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Shrum flood costs could top $4 million

July 10, 2008

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Three of SFU’s powerful nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers were seriously damaged July 1 after a six-inch-diameter (15 cm) heating water-pipe expansion joint ruptured in the corridor ceiling of the Shrum Science Centre’s Biology 7000 level.

Boiling hot water from the burst pipe gushed onto the floor, filling the corridor with about six inches of water and flooding the surrounding area with a dense fog of steam.

The fog was so thick, university security and facilities services staff, who were on scene almost immediately, initially thought they were dealing with a fire. The nature of the incident only became clear after Burnaby firefighters arrived on scene several minutes later.

The three NMR spectrometers were badly corroded from the intense humidity, says NMR Facility director Andrew Lewis.

"In the worst case, we’ll have to get all new equipment. We’re talking a minimum of $3 million and six months to a year of downtime. And if the machines’ magnets are ruined we’re looking at about $4 million."

The burst pipe was quickly isolated to stop the flow of water, which temporarily affected heating and domestic hot water service to the applied science and kinesiology buildings, says operations and maintenance assistant director, Bohdan Kosteckyj.

The flood-affected areas were quickly cleared of water and ventilated and service has been restored to most areas, but Kosteckyj says remediation work to repair damaged floors and walls could take several more weeks to complete.

He adds, all of the burst hot-water line’s remaining four expansion joints are also being replaced as a precautionary measure.

SFU has four other NMR spectrometers, which are basically more specialized versions of the magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI machines doctors use to view tissues and organs. SFU scientists use NMR to reveal the structure of molecules.

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