Beckett Hall sewage leak forces 25 students to relocate

Beckett Hall at Claremont McKenna College was flooded with one inch of water due to pipes clogged with wet wipes Nov. 26. (Chloe Ortiz • The Student Life)

Zubin Jotwani CM ’20 woke up in Beckett Hall at Claremont McKenna College around 8 a.m. Nov. 26. to the sound of professional sanitation cleaners vacuuming the sewage water that had flooded his dorm room.

“I put my feet on the ground and there was an [inch] of water,” he said. “My dorm was submerged in this [water] that wasn’t totally clean.”

A clogged pipe in Beckett resulted in one inch of standing water flooding the dorm and required 25 residents to move to temporary housing, according to an email Vice President for Student Affairs Sharon Basso sent to CMC students Nov. 26.

The email to the student body attributed the flooding to a “large amount of wet wipes which were flushed down the toilet(s) somewhere in the building and resulted in a large clog about 30 feet out in the line.”

The clog was cleared by 10 a.m., according to the email, and water service was also renewed at Beckett at that time.

“I don’t have kind words to say to the person who flushed 50 wet wipes down the toilet,” Jotwani said. “But [considering everything], this has been a really smooth process.”

The flooded areas include most of the first floor with the exception of the west annex rooms, Basso wrote in an email to TSL. Students in the affected first floor rooms have been placed in temporary housing in available spaces in on-campus residence halls.

“The College is replacing and repairing all hallway carpeting, cleaning and sanitizing residence hall room floors, replacing some areas of drywall, and thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing common areas and bathrooms,” Basso wrote. “Air quality tests have come back with no evidence of any air quality problems.”

Students will be able to return to their dorm rooms seven to 10 days after Dec. 6, though they may also elect to stay in their temporarily reassigned housing until the semester ends, Basso wrote.

Jotwani anticipates being able move out of his temporary housing at Crown Hall soon.

“It’s a new dorm,” he said. “I don’t know anyone there. It’s a bit of a disruption, but we hopefully should be back in Beckett before finals.”

CMC has made a complete inventory of the flooded rooms and will be replacing students’ damaged items or professionally cleaning them as needed. Basso wrote that the cost of repairs is unclear, and the college has insurance for this type of event.

Kelly Lyons CM ’21 was also forced to move out because of the flooding. She said the day after the flooding, a dean met each student in their room in Beckett after normal business hours to discuss items that had been affected by the water.

“They were really diligent about recording the costs and what it would take to replace those items,” Lyons said. “We are in the process of finalizing those claims and working with the school to get compensation to replace those items.”

Lyons said her room had three to four inches of standing water, so many of her belongings were lost.

“It was a little harder than expected [to inventory my things]. I think a lot of us thought that more of everybody’s stuff can be saved,” she said. “But given the water damage and where the water was from, it seemed that the best option for everybody’s safety was just to remove it.”

Despite the move and ongoing cleaning process, both Jotwani and Lyons were satisfied with the Dean of Students Office’s response to the incident.

“How [DOS] has communicated the steps they are taking throughout this process [makes me] confident about moving back in,” Lyons said. “It seems like they’re really going through the steps to make sure that everything is safe and clean and that we feel comfortable in our space again.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Kelly Lyons’ CM ’21 last name as Lyon in some places. The article has been updated to correct the spelling. TSL regrets this error.
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