Published: Nov. 26, 2012


In the early morning hours of Aug. 16, 2012, a three-inch copper fitting on the glycol line in the attic of the Regent Administrative Center broke, resulting in a breach of the building’s cooling system. The system continued to pump coolant until its entire contents were emptied onto the mechanical room floor directly above the office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration.

Given that Regent is the home for Admissions, the Bursar’s Office, Financial Aid, as well as the Provost and several Vice Chancellors, a flood in the building has the potential to have a disastrous impact on administrative operations. The level of urgency was also increased, given that thousands of students were set to arrive for the fall semester.

The first calls to CU-Boulder Facilities Management came in at approximately 6:30 a.m., and within ten minutes, there were over twenty employees on the scene. Immediately, the severity of the situation was realized: the Vice Chancellor’s office and the surrounding support offices were completely flooded with over 4 inches of a water and glycol mix. The liquid was present in light fixtures, file cabinets, and computers, which also damaged or ruined paperwork as well as several pieces of furniture. This orchestration of teamwork and problem-solving ranks as one of the most impressive facility responses at CU-Boulder.

Facilities Management HVAC technicians first isolated the chiller and associated equipment to prevent any additional leaks. The project manager, custodial teams and shop personnel immediately brought in wet vacuums and began de-watering efforts; the flood water had to be carefully captured because of the unknown glycol quantities in the mix.

By 7:30 a.m., there were over 40 Facilities Management employees on scene, ensuring a safe and organized capture of the water. Almost every Facilities shop had someone working on the problem. Upon completion of de-watering, removal of furniture began, which included the labeling of every piece from the four office spaces affected. The pieces that could be cleaned and restored were organized neatly in the corridor and those that could not be saved were organized on the loading dock which Property Services then retrieved for disposal. The evacuation of the filing cabinets ensured that all sensitive material was protected. IT Services removed computers that were damaged, as well as any associated wires and cables.

By 8:30 a.m., Environmental Health and Safety had arrived on scene to measure the concentrations of glycol in the mix to determine if the small amount that had hit the drains would have any adverse effect on the storm systems. The plumbing crew had already begun tracing down the storm system to check for any outflow in the surrounding ponds and containment areas. Simultaneously, Facilities Management custodians had employed several floor fans to begin the drying process; using caution tape, they had blocked off several stairwells and corridors, as glycol is very slippery and could present a pedestrian hazard.

By 10 a.m., the majority of the first-wave effort was complete and secondary efforts could be handed over to Belfor, a water damage and mitigation contractor. In all, over 1,000 gallons of glycol and water mixture had entered the east fourth floor of Regent.

This is just one example where CU-Boulder employees came together to solve a problem within an incredibly short window of time. Not to be overshadowed by the swiftness and coordination of the response is how the response team had smiles on their faces and demonstrated a genuine caring attitude for those affected.

On any given day, Facilities Management staff goes about their normal “behind the scenes” duties, keeping our campus looking pristine and running smoothly. Please let them know how much their efforts are appreciated. The Boulder Campus Staff Council Awards and Staff Recognition Committee commends these employees for their ‘above and beyond call of duty’ response.