Thawing pipes lead to leaks at Belchertown High, UMass

  • Belchertown High School GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Thursday, January 18, 2018

BELCHERTOWN — A popping sprinkler system at Belchertown High School on Jan. 8 and leaking pipes in a dormitory’s sprinkler system at the University of Massachusetts Amherst caused flooding last week.

Both incidents were caused when water in the systems froze and expanded, causing ruptures.

“It’s like one of the most common things,” said Jeff Pitts, custodian supervisor at Belchertown High.

Pitts said that two sprinkler heads popped off in the vestibule of the high school’s entrance around 5:30 p.m. By the time the water flow was corked, it was about 4 inches deep in the main lobby.

Fortunately, six custodians were at the school, and Pitts was just down the road at the Belchertown Tractor Supply Company.

“We got right on it,” Pitts said.

The water was all cleaned up by about 8 p.m.

“It probably happened at the best time that something like that could happen,” said Pitts, noting that the bursts could have happened when only one custodian was on duty.

The flooding did mean, however, that the girls varsity and junior varsity basketball games that evening against Palmer had to be rescheduled.

Two days earlier at UMass, water began leaking from ruptured pipes in the sprinkler system at Prince Hall at UMass on the morning of Jan. 6.

“When they thawed, they started to leak,” UMass spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said.

The leaks started on the fourth floor, flowing to every floor below. About 60 dorm rooms were affected.

In order to repair the system and clean up the mess, water to Prince Hall was shut off, and students staying in the hall over winter break — about 40 of them — were put up temporarily at Hotel UMass.

The students returned to the dorm rooms Monday morning and most were international students, Dettloff said.

Students whose dorm rooms were affected by the leak were informed by UMass through an email and they were given information about a claims process for damaged property.

Dettloff said warming temperatures also caused a water leak in MacKimmie Hall over the weekend, but that it did not affect any dorm rooms.

“It was quickly taken care of,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.