Thursday, December 12, 2002

Pipes burst at aging Cape high school

Published in the Current

Aging heating equipment led to pipes freezing and bursting in the early morning hours Tuesday at Cape Elizabeth High School, soaking desks and floors in five classrooms and a sizable portion of the library. At least an inch of water was on the floor in several rooms before the water was turned off.

Facilities Manager Ernie MacVane said maintenance staff check the building’s heating and plumbing systems each morning to make sure there are no problems, and at 6:20 a.m. saw that some of the rooms were still cold.

Upon inspection, water was pouring from the heaters in several rooms, soaking through floors and ceilings into rooms below.

Plumbers, off-duty bus drivers (who also serve as custodians) and the district’s maintenance staff were all called in to help deal with the damage and cleanup.

Five computers in the library, including the card catalog computer, were ruined, but only about a dozen books were lost.

“Luckily, we got the books out of the way,” said Librarian Joyce Bell. Some of the books that had been threatened were special collections about the Vietnam Wa r and the Spanish Civil War, as well as reference books.

Water running along ceiling tiles stopped just before it entered a networking equipment closet, said Ginger Raspiller, who takes care of the school’s computer equipment. It could have damaged the building’s internal computer network as well as its connection to the Internet and other school district computer systems.

The computer lab adjoining the library was also spared. But the damaged equipment did include a new printer and image scanner purchased by the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation for teacher Charlotte Hanna’s project to boost math performance for all students, Raspiller said.

MacVane estimated that the cleanup would take “a few days,” and could cost “a couple thousand” dollars each day, just for the labor. About three years ago, he said, when the last pipe break occurred in the school, it cost about $16,000 total.