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Originally published Monday, December 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Burst pipe damages dorm rooms at WWU

A Western Washington University custodian discovered a nasty surprise doing a routine inspection of a residence hall Tuesday: A radiator pipe had frozen and burst, flooding 16 dorm rooms and causing about $650,000 damage.

The Bellingham Herald

A Western Washington University custodian discovered a nasty surprise doing a routine inspection of a residence hall Tuesday: A radiator pipe had frozen and burst, flooding 16 dorm rooms and causing about $650,000 damage.

When the pipe burst on the top floor in the Ridgeway Gamma complex — towers that house about 225 students — water flowed down all four floors, said John Purdie, associate director of residence life.

Purdie said hot water flows through pipes to radiators in each room. The radiator on the top floor had been shut off, and the pipe likely froze and burst when extremely cold temperatures hit Bellingham last week, he said.

"It was bad luck; it was the weather, and the buildings weren't occupied," Purdie said.

The university has contracted with British Columbia-based Belfour Restoration Services to repair damage to the walls, ceilings and floors by the end of January, he said.

Meanwhile, the 32 students who lived in the dorm will be moved to empty rooms in other dormitories when they reopen Jan. 4, Purdie said. The students' belongings and all furniture have been removed from the rooms and inventoried, he said.

Freshman Zoë Moore, who lived on the third floor, said she had taken a lot of her belongings home to Spokane for winter break. Still, she said, she'd left behind a computer and wasn't sure it could be salvaged.

Purdie said he wasn't sure whether the university would pay for any property damaged or destroyed. He said students are encouraged to obtain renters insurance before moving in.

Paul Mueller, who works in the university's risk-management department, was not in the office Friday to determine what the university's insurance would cover.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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