After the flood

Weekend coffee-machine leak causes water damage to Meriam Library

Chad Faulk arrives at Meriam Library and finds it closed due to flooding.

Chad Faulk arrives at Meriam Library and finds it closed due to flooding.

Photo By ryan coletti

Custodians coming to work at Chico State’s Meriam Library on the evening of Sunday, June 9, unexpectedly found themselves trudging through approximately two inches of standing water. The water was estimated to have accumulated over a period of more than 24 hours.

“On Sunday evening, custodians reported to work at the Meriam Library and found that the Laptop Lounge, on the first floor, was flooded,” said Michael Watts, assistant building manager of the library. The flood, he said, was caused by the malfunctioning of a water line attached to an instant coffee machine that spewed water for hours before it was discovered.

“Custodians shut off the water valve to the building, moved furniture, and began extracting water from the carpet,” Watts said. The water also leaked down into the basement, where the university’s Technology & Learning Program (TLP) offices are located, Watts said. TLP offers hands-on technical training, one-on-one help and video editing to faculty and students, and also issues cameras, projectors and video cameras.

“By the time I got there, the carpet [in the basement] was still soaked,” Watts said. The custodians had arrived a few hours before he did.

Water damage to the basement of the library affected two labs and three offices, said TLP Manager Laura Sederberg in a phone interview. Currently, the TLP is limited in its ability to assist students and faculty because of the damage. Meriam Library Building Manager Jay Fuller estimated that as much as $25,000 worth of equipment may have been damaged on the library’s basement level alone; an analysis of the total cost for incident-related repairs, labor and equipment is currently underway.

The TLP’s carpeting was removed, as was more than half of the carpet in the Laptop Lounge. Holes were drilled at the base of the lounge’s walls to assist water evaporation, and high-powered fans were used to help dry the walls.

Chico State’s Environmental Health and Safety Department conducted tests on the Laptop Lounge and TLP the week after the incident occurred, Fuller said. No health risks have been detected.

Todd White, manager of Glyn Pye Vending, the local company that supplied the coffee machine, confirmed that the leak was caused by an unexplained “hairline fracture in the water line going to the coffee machine.” He referred to the incident as “bad timing,” noting that if library staff had been on duty, as they are on Saturdays during the school year, someone likely would have noticed the leak quickly and sought assistance. Glyn Pye, he added, has “been in business for more than 30 years and has never had this happen before.”

Travelers Insurance Company—Glyn Pye Vending’s insurer—is currently working with Associated Students (who contracts Glyn Pye to provide and maintain on-campus vending machines) and Meriam Library Building Management to determine liability and reimbursement costs.

All TLP staff and faculty in the three affected offices have been relocated to other offices on campus until insurance adjusters determine the overall cost of the incident.

The Laptop Lounge was not the only area of the library’s first floor affected by the leaking water. The Assistive Technology Center (ATC) for disabled students was also dampened.

Graduate student Joseph Fithian, who was studying in the ATC two weeks after the incident, said the flood is still causing inconvenience for some disabled students. Those students, Fithian said, now have to go upstairs to use copy machines and to the Bell Memorial Union to purchase food and drink items previously available from Laptop Lounge vending machines.

Fithian said he wonders why the fans used to dry out the walls and carpet, which is still somewhat damp to the touch, are no longer in use.

“About two weeks ago there were fans running 24 hours a day,” he said. “You would have thought that with how bad the situation was, someone would continue running fans.”

While many may assume that not much happens at the library during summer vacation, Fuller said it is actually a time for implementing technological improvements and preparing for the upcoming school year.

“This is our busy time,” he said. “Time to move technology up and make changes. The hardest part is that we can’t move forward” with repairing the basement and the Laptop Lounge until financial aspects of the situation are resolved.

George Rankin, director of Associated Students Dining Services, is working with Travelers Insurance to help resolve the issue. “I’m sure it will be resolved and everything will be fine,” Rankin said.