Consortium Library open after flooding from burst water main

The library is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Friday, Feb. 23, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24.

Crews work to unearth damaged section of water main. Photo by Matthew Schmitz.

Update 11:48 a.m. 2-22-2024: The north entrance of the library is open, but much of the north parking lot is closed for repairs of the water main.

The Consortium Library reopened on Wednesday, Feb. 21, after closing on Monday and Tuesday because of flooding on the north side of the building due to a damaged water main. 

According to an email from UAA, the library is returning to limited hours through Saturday. A return to normal operating hours is pending repairs. 

The water main supplied water to the newer section of the library, and after being shut off, the fire suppression systems and bathrooms were left without water — leading to the need for a fire-watch patrol in the building. 

In an interview with The Northern Light, Stephen Rollins, dean of the Consortium Library, said that staff were helping with fire watch, leading to the limited hours. 

Rollins said that the older part of the library, where ARLIS is located, still has water supplied by a different pipe than the newer section. 

He said that the bathrooms and fire suppression systems are still operational in that area and they are asking students to use those bathrooms and the bathrooms in the Social Science Building for the time being. 

The damage occurred in the north parking lot of the Consortium Library. Photo by Matthew Schmitz.

Also, he said, all study spaces in the library are open and fire alarm systems throughout the entire library are still functional. 

The north entrance of the library remains closed because of the excavation taking place at the damaged section of pipe. Rollins said that they are working with UAA Facilities to create a safe pass around the construction so the north entrance can be reopened.

The south entrance and the gate which separates the library and the Social Science Building — which normally closes at 6 p.m. — will remain open until 8 p.m., he said.

Rollins said to watch university emails for updates about future operations. He also mentioned the RAVE Guardian app, UAA’s safety app, and the library’s website and social media as  ways that people can get updates. 

Rollins said that the return to normal operations will be dependent on when the water main is fixed and water is restored to the library.

In an interview, Chirs McConnell, director of UAA Facilities Planning and Construction, said that a damaged valve is suspected of failing and that it’s currently being unearthed to determine the cause of failure. 

But until the valve can be examined, the exact cause of the burst will remain unknown, he said. 

McConnell said that he has an “optimistic scenario” and “pessimistic scenario” in mind. In the better case, he said that the valve may just have some damaged bolts, which can easily be replaced. 

Photo by Matthew Schmitz.

If the valve itself is damaged, he said, then that will require a greater amount of work to replace the valve and surrounding pipe. 

McConnell said that the former would be a quicker fix while the latter would probably require work that extends through the weekend. 

As of Wednesday evening, crews were still working through several feet of frozen ground to dig up the valve.

Aside from some water seeping into areas along the north side of the library and into the basement under ARLIS, McConnel said that there was not extensive flooding of the library itself. 

McConnell said that there was no major damage to the library and services such as wifi remain uninterrupted. UAA’s custodial contractors continue to dry out the area, he said. 

But, whatever the cost of replacement, it will be on UAA. 

In an interview with The Northern Light, Sandy Baker, a spokesperson with Anchorage Water Waste and Utility, said that they supply water to the university but do not own the pipes or valves located on university property. 

She said that, similar to how city ownership of underground pipes stop at a residential property line, the pipes on campus belong to UAA.

She said that they responded to the flooding on Monday to help close the valves controlling the water, at the request of UAA.

Photo by Matthew Schmitz.

Asked about what could cause this kind of damage, she said there were some other potential problems, such as corrosion, pipe shear and erosion caused by soil and water movement around the pipe. 

Anchorage Water and Waste Utilities is not being contracted to replace the damaged section, she said. 

The work is being done by a general contractor hired by the university called Point MacKenzie. 

The associate vice-chancellor of facilities, Kim Mahoney, said in an interview with The Northern Light that she guessed the cost of fixing the pipe could range from $100,000 to $200,000.

She said that the burst pipe demonstrates the aging of campus and noted the backlog of deferred maintenance costs accrued by the university, estimated at over $1.4 billion dollars for the entire university system. 

How long until the damage is repaired remains to be seen.

For further updates about the library, see the

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