More than a quarter of the McTavish reservoir’s contents gushed through campus into downtown Montreal between 4 p.m. Monday and 2 a.m. Wednesday, when an 88-year-old water main gave way during construction near the intersection of Pine and Doctor Penfield.
The cause of the break has yet to be determined, according to city spokesperson Valérie De Gagné, who said that an excavation of the pipe would be underway soon to determine the cause.
A majority of the water’s flow had abetted by 7 p.m. on Monday, but water continued to pour down University until late Tuesday night. At the time, McGill and two city officials gave three contradicting reports to press about the source of the continued flooding. The school reported a second break in an 8-inch pipe, one city official reported to the Montreal Gazette a second break in a 54-inch water main, and another told The Daily that all the valves to the first break had not yet been shut off.
“It seems that they were all sort of right,” according to Director of Internal Communications Doug Sweet. “What we had was the equivalent of an 8-inch water main coming out of that first break.”
The school is now scrambling to relocate classes and offices, continue de-icing main passageways, and de-humidify buildings. The University has barely begun the process of calculating the costs of repairs and contingency measures, according to Sweet, since many of them have yet to be incurred.
The University has contracted the services of Première-Action, a disaster restoration company, to help clean up buildings, but McGill’s own grounds services are doing most of the outside work salting and de-icing affected areas.
The James Annex, which is attached to the James Administration building and houses the University’s graphics department, seems to have been hit the hardest. The Annex sits on the slope that faces the reservoir, and a window at ground level broke during the flood, inundating the offices inside. It will not reopen for “weeks, perhaps months” according to Sweet.
The Wong building and 3435 University, which houses the School of Environment, also incurred significant damage. The administration is unsure of when the buildings will be reopened.
Some of the school’s archived administrative records were damaged – as they were during a September 2011 flood – when Service Point experienced some flooding, and have been sent to freeze-drying facilities for restoration.
At the McLennan library, “the basement experienced some flooding, but the flooding was not extensive,” said Sabrina Hanna, the library system’s media relations officer, in an email to The Daily. Most of the library’s collection has been moved to different floors until the necessary repairs are conducted, she added.
Other affected buildings include Leacock, Macdonald, McConnell, and the James Administration building, although no further classes have been cancelled, and the buildings are expected to be fully operational within the next few days.