Sewage water floods Montessori building after heavy showers, days after the official opening

08 Jun 2021

The heavy showers that passed over Nijmegen on Thursday caused some damage to the Maria Montessori building. The new building’s South Wing was flooded with two to three centimetres of sewage water. ‘There was faeces on the doors.’

With a price tag of €75 million, the Maria Montessori building is the most modern and sustainable building on campus. The South Wing houses among other things the research laboratories of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The extent of the damage is as yet unclear. Spokesperson Martijn Gerritsen: ‘We’ll be making an inventory in the days to come.’ In the brand-new building, which was officially opened on 28 May, the floors are damaged for sure, he explains, and doors and walls have also suffered water damage.

‘Luckily we have few experiments running at the moment.’

There may also be damage to laboratory equipment, explains Ronny Janssen, Laboratory Manager at the Behavioural Science Institute. ‘The water may be gone, but air humidity levels are still higher than normal.’ Humidity can damage electronic components, for example in computers and EEG measuring equipment.

In order to reduce air humidity, says spokesperson Gerritsen, dryers have been placed throughout the building. As a result, the laboratories on the ground floor are currently out of order. Janssen: ‘Luckily, we have few experiments running at the moment: there are not many test subjects because of COVID-19. A stroke of luck, under the circumstances.’

Faeces

Experts are still investigating how the sewage water actually entered the building. The North Wing, on the Erasmuslaan side, remained dry. The incident may have been caused by a malfunctioning backflow valve in the sewage system, says the staff. This valve is supposed to prevent sewage water from flowing back into a building should the sewage system become overtaxed as a result of heavy showers.

The cleaning crew went to work as soon as the showers stopped, says university spokesperson Martijn Gerritsen. ‘On Friday we closed down the entire floor to clean it.’ The cleaning activities continued today.

The biggest challenge in terms of cleaning is that the water came from the sewer, explain Montessori building staff members. As a result, everything had to be not only dried, but also thoroughly disinfected. ‘There was faeces on the doors,’ says one of the staff members – who wishes to remain anonymous since the Faculty has asked the staff to not talk directly to the press, but refer them to the spokesperson.

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