Floody hell: Three weeks on from the flood in UB's Clemens Hall

Professors lose files, personal items in Clemens Hall flood


Three weeks after a ruptured pipe flooded UB’s Clemens Hall on North Campus and resulted in 90 classes being moved or canceled, the university still cannot provide an estimate of the total damage.

Repairs throughout the first four floors of the building are wrapping up, but some damage cannot be repaired with new drywall and ceiling panels. UB spokesperson John Della Contrada could not confirm the cost or extent of the damage of the flood. He is hopeful to have an accurate dollar figure in the coming days.

Judith Goldman, an associate English professor, said she is left wondering how to replace a decade's worth of files and class plans, after losing countless amounts of paperwork and research to the flood.

“Sadly, I had five banker's boxes of active class and research files on the floor; all were completely soaked,” Goldman said. “The articles that had been [photocopied] are somewhat salvageable, though my notes are reduced to colored rings in the margins – everything handwritten was ruined.”

Goldman said the papers she lost date back to her days in graduate school. Goldman commends the university for their efforts to clean up and repair the damage, but wishes that she could have salvaged some of the more personal items.

“Anything printed on my cheap inkjet printer from grad school was melted. I was hoping to get the titles off things, but even some of those aren't legible,” Goldman said. “I also had a large bag of personal items, mostly art made by friends, that I had been meaning to hang on the wall. Everything is warped and covered in water rings.”

Other professors were more fortunate to only have a portion of their materials damaged. Damien Keane, an associate professor in the English department and director of graduate studies, also lost research during the flooding.

“I had a file box on the floor of my office, under the lowest shelf of the wall-mounted bookshelves. In it, I had archival research related to an ongoing research project, as well as a number of printed items dating from when I was a master's student in Belfast,” Keane said. “The current research was on top and got fairly soggy; the older research notes and Xerox copies were on the bottom, and the majority were destroyed. Some of that material is hard to come by in this country.”

Construction of Clemens Hall finished in 1976, making its infrastructure 41 years old. As other buildings are being renovated, the age of North Campus’ oldest structures are beginning to show.

This water pipe main break marks the fifth flooding in Clemens Hall. Property manager Chris Donacik says that with older buildings like Clemens, it’s impossible to predict when something like this will happen.

“Unfortunately, because of the old infrastructure, it’s very hard to decipher when mechanical systems like these are going to break,” Donacik said. “The bottom line is that we’re doing our best to maintain and improve the infrastructure.”

A third-party contractor has provided Donacik and the rest of the Facilities and Operations with dehumidifiers, wall fans and wall dryers. The Environmental Safety and Health Department (EHS) has also been work working to remediate the conditions in Clemens.

Part of their efforts include reducing the humidity levels in the effected wings of the building to prevent any mold from growing. Donacik says the final checks of the walls have proved that there is no threat of lingering moisture that could cause mold, as of Wednesday morning.

“Because we were so proactive and we were able to reduce from 100 percent humidity down to 60 percent. As long as we stay below 60 percent, the chances of mold growing are obsolete,” Donacik said. “With having these tools and being proactive, we prevented that issue successfully and we’ll continue to monitor it.”

Keane has had a large dehumidifier in his office to dry out his walls for over a week. He feels that the university could be doing a better job of maintaining their older buildings and thinks they will eventually need better renovations.

Max Kalnitz is the senior features editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com