Greenville school staffers make quick work of burst pipe

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 11:11 am on Thursday, January 09, 2014

Standing water in the upper elementary section of Walnut Hills Elementary in Greenville is shown after a pipe froze and burst over the weekend. Superintendent Pete Haines said thanks to swift action by school maintenance staff and Brad’s Cleaners, a local company, the water was removed before any significant damage was done. The carpets were saved and the school, which also had several classrooms flooded, is ready for students to return.

GREENVILLE — While students enjoyed their third straight snow day at home, officials at Greenville Public Schools can finally rest easy.

Walnut Hills Elementary School is ready for students today after this week’s frigid temperatures caused a pipe to burst, flooding a section of the school.

Sometime Saturday evening a copper, clean water line in the upper elementary wing at Walnut Hills burst, filling the wall space and then spilling into the hallway and several classrooms, according to Superintendent Pete Haines.

The issue was discovered early Sunday morning by a teacher, who then notified Principal Susan Ayres. Around 2 inches of standing water had filled one hallway and several classrooms in one section of the school.

The probable cause? The subzero temperatures.

“It likely froze as it was in a space that was directly vented to the outside air,” Haines said. “While the space and pipe are probably at least 40 or 50 years old, it had never had a problem until then.”

Because the water was noticed so early, maintenance staff and later a local cleaning service were able to pump the water out before any significant damage was done.

“Within minutes, our maintenance staff had shut off the leak, begun repairs to the pipe and begun removing the water,” Haines said. “I will tell you, I am exceedingly proud of Ron Hofmann and our custodial/maintenance staff.”

Standing water in the upper elementary section of Walnut Hills Elementary in Greenville is shown after a pipe froze and burst over the weekend. — Courtesy photo

The maintenance crew began to pump the water using carpet extraction equipment brought from other school buildings. Brad’s Cleaners of Greenville arrived later Sunday afternoon with high volume equipment, according to Hofmann.

“With the joint effort between school personnel and Brad’s, initial clean up of standing water went quickly,” he said.

The standing water was gone and carpets were being dried by 2:30 p.m., less than six hours after the leak was first discovered.

But a lot needed to be done in order to dry the school out before any additional damage or mold had the chance to take hold. Haines said crews drilled holes under lockers and cabinets to pump air through in order to speed the drying process.

With school canceled Monday, the crew had an extra day to monitor the moisture and ensure the carpets were drying. Haines said by Tuesday morning, the school was ready for students to come back (even though Mother Nature had other ideas).

“Clearly, had we not closed the district on Monday, that building was out of use for sure. But, by Monday night, it would be difficult to tell we had any issue there,” he said.

There was no permanent damage to any of the school’s property, other than a few cardboard boxes and paper, Haines added.

The affected section of the school will continue to be monitored for moisture content, but all is repaired and awaiting the return of students.

“We are all cleaned up and all of the rooms are put back together and ready for school,” Ayres said.

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