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Officials respond to WEL flooding

Sunday's flooding of the West-Edens Link left over 30 students homeless the last two nights, but most of the new building's 350 residents were able to return early Monday morning.

A "small design flaw" in a fire sprinkler head that was accidentally knocked off in a sixth-floor closet triggered all of the hall sprinklers on the floor to go off, said Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta. It took about 90 minutes before officials shut them off.

"I'm not happy it took almost an hour and a half to stop the sprinklers," Moneta said. "Now there are a couple of pieces of information we need to find: why it took so long to turn it off, and how to make sure this will not happen again."

The damage to the rooms varied, but was concentrated on the top three floors of Building B in rooms near the elevators, residents said. The room the problem originated in received the most extensive damage, and its occupants will most likely not be able to return for at least three more days. Other rooms that were evacuated Sunday could be ready as early as today.

Signs were posted on doors of the rooms with the worst damage that read: "Please do not enter this room.... Make other sleeping arrangements.... We are working on cleaning up this area as fast as we can!"

Moneta said students' homeowner insurance would cover their personal damages, and that the University has already hired an outside company, AfterDisaster, to bring in fans, dehumidifiers and water vacuums to clean the WEL itself. He said the University would work with students who had problems, and that the University was prepared to provide temporary housing for any of the evacuated students, although none requested it.

"As far as clean-up, [University administrators] did a really good job," said junior Nick Graf, a resident on the third floor of the WEL. "There are two big fans going on outside my room and our carpet is almost already dry. I must say I'm pretty impressed with the clean-up efforts."

Moneta plans to send residents a letter about the situation, but some students complained about the inadequate communication from the University.

"I think people were pretty frustrated with the situation last night. No one knew what was going on and we felt like no one knew what was going on," Graf said. "It's a new dorm and I just don't think [the University] was prepared for something like this to happen so soon-they didn't even know how to get the sprinklers turned off."

To avoid a repeat of Sunday night, the University will try to fix the sprinkler system.

"In a building of that magnitude, there are bound to be some minor problems," Moneta said. "We just need to find a simple solution, like a little cage that does not block the water but is there so that if you are putting a box on the shelf, it hits the cage, not the sprinkler."

WEL Residence Coordinator Stephanie Carter said none of her residents had expressed concern about a repeat incident.

"I didn't hear anyone speaking about it," she said. "Of course it could happen. It happened once, so why couldn't it happen again?"

Jennifer Song contributed to this story.

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