The University Record, November 2, 1998

Task force studying flooding problems

By Elizabeth Hall
Business Operations

The University has formed a task force to address storm water management and flooding issues after flooding in many campus buildings last summer. The University has been addressing storm water quality management issues since 1996. The task force will study the quantity of water on campus in addition to its quality. The group will look at both short-term fixes for individual buildings and long-term solutions for the campus as a whole, and hopes to have a study completed by next spring.

Task force members are: Terry Alexander, manager of environmental programs, Occupational Safety and Environmental Health; John Neault, manager of civil engineering, Facilities Planning and Design; Dave Gilbertson, plumbing shop foreman, Utilities and Maintenance Services; Greg Metz, manager of the power plant; and Mark Cornwell, senior horticultural assistant, Grounds and Waste Management Services.

Alexander, coordinator of the task force, said it is important to note that problems encountered before the study is finished will be addressed. “We’re fortunate to be moving out of the heavy wet weather season. But if problems arise before next spring, a system is in place to correct them.”

The Plant Extension Department already is working on temporary fixes on a priority basis. Staff in buildings with water issues should report the problems to Plant Operations, 647-2059, as usual. The department will forward the information to the task force.

Alexander said the goals of the group are to address flooding issues on the entire campus and to produce an updated plan for managing storm water at the University. This will be achieved through three main approaches: dry weather screening, an infrastructure capacity study and a study of the characteristics of targeted buildings.

Dry weather screening is relatively straightforward, Alexander said. The University has been working on this project as part of its storm water management program, in place since 1996.

During periods of dry weather, the storm water system is checked for water flow that should not be present. A monitoring project has been under way since last year, when South Campus was analyzed. This year, Central Campus is being monitored. North Campus and the Medical Campus are scheduled for the next two years, but the program may be accelerated.

The infrastructure capacity study will assess the capacity of the University’s current storm water system and analyze whether the existing system is adequate to handle the flow of storm water on campus. This study may expand into the city system to check capacity all the way from University property to the Huron River.

A consultant will be hired to study run-off patterns and the size of the system. The system should be large enough to handle a 50- or 100-year “rain event,” which is defined as 4.1 to 4.5 inches of rain per 24 hours. Landscaping issues also will be addressed, since water can be directed away from buildings through landscape design.

Analyzing the characteristics of specific buildings will take several months, Alexander said. The task force will meet with building managers, tour the facilities and try to determine why the buildings flooded. Alexander said most flooding was through basements, but there were several roof leaks.

Some of the hardest hit buildings were Weidenbach Hall, the Cooley Building, the Kraus Natural Science Building, the Social Work Building and Angell Hall.

“The administration is very concerned with providing functional work spaces,” Alexander said. “Our overall goal is to provide a good, clean place to work and study for all faculty, students and staff. It’s time to take another look at the big picture and address storm water management on our campus.”

Questions about storm water management or flooding on campus can be sent to Alexander via e-mail to

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