and common areas.

“We really appreciate the flexibility of our residents,” Levine said. “It’s really important that we all just stay patient and

work together.”

Kristin Schineller, a senior marketing major, lives on the 6th floor in the UC and has been temporarily relocated within the building because her room is water damaged. She said her roommate and the UC notified her of the situation the day the flood began and came back that night to assess the damage.

“I came back rolling in with my suitcase and everything was wet,” Schineller said. “Thankfully, we didn’t have any damaged TVs or computers or anything like that. But all of our carpets had flooded and everything on them was wet.”

Schineller said her and her rommates were relocated to a different unit in the UC that night and were given the free meal plan.

Brophy said the UC and Columbia will not replace any of students’ damaged goods, adding that students were encouraged to buy renter’s insurance previously.

Schineller said the UC has been very accommodating, but she has not been told exactly what caused the pipe to freeze.

Mary Oakes, director of Residence Life, said her office has been in constant communication with the UC about changing room assignments, although Residence Life hasn’t been assisting in the physical cleanup of the UC damage.

“[Residence Life] applauds all of the efforts that the [UC] has done with this particular event,” Oakes said. “It’s been timely, professional and they worked tirelessly in getting the situation remedied.”

Both Brophy and Levine said that despite the inconvenience, students have been very understanding.

“Our compliments to the students,” Levine said. “We’ve been so impressed with the quality of our students and their responses.”