Flooding causes major damages to U of W campus

Duckworth, Richardson, Bulman and Asper among hardest hit by sewage backup

On Thursday, August 21, Sarah Tichborne hadn’t planned to walk home through torrential rain in shorts, sneakers and a gym shirt. But after locker rooms in the Duckworth Centre flooded with sewage water she didn’t have much choice.

“There was ankle-deep water gushing out of the doors to the change room,” the former University of Winnipeg humanities student explains. “It was like something out of a movie.”

The Duckworth Centre was one of 15 buildings on the U of W campus that flooded when a severe thunderstorm came through town two weeks ago. According to the City of Winnipeg, the downpour brought over 70 mm of rain causing sewage lines to back up .

Tichborne admits her belongings weren’t in a locker; rather, she left them on a bench and came back to find her change of clothes floating by her feet. Nothing of Tichborne’s was damaged.

There was ankle-deep water gushing out of the doors to the change room. It was like something out of a movie.

Sarah Tichborne

“I kind of thoroughly enjoyed it,” the 20-year-old jokes. “The people in the gym were all laughing about it.”

Though flooding was severe in Duckworth, destroying the women’s sauna and the auxiliary gym, much of the evidence of the disaster is disappearing. In fact University officials expect the academic and research spaces across campus to be ready for students this week.

“Within 48 hours we had most of the contaminated water removed from campus, and there was a process of a couple of days when we removed all the wet materials,” Jeremy Read, senior executive officer and advisor to the president, says.

Since the storm, the campus has been buzzing with fans drying everything out and restoration crews removing anything damaged by sewage.

Some laboratories in the basement of Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex were also damaged, but Read assures students that the necessities will be available when labs begin September 8.

“In the Richardson the drywall is done, but not completely,” Read says, noting that the spaces are functional though they may be missing paint. “I beg (the students’) patience for having to deal with some of the walls on campus not being painted and in the condition they were in pre-flood, but I know that our students are understanding.”

He expects the campus likely won’t be back to pre-flood conditions until the new year.

Lee Chitty, vice-president internal of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA), says the flooding has been a challenge, especially before orientation week.

“Friday we worked off-site, Monday we started doubling up staff in offices that were usable and figured out how we were going to run the next two weeks of student orientation with so much damage,” Chitty says.

The entirety of the Bulman Student Centre is currently under repair, including the newly finished student advocacy centre.

“The safety status of the space will be changing,” Chitty says. “If at any point we become a construction site we’ll have to figure out which rooms are accessible and which are restricted. But overall students are more than welcome to come visit us in the office.”

It’s not certain yet what the price tag of the damage is, but both the U of W and the UWSA say they are covered by insurance.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Chitty says. “We’ve been working all summer to get spaces ready for students and it seems our efforts are washed away. But at the very least we’ll have a nice new facelift when it’s finished.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 3, 2014)

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