SCARBOROUGH — The high school’s Plummer Gymnasium and a back entrance hall were damaged when a sprinkler pipe burst on Dec. 23.
The pipe, in a first-floor suspended ceiling in a north entryway off the loading dock that connects to the gym, froze and burst about 7 a.m. on the snow day before vacation, Facilities Manager Norm Justice said Wednesday.
“When a sprinkler goes off it can put out thousands of gallons of water in just a few minutes,” he said. “It flooded Plummer Gym; that is the major problem we’re faced with.”
Justice said he was immediately notified by his employees and was able to get the water turned off. Even so, it had already damaged suspended ceiling tiles in the first floor entry and drywall in the stairwell and in the ceiling below. But the major problem is the damage to the gym, from water that seeped through the gym floor and into the cushioning beneath.
“There’s padding underneath the flooring that acts like a sponge,” Justice said. “When water hits it, it travels underneath the floor and the problem is getting that water out.”
Although a clean-up service used heaters and fans to dry up the floor, they were “not too successful,” Justice said. He said a contractor he brought in to assess the damage “is not optimistic” and for now, and most likely for the next couple of months, the gym will remain closed.
“Anytime a wood floor gets wet, it’s not good,” he said.
Even though the school has a second, newer gym that is used for games, the flooding has been disruptive. Cheering and wrestling practices have been moved to the the cafeteria and the auditorium, Justice said.
Repairs to the back hallway are already under way. Drywall and insulation were replaced to avoid any chance of mold.
“Most of the remediation is under way and complete, other than painting and touch-ups,” Justice said.
The gym floor continues to be the big question.
An appraiser called to look at the damage said he would add $100,000 or more to the budget for the cost of a new floor, Justice said. The repairs are all covered by the school’s insurance policy.
The broken pipe is on the north side of the building in a back entry without an airlock entry – a spot that increases its susceptibility to the cold, Justice said. That, combined with the lack of any formal distribution of heat in the suspended ceiling, contributed to the pipe freezing he said.
Justice said the sprinkler system will be insulated in the future by adding vented ceiling tiles to the area or by putting heat in that portion of the ceiling.