Instead of trudging knee-deep through snow, McGill students were wading knee-deep through fast-moving flood waters when their campus flooded last week.
Water from the McTavish Reservoir, located just uphill from McGill University, flowed unabated into campus — and into university buildings — for four hours after the burst of a 48-inch diameter water main on Jan. 28.
Approximately 80 classes were cancelled, 24 classes were relocated and 10 laboratories evacuated due to the flood, McGill Vice-Principal Michael Di Grappa told the media on Jan. 29.
Di Grappa confirmed that McGill had incurred major damages and estimated the time frame for repairs ranging anywhere from a few days to a few months.
“We don’t yet know what the dollar amount is but we believe it will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair these damages,” he said. “Right now we’re focusing on reviewing and renewing our normal activities as soon as possible.”
To a question on whether McGill would be prepared to sue the party ultimately responsible for the flood, he responded that, “Those would be questions we’ll look at another day.”
Doug Sweet, director of media relations, confirmed that the university intends to file an insurance claim to cover the cost of damages.
Though one student was filmed being swept downhill in flood waters, no injuries were reported. The McGill Daily reported that a group of engineering students constructed a dam to protect the entrance of one of the engineering buildings.
Since last Monday night, the heart of McGill’s campus has been cordoned off as response teams worked all night to clear away ice and debris and pump water out of affected buildings.
Major events like McGill’s SSMUfest, a start-of-term networking event where students go to gather information on extracurricular student groups and clubs, were forced to reschedule as was the election for a new candidate to succeed current Principal Heather Munroe-Blum.
Though forced to reschedule SSMUfest, Josh Redel, president of the Student Society of McGill University, knows the student union was fortunate with no damages to the building, located in one of Monday’s main floodways.
“There’s undergraduate labs that have been flooded […] the Service Point is shut down as well as the James Admin building, which are core to the functioning of services for students at the university,” he said.
He also noted that this is not the first time the reservoir flooded campus. This is third time in the past four years that breakages from the reservoir’s water mains have caused flooding. In 2009, a 42-inch main burst followed by a 16-inch main in September 2011.
“We can’t keep having repeat [flooding] — it damages everything. It’s dangerous for people, it impacts the services the SSMU can offer, it impacts the services the university can offer,” Redel said. “I sit on space committees at all levels of the university and I’d imagine this is going to come up very soon.”
“The flood theoretically shouldn’t have taken place if there were proper infrastructures in place around the reservoir area,” he added.
The reservoir holds 37 million gallons of drinking water and has been undergoing a $16.4 million renovation since October to update its tank and water mains, which are reported to be over a century old.
With files from Laurent Bastien Corbeil (The McGill Daily).