Water break affects campus

Carnegie Mellon students may find themselves between a rock and a dry place, after a water main near the Heron Hill water pumping station at the corner of Centre Avenue and N. Dithridge Street in Oakland burst around 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Many campus buildings, as well as off-campus Oakland apartments, are either without water or have very low water pressure.

Carnegie Mellon got word of the break at about 2:30 p.m. from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, according to Marty Altschul, university engineer and director of Facilities Management Services (FMS). Since the University's water supply is dependent on the city's, there was nothing that university personnel could do directly to repair the line.

"It was a break in their line, not ours," Altschul said.

Altschul assigned different groups of personnel, including residence life staff, university police, and FMS members, to assess water flow in different campus buildings. Carnegie Mellon is served by the Heron Hill reservoir as well as the Highland Park reservoir, and while the university is aware of which buildings are served by each reservoir, there are cross valves between the reservoirs and personnel can never be certain where the water for each building is coming from at any given time.

Since the water and sewer systems work partially based on gravity, the buildings that are experiencing the lowest water pressure are those at the highest elevations, which are the hill residences and the buildings on main campus. Buildings at lower elevations, such as Scaife Hall and Roberts Engineering Hall, reported better water pressure.

Carnegie Mellon has domestic water systems as well as central cooling systems, both of which are operating on reduced capacity. FMS advised the campus community to shut off as much electronic equipment as possible.

At 4:40 p.m., the School of Computer Science shut down non-facilities machines due to the rising temperature of the Wean Hall machine room.

"It's like stopping your car when the too-hot light goes on instead of waiting until the engine is cut," Altschul said.

University Police's involvement in the crisis has been minimal.

"It's not a police problem, it's a facilities management problem," said Sergeant Steven Sabol.

They did, however, help FMS install 10 temporary portable restrooms in the Morewood Gardens parking lot, another 10 outside of Margaret Morrison near the corner of Frew Street, and five at the intersection of Forbes and Morewood, and distribute hand sanitizer to those using the facilities.

Roads have remained open in the immediate vicinity of the university; however, in Oakland, North Dithridge Street is blocked off at the intersection of Bayard Street, and Centre Avenue is blocked off west of North Craig Street, as of 7 p.m. Access has remained open to all on- and off-campus university housing areas.

University dining services will continue its regular hours, according to an e-mail sent by Tim Michael, director of housing and dining services.

The Heinz School has canceled all evening classes for tonight, only the second class-meeting for the fall semester.

The break will be repaired between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m., at which point the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will begin to refill the Heron Hill reservoir, according to Altschul.

At 6 p.m., Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority reported that they expect full water pressure to be restored by 6 a.m. Friday. In the meantime, the department has asked all affected Oakland residents to conserve water as much as possible.

More information is available from the Carnegie Mellon web site.