Pipe break floods parts of campus

Anna Kwidzinska

Packs of students hopped over a dirt-filled puddle near the southwest corner of Memorial Library on their way to classes Thursday.

A broken city water main near the Olin Engineering building flooded part of the Memorial Library and almost the entire sidewalk between Memorial Library and St. Joan of Arc Chapel.

“We had to leap over it because we thought it was a sewer line,” said freshman Stephanie Moravec.

“We were afraid the bubblers weren’t working,” said freshman Renee Gore.

William Miller, operations manager at Facilities Services, said the problem was not caused by Marquette workers.

“There’s water main breaks every day,” Miller said. “This was a city problem that happened to be on campus.”

According to Miller, Olin Engineering building and its neighboring halls are located over city water pipes that were constructed before those buildings went up. When Marquette built its halls aboveground, the water mains stayed below.

Laura Daniels, water district manager of Milwaukee Water Works, attributed the breakage to the age of the pipes.

“Older pipes have spots that corrode,” Daniels said.

Miller said the six-inch main was repaired by 9 p.m. Thursday by a Milwaukee Water Works crew.

According to Tom Doyle, day circulation supervisor at the Raynor Library, one room in the old Memorial Library flooded about an inch. However, there was no damage.

“Some cardboard boxes with light bulbs were wet,” Doyle said. “That was the only damage.”

Thursday’s incident is not the first water main break near Olin. Last year a water main broke outside the Wehr Chemistry Building, flooding the sidewalk near the Schroeder Complex and the Wehr Life Sciences Building. The pipes burst because too much pressure was applied by the city in order to increase water flow.

However, that was part of a series of 20 main ruptures, whereas Thursday’s break was an isolated case.

Milwaukee has about 2,000 miles of pipes running beneath the streets, according to Daniels, and there are about 700 water main brakes a year.

Most of the breaks occur in December, January and February. During these winter months, the weather chills the ground and stresses the iron in the pipes, often causing breaks or cracks. However, water main breaks are common year-round.