Pomona Unprepared to Deal with Rain

Recent downpours in Claremont left the Pomona College Maintenance Department struggling to deal with flooding and leakage.During the storms, the department received 400 separate calls regarding leaks in academic buildings and dormitories.Bob Robinson, Assistant Vice President and Director of Facilities and Campus Services, said the department is not staffed to respond to such an onslaught of calls, and it was difficult to address all problems, especially while it was still raining.Than Volk PO ’10 was one of many students who called maintenance when water accumulated in his room during the rainstorms. Volk said his room has flooded seven or eight times this year, and although housekeeping was dispatched each time to clean it up, the source of the leak has still not been determined.“They can’t figure out where it’s coming from,” Volk said. “It seems like a simple problem. There’s a leak, there’s obviously a source, and they should be able to block off the source.”Robinson said it is difficult for maintenance to repair existing leaks while it is raining, and that the best option is usually to temporarily stop up the holes. However, now that the rain has momentarily subsided, Robinson said maintenance should be able to permanently repair many of the leaks.Campus Services is also taking steps to prevent water leakage in the future. A roof contractor came to Pomona to make an inspection of all the roofs across campus. Since just one hole in a roof could be causing leaks in multiple rooms, Robinson said Campus Services’ goal is to tackle as many of the roof repairs as it can during the coming months.The water that built up at the corner of Sixth Street and College Way has made some students question the efficiency of Pomona’s drainage system. According to Meredith Willis PO ’11, the “temporary rivers” that sprouted up at the junction made it virtually impossible for students to cross the intersection safely.“It’s ridiculous to think that we desert-dwellers, who are always conscious about how much water we use, cannot find a more effective drainage system or a more productive way to use the immense amount of run-off water,” Willis said.According to Bowen Close, Director of the Pomona College Sustainability Office, when storm water does not drain properly and ends up in sewers, it brings with it toxins that it sweeps up off streets, sidewalks, and roofs. This stormwater can spread dangerous pollutants around the region, and it takes a significant amount of energy to treat the water in the sewage system.Bowen also said the North Campus Residence Hall site has a stormwater drainage system that tunnels runoff water under Sixth Street into a drainage basin designed to reunite the stormwater with the natural underground water basin and hydrologic system.Robinson attributed the recent drainage problems to sandbags that had been placed around the Sixth Street drains to keep dust and debris from the North Campus construction site out of the drainage system. These sandbags were not removed during the storms, leaving no drainage outlet for the stormwater. Robinson said plans have been made to remove sandbags before the onset of future rainstorms.However, Sixth Street has flooded even when the sandbags were not there. Robinson said there could be any number of reasons for water to pool in that area during heavy rainfall.In addition, during the recent storms, clogged gutters above Clark III created waterfalls under the stairwell and made it hazardous for students to safely ascend the stairs. In response, Robinson said maintenance has instituted more preemptive measures.“We’ve instituted more of a preventative maintenance to clean out drains and gutters,” Robinson said. “When we get reports of rain on the way, we are going to send crews around to check flat roof drains and gutters and make sure they are cleaned out.”The rainstorms forced some aspects of construction to be halted. However, Robinson said the effect on construction was limited and did not adversely impact the projects.“The rain didn’t cause damage to the sites,” Robinson said. “We may have lost productivity, but nothing that cannot be made up.”Although Willis acknowledged that maintenance does not have to deal with heavy rainfall very often, she said they should be prepared for it nonetheless.“If we have measures in place in case of an earthquake, I think we should have measures in place for an inordinate amount of rainfall,” she said.

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