What caused the water main to break and how was the emergency handled?
At 9:50 pm on Monday, SDSU suffered a significant failure of its main chilled water line that runs under Centennial Walkway. According to witnesses at the scene, the break in the 24-inch water line created a 4-6 foot geyser, and resulted in a major waterfall down the steps to the library dome. Quick thinking responding firefighters stretched a fire hose around the doors of the library and pressurized the line. The resulting 6-inch high mini dam diverted much of the water around the library entry and kept most of the water out of the library.
The precise cause of the break is still unknown. The line was approximately 20 years old (relatively youthful for such infrastructure) so some sort of localized pressure build-up is suspected. Further investigations of our operational data and records and of the line itself will continue to look for a more precise explanation.
Plant Operations staff were on the scene shortly after the break was discovered, and began the process of repair and cleaning that evening. Despite significant flooding in the basement of Love Library, by its opening on Tuesday morning, all water was gone, the cleanup was substantially complete, and the library was open for business. Interim Library Dean John Cawhtorne reports there was no damage to Library collections, and the environmentally sensitive special collections has independent cooling to ensure appropriate temperature and humidity levels are maintained.
Restoring cooling to the campus as a whole is a more involved undertaking. Approximately 90 percent of the campus is impacted by this failure of our main distribution loop. Efforts to bring a large section of the campus on-line by isolating the broken section of pipe failed when aging valves could not fully close and pressurize the remainder of the system. An emergency contract was issued to repair the main line and bring the entire campus back on line. After the repairs are completed, and Centennial walk is repaired, subsequent studies will be performed to evaluate further system restoration to help ensure the continued, and hopefully continuous, operation of our campus utility systems.