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Leaking pipes turn Smith Laboratory into indoor water park

JOE PODELCO / Photo editor

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During Winter Quarter, most students look for snow to get them out of classes. For those in class at Smith Laboratory Wednesday afternoon, the answer came in the form of leaking pipes.

Flooding prompted the evacuation of Smith Lab at about 3:30 p.m. Bob Armstrong, Ohio State’s director of Emergency Management and Fire Prevention, said the issue most likely occurred as a result of an earlier pipe installation.

“It sounds right now like a contractual error,” Armstrong said.

The contractor, S.A. Communale, was not immediately available for comment.

Suellen Ault, an OSU fire prevention specialist, said workers shut off the water for the installation, but flooding began on the fifth floor after the water came back on.

Ault said when the water came back on, the standpipes in stairwells 2, 3 and 5 were uncapped. A standpipe is a large pipe in an open area that firefighters can plug hoses into for easy access during an emergency.

Water streamed down stairwells 3 and 5 from the top to the bottom floors and gathered in pools at the hallway entrances to the stairwells. Stairwell 2 did not undergo any flooding.

Initial reports indicated there was no damage to costly lab equipment, but anthropology department fiscal officer Wayne Miller said the offices in the basement could have damage.

“It’s hard to say much yet,” Miller said. “Our offices are downstairs, and there’s carpet.”

The elevators to the building were closed as a safety precaution.

Maintenance workers arrived on the scene at about 4 p.m. with wet vacuums to begin cleaning up the standing water.

Some classes ended early because they were in session when the alarm rang, but most returned to business after a brief stint outdoors.

Communication professor Tonya Ewing said OSU officials did not inform instructors of events, but said she heard from building employees that a floor had flooded, and she decided to push ahead with her public speaking class.

“Probably not the best decision,” Ewing said, “but we decided it was a water issue and not a fire issue, and we went ahead and had class.”

Joe Podelco contributed to this story.

 

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