Erin Pirro awoke from a midday nap feeling groggy. The second-year English major slid off the twin-sized bed of her suite in SUNY New Paltz’s Mohonk Hall and headed for the bathroom. Pirro stopped short in front of a puddle of water that crept out from under the closed door.
When Pirro opened the door to her bathroom, she saw about an inch of brownish water creeping off the tile stopper at the foot of the door. Now she was wide awake. She frantically informed her roommates about the issue and hurried to save her valuables as the water line slowly rose. Within 15 minutes the mysterious water slowly swallowed her common room floor.
“I immediately went into crisis mode: I unplugged my video games and packed my computer up and put them where the water could not reach,” Pirro said.
On Sunday, Feb. 16, Mohnonk basement residents moved out, again, after sewer backup water seeped from bathroom drains and flooded the floor.
Students had just returned to campus after classes were canceled during the village’s water-emergency and were once again forced to relocate. Other residents of the dorm were forced to shower in the locker rooms, friends’ dorms and off-campus while the school hurriedly addressed water and sewage malfunctions. Corinna Caracci, director of resident life, said that 25 students were temporarily displaced.
John Shupe, assistant vice president of facilities management, explained that the flooding was caused by a clog in the dorm’s sewage system. He claimed that a portion of the pipe had cracked, which allowed dirt to enter the pipe and clog it. Since the water could not exit through this pipe, Shupe said that the water was pushed back through sinks inside of the building. He added that although the water was mostly water from sinks and showers, there may have been some toilet-sewage mixed in as well.
“We have the infrastructure of a small city [on campus] and sometimes failures occur,” Shupe said.
The school spent the next few weeks after the initial flood ripping out soaked carpet and replacing portions of the sheetrock on the walls of the suites. Shupe said that approximately 12 rooms needed to be renovated. They also replaced the damaged portion of the sewage line with PVC piping and fixed a main break on the dorm’s water line with a steel pipe. Shupe estimates that repairs will cost the college around $70,000.
While the school couldn’t keep Pirro’s entire suite intact, they allowed her to live with her roommate. Luckily, her mother lives 15 minutes away from the campus, so she stayed with her for about a week. According to Shupe, other students were sent to vacant rooms, tripled up with friends in other dorms and lived with friends off-campus. Most residents of the bottom floor returned to their rooms late last week.
Pirro found a home elsewhere on campus, opting to live with her roommate in Shawangunk Hall in a new suite. However, Pirro’s return was soured by the loss of her Nintendo Switch gaming system. In the rush to grab her belongings, she forgot the device and her games in the room. When she returned to find the console, it was gone. Pirro says the school has offered to compensate her loss as well as pay for her roommate’s fan.
“Our facilities department did everything they could to return our students back to their rooms as quickly as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience that this issue has caused them,” Shupe said.