Ormsby basement flooded before term, fire in Wriston

On Sunday, Jan. 1 the Lawrence University custodial team shut down the Ormsby Hall basement due to two floods in Ormsby’s laundry room. According to Assistant Vice President of Facilities Operations Joseph King the basement flooded twice, once on Saturday, Dec. 31 and then again on Sunday, Jan. 1. The flooding was discovered by Ormsby resident and Anders Hanhan, who called campus safety upon his discovery. 

“There [were] three inches of stagnant dirty water sitting in the laundry room.” said Hanhan “Behind the laundry room, there was water leaking into different staff offices… It was New Year’s Day, and nobody was working.”  

In spite of reduced staff, Campus Safety managed to figure out the situation in the short term, said Hanhan. The custodial team and then an independent contractor were contacted who were able to clean up and fix the pipes temporarily, according to King. 

Although Hanhan initially thought that the problem was an issue with one of the laundry machines, King said that it was likely caused by a crack in one of Ormsby’s pipes. King believes this was caused by flushing various non flushable objects such as paper towels, wet wipes and personal care products. 

“Students have been reminded to not flush items that do not belong in a toilet,” said King. “We have [another] contractor coming Jan. 17 to do a temporary repair that should hold us over until summer break when we will have a permanent repair done.”  

The following Friday, Jan. 6, Campus Safety and the fire department closed the Wriston Art Center and Memorial Hall due to a minor electrical fire, causing classes to be canceled in both buildings. According to a statement from King as well as Vice President for Finance and Administration Samir Datta, Campus Safety, the Fire Safety coordinator and supervisor, facility employees, and the Appleton Fire Department met outside Wriston Art Center after the fire to determine the cause. 

The issue was caused by a malfunctioning box fan located in the transformer room which had accidentally sparked a small fire. The Wriston fire alarm was alerted at 12:20 p.m. Smoke from the fire then traveled through the basement and reached Memorial Hall half an hour later, triggering its alarm at 12:51 p.m. The fire was contained by the fire department, and ventilating fans were brought in to clear the building. 

“Classes in Wriston were canceled due to the smoke smell, and an outside company was contracted to place air scrubbers in the building from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning,” said King. “The Wriston Art Center opened for use again on Sunday afternoon.”