Water leak in Mehling forces students to relocate and damages belongings

By Madison Pfeifer | March 23, 2019 2:55pm
The sixth floor of Mehling Hall is still in the process of drying after the flooding. Other floors were affected, but not to the same extent.
Media Credit: David Jacobs / The Beacon

A flooding incident on the sixth floor of Mehling Hall has forced several residents to relocate to new rooms and dry out textbooks, repair electronics and replace other personal belongings that were damaged by water.

According to Director of Public Safety Gerry Gregg, the incident started Sunday, March 17 at around 2 p.m. when the glass globe of a sprinkler head broke and water started streaming out. According to several sources from the sixth floor, the sprinkler broke because a resident from the sixth floor hung clothes on the sprinkler head in her room.

Large amounts of water seeped into the floors and walls below all the way down to the basement, although the sixth and fifth floors were the most affected. Physical Plant is currently working to rip out the affected floors’ carpet to avoid mold problems.

One of the rooms is still drying due to the flooding. Displaced residents have taken up living with other Mehling residents as their rooms finish drying.
by David Jacobs / The Beacon

On the fifth and sixth floor, there is a strong and distinct odor and fans have been set up in an effort to dry the water out. According to Gregg, an outside contractor has been hired to deal with repairs and potential mold and mildew in the floors, walls and pipes. 

According to Director of Residence Life Andrew Weingarten, around 20 residents from various floors have been forced to relocate within Mehling as a result of the incident. All roommate pairs were able to stay together.

Weingarten said that the University is not being held responsible for the damage. 

“The University is not responsible for damage to students’ personal belongings,” Weingarten said in an email. “We urge students to arrange renters insurance for this reason and we provide guidance and instruction on that at the time of housing sign up.”

The Mehling Hall resident assistants and assistant hall director said they could not comment on the incident. Morgan Palm, hall director of Mehling, could not be reached for comment.

“The residents of Mehling Hall have shown tremendous patience and flexibility during this unfortunate incident and we appreciate it,” Weingarten said in the email. 

Last Sunday, the building's fire alarm went off at 2 p.m. and Public Safety and the Portland Fire Department were alerted and arrived at the scene. The responders made sure there was no fire, shut down the sprinkler systems, arranged to have the broken sprinkler head fixed, reset the fire alarm system and contacted Physical Plant so they could begin the cleanup process. 

One of the fifth-floor bathrooms in the process of drying. Other floors didn't experience as much flooding as the sixth but were still affected.
by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Mehling residents had to wait outside for several hours while the Portland Fire Department shut off the sprinklers. Mehling resident Kendyl Prentice, a freshman nursing major, said residents had to wait outside for four to five hours, although Gregg said he remembered students having to wait outside for around two hours.

The carpets of the building were soaked and Prentice said she was stepping in puddles on the floor of her room after the leak. She also said she was lucky because most of her belongings were not on the floor. Some of her items on the floor were “soggy,” while other residents had worse damage done to their personal items.

Freshman business major and Mehling resident Chloe Bartels, who arrived back on campus after the incident, said she was nervous about the state of her belongings while waiting outside of Mehling.

“We were just all super worried because we didn’t know what sprinkler systems went off and whose stuff got ruined,” Bartels said. “Everyone thought it was an actual fire.”

Prentice, who has been relocated to another room, pointed out the timing of the incident was inconvenient. 

“I mean it’s kind of busy with school and there’s a lot going on at once,” she said. “I’m just kind of grateful it wasn’t worse. It could’ve been a lot worse than it was. I’m respectful for the people trying to figure out how to make accommodations because I know it’s not what anyone expected.”

Madison Pfeifer is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at pfiefer21@up.edu.