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Deaf school damaged after water main leak; restoration currently underway
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Deaf school damaged after water main leak; restoration currently underway

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Officials at the North Carolina School for the Deaf were alerted early Sunday morning to a water main leak in the Main Building on campus, which left water damage on two different levels

The water main leak was found in the attic with water damage impacting the ceiling paneling of the fourth and third floor on the west wing and residential bedrooms in that same location.

The water main, which turned out to be a dry sprinkler pipe, was turned off quickly, but not before spilling 500 to 1,000 gallons of water, said Steve Watts, NCSD facilities manager.

“On a dry pipe system that is made for unheated areas like attics or mechanical spaces … meaning that the water is not allowed into that area until the sprinkler head trips and lets the air out of the pipe, which trips the valve and lets water rush into the pipe,” Watts said.

Where the pipe broke, there seemed to be an “imperfection” in the casting and “rust film built up” in the bottom of the pipe enough to cause a piece of it to break off. The air pressure then dropped in the pipe allowing the water to flow, he said.

“This is an anomaly … we are not in the mode of thinking that this whole system is going to rust out on us,” he said.

A third of the fourth floor hall ceiling and all of the third floor hall ceiling had to be removed, Garvin said.

There were a total of 232 ceiling tiles that had to be replaced and approximately 20 sq. ft. of dry wall, Watts said.

The piping is almost 20 years old in that specific area and the building was unoccupied at the time of the leak, Watts said.

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Along with Watts, there were 18 maintenance and environmental staff that responded to the emergency.

The school maintenance staff used “wet vacs” and carpet extractors to soak up the water in the flooring and SERVPRO Restoration Services was on scene as well with drying equipment including 40 fans and 12 dehumidifiers, Watts said.

“We were in drying mode within four hours of the initial leak,” he said.

SERVPRO was able to conduct moisture level readings to ensure that the affected area was dry, Watts said.

The drying process is not going to take as long as expected because they are now scheduled to move out the drying equipment out tomorrow afternoon, Watts said.

Parents of residential students were given notice that Sunday transportation had been cancelled and that classes were called off for all students on Monday with classes resumin on Tuesday,” said NCSD School Director Audrey Garvin.

“We have lessened the impact enough to where we will have kids back in their dorms this evening and that full fire protection is back on,” he said. “Basically we only lost a day.”

Students who had dorm rooms damaged will be temporarily relocated to other dormitories available.

The response to the water main leak by the school’s maintenance staff and environmental services “has been exemplary unmatched by any I have experienced before,” Watts said.

Staff Writer Jonelle Bobak can be reached at or 828-432-8907. Follow her on Twitter at @MNH_JonelleB.

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