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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Flood in Old Chemistry building, maintenance questioned

Rebecca Marie Sasnett

UITS Network Systems Specialist Carey Johnson (right) and UITS manager Michael Morris (right) discuss a flooding in the basement of the Chemistry building which brought down the building network on Wednesday. The flood was discovered at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.  

A flood in the Old Chemistry building Wednesday morning, which was responsible for a complete network shutdown, raised concerns about the UA’s maintenance of buildings.

The Old Chemistry building’s network connection went down Wednesday morning due to a flood in the south side of the building’s basement, which contained wiring systems to control the connection. Although causes of the flooding have not been officially pinpointed or confirmed, the building staff was not surprised by the incident. Michael Morris, IT manager for the department of chemistry and biochemistry, said someone might have turned the valve because the steam pipes had not been touched in years.

“Someone enabled something that filled up the room with steam, which damaged all of our networking equipment that is also housed in this room,“ Morris said. Faculty noticed the network was down and called laboratory manager Scott Dreisbach, who noted that there’s also networking equipment in the basement. University Information Technology Services responded quickly and were there in minutes, according to building staff. They had the system back online by Wednesday afternoon.

“In this case, it is a major shut down of communication in a large building because computer switches had to be located in a basement 5 feet away from steam pipes, one of which shot out steam due to a trap failure,” said Roger Miesfeld, head of the department of chemistry and biochemistry, in an email statement.

Malik Hawkins, building administrator, said the building’s physical condition could have contributed to Wednesday morning’s flooding. Chemistry faculty and building management said that whenever something goes wrong in the 1930s-style building, they do whatever they can to “make it work,” according to Dreisbach and Ken Nebesny, supervising IT support.

What started off as a basement flooding turned quickly into a long list of neglected issues that had been stacked on top of each other for years. Dresibach said the building’s infrastructure is built on top of itself.

“[This is] one more example about how deferring maintenance on an old research building [is] only going to cost more in the long run,” Miesfeld said. “What’s next? Asbestos, mold, broken natural gas line, etc. Old Chemistry has $50 million in deferred maintenance and no one seems to want to do anything about it.“

Walking through the Old Chemistry building, one can see the broken ceiling tiles and abandoned electrical boxes open for anyone to access. The 6-inch floor tiles made of asbestos, the dead pigeons in the attic, the air ducts covered with duct tape and the vents spewing black particle chunks aren’t as easily noticed.  

Nebesny and Dresibach pointed out specific areas of concern, such as 4,000-volt cable wirings dangling from the ceilings of general labs and office spaces.

Even the newly renovated rooms showed some concern. A laboratory renovated about 10 years ago, according to Dreisbach, still had issues with leaks coming from the higher floors.

Dreisbach said the department has gotten used to the university’s lack of attention to the building’s problems.

“We’re not sitting in these high [quality] facilities thinking we need something a little bit better,” Nebesny said. “I mean this is an old building. … You can not make it better anymore.”

Instead of fixing the existing buildings on campus, Dreisbach said, the UA adds more buildings to its campus.

“We never take buildings down,” Dreisback said. “We just keep adding more and more buildings for them to take care of.”


Follow Benny Sisson and Chastity Laskey on Twitter.

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