A main water pipe in Herrmann Student Union ruptured on Feb. 21 as a result of prolonged exposure to extreme cold, causing severe water damage to the middle and lower levels of the building.
The building is currently closed until further notice in order to clean up the water and begin to restore the damage. All offices based in the Student Union have been moved to Egan and Warde.
“When you walked in, there was already about an inch of water on the main floor,” said Erin Herschelman, a sophomore Accounting major and the Student Activities Committee Financial Secretary. “And it was just pouring down the stairs. It looked like the Titanic.”
Water collected in the basement of the Student Union and the area that houses the Laker Inn. The water had also damaged the ceiling of the Laker, causing tiles to collapse onto the basement floor.
The costs of damage the water main break has caused are currently unknown. There is no certain date for when the restoration and repair is going to be finished, according to Sue Johnson, Director of Administraion and Executive Assistant to the President.
“It’s going to be an extensive repair,” said Johnson. “We are hoping, and this is at best case, that when kids come back from spring break, it will be done. That’s not a guarantee. It could be another week or so beyond that.”
Replacing the drywall in the Union will be the most time intensive part of the restoration because of the height the water reached and the extent the water saturated the wall, according to Johnson.
The computers used by the Student Activities Committee and Mercyhurst Student Government to conduct business were salvaged from the basement office.
“Some of them were not damaged. The monitors were not wet and people have taken those and moved them over [to Egan],” said Johnson. “The other ones are waiting at IT. They have to sit for a couple of days before they see what kind of damage has been done to those.”
Johnson is encouraging all students to use social media as a way of staying informed. All events intended to be held in the student union have been moved.
“We were surprised how many events actually go on over there,” Johnson said.
Ken Stepherson, head of Maintenance, was unable to be reached for comment at the time of publication.
In addition to the damage in the student union, a pipe burst in the roof above the education department computer lab in the early morning of Wednesday, Feb. 17.
The water saturated the drywall tiles in the roof, causing them to collapse.
The damage from the water also forced Meghan Waskiewicz, chair of the Communications department, out of her office. She is currently located in Old Main 200a.
“Where the water broke, it runs west, and so it ran straight through my office as well,” Waskiewicz said.
“I have ceiling tiles missing. The floor was soaked, my desk was soaked.”
While her office is currently under repair, it is unclear how long Waskiewicz will be in her temporary office.
The damages to both buildings will be covered by the university’s insurance. At this time, there is no estimated cost of repair.
“An adjuster is coming to campus [on Wednesday],” Jane Kelsey, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, said by email.
Due to the ongoing restoration of Christ the King Chapel in Old Main, the Eucharist was in repose in Prince of Peace chapel on the top floor of the Student Union.
It has been moved to a secure location with the closure of the Union, and the restoration of Christ the King is likely to be sped up due to the damage in the Union, according to Rev. James Piszker.