The University of Idaho’s J.A. Albertson Building is closed indefinitely after a nearby water line broke late Tuesday or early Wednesday and flooded the building’s electrical room with about 6 feet of water.
Nancy Spink, the UI’s risk management officer, said Thursday preliminary damage estimates are in the “six-figure” range, but it’s still unclear who will be footing the bill or exactly how many hundreds of thousands of dollars will be necessary to complete repairs.
“We don’t know exactly what caused the water line to fail, and it may be some time before we’re able to figure out exactly what caused it to happen,” she said.
Construction crews had been working on underground infrastructure in the gold permit parking lot behind the Albertson and Administration buildings as part of utility service updates happening across the Moscow campus this summer.
But the leak began in the middle of the night when no workers were present, Spink said.
“That makes it, of course, a lot more difficult to figure out what happened because there were no direct witnesses,” she said.
She said the UI is working closely with the site contractor, McKinstry, to determine what happened and who is responsible for paying for the damages.
Spink said UI Information Technology Services employees were the first to arrive on scene after receiving an alert that power had gone out in the north part of the Administration Building, which houses the university’s computer server hub.
ITS staff members worked to reduce the heat level around the servers, keeping the UI’s computer system functioning, but water still flowed into the electrical room of the adjacent Albertson Building, which is home to the UI’s College of Business and Economics.
The electrical room is the lowest point in the building, Spink said, and it became flooded with about 6 feet of water. UI Facilities staff had pumped out all but about 6 inches of water by Thursday morning, she said.
Spink said cleanup and damage assessment could take up to two weeks, and completing the actual repairs could take up to four months.
“It’s probably likely this will impact the beginning of the fall semester for our students,” she said.
About 15 UI business college faculty and staff members are being relocated to temporary offices in other buildings, Spink said, and one summer session class moved to the nearby Teaching and Learning Center.
Construction crews spent Thursday removing mud from the area so they could begin repairing the water line and continue with their previously scheduled infrastructure upgrade project.
The J.A. Albertson Building is one of the newer facilities on the UI’s Moscow campus. It was completed in October 2002 and was the first academic building on campus to be built with privately donated money, according to the UI Library’s Special Collections and Archives.
Spink said “water events” happen on the campus “every once in a while,” but so far never to this extent.
She advised people working inside or visiting the Administration Building to report any strange odors that may indicate “water flowed someplace we haven’t yet detected.”
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