On Oct. 28, Mercyhurst experienced a large water main break at McAuley and Baldwin Halls, causing many buildings across campus to lose water for most of the day.
Water main breaks are not uncommon and can happen because of a variety of reasons.
David Myron, Mercyhurst vice president for Finance and Administration, speculated that the Oct. 28 break could have resulted from a city increase in water pressure, freezing, ground swell, groundwater saturation putting pressure on weakened pipes or corrosion of pipes simply because of their age.
Myron said he believes that the corrosion of pipes was most likely what happened at McAuley and Baldwin. After calling in professional plumbers used to dealing with large commercial plumbing, Mercyhurst officials had to determine where the cause of the leak was located.
“Obviously the pipes are underground, which can make pinpointing the issue challenging,” Myron said. “However, once the leak location has been determined, we decide where and which shutoff valve we can use to shut off the water with as little effect to the rest of campus as possible.”
They found that the first leak was directly east of the entrance to McAuley Hall and the second was directly east of Baldwin Hall. The first leak was a main water line, so it affected the entire interior of campus. Buildings including Egan Hall, Preston Hall, Zurn Hall and Old Main were out of water service. The second leak, at Baldwin, only affected Baldwin and the Ice Center.
This caused issues for several different on-campus activities during the day.
The Mercyhurst Civic Orchestra Concert that had been scheduled for the afternoon of Oct. 28 had to be canceled and rescheduled for Nov. 4.
Students’ only option for on-campus dining during the period without water service was Ryan Hall.
However, the show still went on for “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” with the audience informed that there were no available restrooms during the show.
Myron said that moving forward, the process the university currently has in place is the only preparation the school can have for situations like these.
“Because of the age of the pipes and the fact that we can’t physically inspect them without digging up the entire campus really puts us in a tough situation,” Myron said. “We are looking into possibly bringing in a second water feed source that we could valve and redirect water to buildings that have been shut down because of water line breaks. This wouldn’t prevent future breaks, but it could possibly lessen the impact the breaks have on campus buildings.”
Myron was grateful for the hard work of all involved in the cleanup process.
“The excavating and plumbing was performed by Wm. T. Spaeder Company,” Myron said. “The cleanup and reseed was done in house by our amazing ground crew.”