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The hallway on the ninth floor of Harnwell College House on Jan. 6.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Multiple floors in Harnwell and Harrison College Houses flooded over winter break due to cracked pipes that resulted from open windows letting in cold air. 

The flooding — which occurred on Dec. 25 in Harnwell and Dec. 26 in Harrison — impacted 96 residents in Harnwell and 117 in Harrison. The eighth and ninth floors in Harnwell and the 11th and 12th floors in Harrison saw the most damage. In Harnwell, there was additional damage all the way down to the mezzanine level, while in Harrison, damage extended to some areas of the seventh floor. 

The damage in both buildings included an inch of water in common spaces, kitchens, bathrooms, or bedrooms. Higher floors have more flooding than lower ones, according to Paul Forchielli, the senior associate director for building operations in Residential Services.

Damage to the mezzanine in Harnwell included broken and missing ceiling tiles.

Between the two buildings, ten students were offered alternate accommodations in the Sheraton, located at 3549 Chestnut St.

In both buildings, Forchielli said multiple open windows were found around the area where the flooding started. In Harnwell, pipes inside two fan coil units, which are responsible for heating and cooling the building, broke. In Harrison, a pipe leading to a fan coil unit on the 12th floor cracked.

Forchielli said that some of the pipes froze and then cracked, which caused them to release water once they thawed. Temperatures in University City ranged from 18 to 29 degrees Fahrenheit and from 17 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26, respectively, according to AccuWeather.

“We’ve reached out to residents on four separate occasions to remind them to close the windows and latch the windows,” Forchielli added. “[The week of] the 23rd, the college houses had the RAs and the GRAs help to check, and we also had Allied [Universal] patrolling throughout the break period looking for windows open.”

Credit: Nitin Seshadri Missing ceiling tiles in the mezzanine of Harnwell College House on Jan. 10.

According to a Dec. 27 email from Penn Residential Services sent to the affected Harrison residents, repairs included removal of the cove base, the strip of vinyl at the base of the wall, in student rooms and common areas to allow the water to dry out. Belfor, a property restoration company performing the repairs, has placed air-moving and drying equipment in both buildings.

In some areas, according to Forchielli, drywall had to be removed and replaced, with Harrison requiring more drywall replacements than Harnwell. Replacement and repainting of drywall in student rooms was prioritized, with common areas coming later.

“For anyone who registered for winter break, they got a note within about six hours of the incident happening,” Forchielli said. “For folks who were impacted by the water … we got them a note within about 24 hours of the incident.” 

College sophomore Niko Amber, who lives in Harrison, had her room and possessions significantly damaged by the flooding. Still, she said that she and her roommates were not notified of the incident by the University.

“One of my roommates saw that there was flooding on Sidechat,” Amber said. “She told my [other] roommate, who was local. And when she got there, our room had an inch of water, and it was mainly concentrated in the living room and, actually, my room.”

After calling Facilities, Amber and her roommates were told that no water had been found in their room, and they had to send a picture of the damage to be placed on the list of affected residents, Amber said. A subsequent email from the University told them that the repairs would be completed in their suite by Jan. 9.

Upon entering her room on Jan. 9 to clean up, Amber told The Daily Pennsylvanian that her possessions were in disarray and covered in mold. Amber added that the cove base was still missing from the walls of the suite.

“All of my stuff was moved onto my bed. There was stuff that clearly had gotten wet and was still there in my room. I had things that were very clearly moldy,” Amber said. “My room was covered in drywall dust.”

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil Flooding during winter break damaged the walls on the eleventh floor of Harrison College House.

Amber added that her severe allergies made the situation more challenging. 

“I have severe allergies,” Amber added. “So as soon as I walked in there, I got really, really sick, and I’m now looking for another place to stay for the next few days.”

Amber also said that there was a lack of communication from the University about the process of getting reimbursed for damaged possessions.

“I also have no idea what I’m supposed to do about my damaged items,” Amber said. “My rug is completely moldy and they just rolled it up and put it next to my bed. I have other things that are covered in water … we have cords and electronics that don’t work.”

Forchielli said that residents were given information about how to get in touch with Risk Management.

Harrison residents may see more work going on in the hallways over the next few weeks due to the replaced drywall needing repainting, according to Forchielli. There will also be communication at a later date about workers coming in to replace the removed cove base in student rooms.

In a written statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Director of Communications and External Relations Barbara Lea-Kruger added that the new cove base should arrive this week, with installation starting later this week or early next week.

There was also an unrelated flood in the Quad over break that affected eight residents, Forchielli said. He added that Rodin College House was not affected by flooding.

Last October, an activated fire sprinkler on the fifth floor of Harnwell flooded the residences of 27 students.