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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Students work to renew Old Main

Kevin Brost
Kevin Brost / Daily Wildcat Allie Pena, Keith Kolweit and Jacob Prietto help build a trench that dissipates rainwater away from the foundation of Old Main, which began to deterioate after years of water erosion.

Students in a soil, water and environmental science class are not too crazy about puddles, as they are working on a project to keep Old Main free of rainwater.

Old Main’s foundation is at risk of being damaged due to the rainwater runoff pooling around the building, according to James Riley, an associate professor in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science.

In order to solve this problem, Riley and his water harvesting class are creating an alternate route for the runoff water to take. He said he hopes to eventually fix the problem areas by allowing the runoff to drain away from the base of Old Main, which would prevent pooling.

The two “problem areas” that the class is working on are located on the southeast and northeast sides of the building, Riley said. His class has completed the southeast portion of the project, Riley added, but there is still work to be done on the northeast side — downspouts on the building are producing pooling areas that put the building’s foundation at risk for long-term damage, including the potential for it to sink into the ground.

To guide the water away from the building, Riley said the class is digging trenches where the downspouts dump near the building and re-routing the water away from it. Re-routing the water has other benefits, Riley explained, because this water will be pushed toward things that need irrigation, like trees and grass. The remainder of the runoff will flow into the street.

Despite the students’ work, it’s hard to see the difference it has made because it hasn’t rained yet, according to Allie Peña, a senor studying wildlife conservation and management and student in the class. Old Main is a building that is worth preserving, she said, because of its historical significance.

Riley’s class is not the only group working on this project, as Facilities Management and Campus Planning are also conserving Old Main.

Woody Remencus, the crew chief for ground services with Facilities Management, said he thinks it is great when faculty and students work together to solve a problem such as this.

Caitlin Starks, a student in the class and a senior studying natural resources and conservation biology, said she thinks this is a vital project for water conservation because it is an issue that will be very important for the university in the coming years.

“It’s cool to make a lasting mark on campus by doing this,” Starks added.

The final goal of the project, Riley said, is to improve the flow of water away from Old Main in a discreet manner without it looking like anything around the building has changed.

After finishing the first part of the project on the southeast side of the building, it was clear to Riley that they had done just that.

“Right when we were done, someone started walking through (the repaired areas),” he said. “We thought, ‘OK, we’ve been successful.’”

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