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WEL 6th floor floods again over break

Room 601 in the West-Edens Link may be cursed.

Four months after a resident caused a massive flood in the new dorm by accidentally knocking a water sprinkler head in 601's closet, a contractor working to renovate the room set off the sprinkler again while using a heat gun Jan. 4.

The Durham Fire Department responded to the scene and cut off the water supply to the sprinkler within 10 minutes, but half the sixth floor, halls and rooms directly under the activated area and the basement vending area were flooded. Some of the rooms were also hit hard by the original flood in September and residents said they are somewhat upset with the way in which the University handled the situation.

"This time we're frustrated that we didn't get an e-mail," said senior Emily Kelly, who lives in room 605. "They [later] told us that they didn't want us to panic, but we felt like it should have been our choice.... I heard [before getting back] from a friend of a friend of a [resident advisor], but we all would have appreciated a heads-up."

Director of Housing Services Eddie Hull could not be reached for comment.

Kelly said the University should have let residents know.

"We'd really like to have a get together with a couple of people of some sort of rank who have some influence to create a policy for how students should be treated in the future," she said.

The University once again brought in AfterDisaster--a company specializing in cleaning up floods and other accidents--to handle the clean-up, including expelling water from the building and setting up dehumidifiers and fans.

"Mostly we just had to dry out some carpets," said John Duncan, facility manager for the West Campus area that includes the WEL. He said one room located a floor below the incident will require sheetrock repair.

Neighbors with books, papers and clothes on their floors suffered the worst damage. Kelly said all of last semester's books she had to buy after the last flood were destroyed.

"That's $500 in text books that I would like to keep for future reference, but I'm not sure I want to shell out the cash for once again," she said.

Kelly added that she is still working with the University to get some reimbursement for the first flood and hopes to get more money back this time because the most recent flood is the fault of the contractor.

Senior and sixth floor resident Erica Featherstone said she lost lecture notes, textbooks and music sheets in the flood.

"I'm not worried about monetary damage," she said. "It's living in the mold and stench that's the problem."

The University told students it will hire professionals to clean all the carpets, Kelly said.

Following the first flood, administrators announced they would install screens on sprinklers in the WEL to protect them from further accidents. But Duncan said the University could not put screens on the sprinklers.

"We did install signs to warn about hanging things or tampering by each head right after the last incident," he said. "We plan to replace the closet sprinkler heads with another type after spring semester move-out. We need to do that when we are unoccupied and with the closets empty."

Robert Tai contributed to this story.

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