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UNK’s Bruner Hall under repair following pipe burst

The burst caused fourth floor flooding, ultimately leaking down, and damaging, the lower floors
UNK's Bruner Hall will be under repair for what could be months after a pipe burst due to the...
UNK's Bruner Hall will be under repair for what could be months after a pipe burst due to the freezing temperatures.(KSNB)
Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 8:56 AM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - One of the more important buildings on the University of Nebraska Kearney’s campus is out of use for at least a few weeks after a pipe burst caused flooding and significant damage last week.

A fourth floor stairwell pipe in Bruner Hall burst due to freezing temperatures late last Wednesday into early Thursday causing flooding to the fourth floor, ultimately leaking down to the floors below and into the basement. Bruner Hall houses the chemistry department and lab space, classrooms, research space, faculty offices and general space. These areas were all affected, causing students and faculty to relocate to other areas on campus.

“What’s important is that we have a building that is four floors so what happened is basically as water built up it continued to basically leak down and cause really significant, almost catastrophic challenges to the whole rest of the building all the way to the basement,” Jon Watts, the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance at UNK, said.

Cleanup and restoration crews have been inside Bruner Hall since early Thursday morning working on cleaning up the damage, making repairs and assessing what all was lost or can be removed to eventually be put back.

The affected areas are being heated up to at least 90 degrees in an attempt to remove moisture from the walls, floors and ceilings. Drawers are left opened and items were removed off the floor to prevent further water damage. Ceiling tiles and baseboards have already been removed in many of the rooms and hallways.

What makes the process more difficult, according to Watts, is that the window to prevent mold forming due to moisture is between two to three days, which means if the portion isn’t dry within that window they have to remove the walls, ceilings and area of the floor.

Watts knows of at least eight other buildings on UNK’s campus that were affected by the cold, none as significant as Bruner Hall.

“This one, the extensiveness and the size of the pipe, the way it flooded just doesn’t match any other damage on campus,” Watts said. “In fact, those would all be considered practically superficial compared to what we’re dealing with here. This is a historic loss for our campus and something we’re going to be working through for the next few months.”

Another difficult part of the accident is that because there is so much lab equipment housed in that portion of the building, assessing the damage will take significantly longer than it otherwise would. One professor’s damaged research space had two large items of equipment, each one over $300,000.

As of Wednesday there is no timeline as to when repairs, damage assessment and cleanup will be done nor is there an estimate on how much repairs and item replacement will cost UNK.

Watts said everyone is moving quickly and working around the clock to get people back in the building.

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