During the clean-up process following a sprinkler malfunction, Cornell personnel found potential asbestos particles in one of the suites.

Olivia Weinberg / Sun Staff Writer

During the clean-up process following a sprinkler malfunction, Cornell personnel found potential asbestos particles in one of the suites.

March 26, 2019

Series of Faulty Sprinklers Sends Sleeping Students Scurrying Outside, Alerts University of Possible Asbestos

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As alarms blared at 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning, bleary-eyed, pajama-clad students trudged through puddled carpets on their way out of Low Rise 6.

Monday’s sprinkler malfunction was the second time this semester that Low Rise 6 experienced flooding — the last time because of a burst pipe on Jan. 31. Once again, furniture was pushed back to make way for water vacuums and fans in an effort to remove the pooling water from the carpet, now twice stained over.

“I was just eating cereal and then the ceiling decided to rain straight down onto me,” Johnathan Hsu ’22 said. “The water was brown and smelled like the color looked.”

Water soaked onto the floor, Hsu said, damaging his power strip and his chargers.

Residents of the freshman dormitory were able to go back inside within 30 minutes of the alarm going off, amidst a smattering of firefighters and facilities workers.

In the process of cleaning the building following the sprinkler malfunction, one of the seven-person suites had to be closed for potential asbestos abatement, according to an email sent to residents from Residence Hall Director Mark Schneider. Schneider also told residents that “crumbs of material were knocked loose,” and, while it is not confirmed that this material is asbestos, federal regulations mandate the suite be closed until the sample is tested.

Residents of the now-closed suite have accommodations arranged elsewhere while the abatement is taking place. According to Schneider’s email, the testing and possible abatement is expected to be finished tomorrow.

Cornell facilities management has been addressing the issue of asbestos on campus for over a year, with zones of Rand and Balch Halls closed off to “authorized personnel only.” Tim Fitzpatrick, director of occupational health and safety at Cornell, previously told The Sun that abatement projects “occur on an ongoing basis.”

“This isn’t the first time [flooding] has happened within this year, so I think it would be good to get some professionals in to take a look at the plumbing and sprinkler systems in the building,” Low Rise 6 resident Charlie Panzarella ’22 told The Sun.

Aaran Leviton ’20 contributed reporting to this article.