Drip, Drip, Drip

Over the holiday break, a device called a backflow preventer was scheduled for installation on the Laurel Street water main that serves four Moravian buildings: Collier Hall of Science, the HUB, and Rau Hassler and Jo Smith dormitories. For residents of Jo Smith, it couldn’t come soon enough.

The backflow preventer, required by city code, is installed on a water main so that in the event of a break, any water left in the building can’t be siphoned into the street by the sudden reversal of water pressure.

Unfortunately for Jo Smith Hall, its water main decided to rupture early on December 5.

When the pipe broke under the building’s east wing, the water flow caused several sinkholes to open, said Robert R. Windolph, dean of student life. The building was closed to occupants that morning so the extent of damage could be assessed.

The west wing rests on a different part of the foundation slab and was declared habitable by the consulting engineers. Its 47 residents were permitted to go back to their rooms that evening.

But 38 students in the east wing went back to their rooms just long enough to pick up essentials for the night. Windolph said most stayed with friends in other dorms on campus or were given accommodation at the Comfort Suites in South Bethlehem.

Their nomadic existence continued two more days as the foundation was braced and the sinkholes filled.

East wing residents were allowed to return the evening of Friday, December 7 — a day that may live in infamy for the rest of Americans but came as a welcome relief for the displaced persons of Jo Smith East.

January 8, 2002

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