Campus closes due to water main break

Saddleback College's Automotive and Technology Department of the Advance Technology and Applied Science Division is flooded with water as a result of a water break that occurred earlier today. As a result the campus is currently closed. (Photograph by Anibal Santos)

Saddleback College’s Automotive and Technology Department of the Advance Technology and Applied Science Division is flooded with water as a result of a water break that occurred earlier today. As a result the campus is currently closed. (Photograph by Anibal Santos)

BREAKING NEWS:  On-site classes scheduled for 1 pm or later on Tuesday, Oct. 7, as well as all classes scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 8, have been cancelled due to lack of water on campus.

Effective as of 1 p.m. today, all water facilities are set to be turned off for 48-72 hours due to a water main break. This includes all restrooms, sinks, pools, and the central plant.

Water is expected to be restored and classes will resume on Thursday, Oct. 9.

UPDATE: [ 10:05 a.m., Oct. 8]

As it is expected that all water facilities will be restored on campus by tomorrow, all classes are scheduled to resume this Thursday, Oct. 9.

At 10:05 a.m. this morning, President Burnett notified faculty, staff and management that water and air conditioning have so far been restored to the Student Services Center, the Library Building/Learning Resource Center, and the Business and General Studies, Health Sciences, Science and Math, and Administration and Governance buildings.

These amenities have yet to be restored to the Child Development Center, and the TAS, Village, Fine Arts, and PE and Athletics buildings, though it is expected that they will be full restored by tomorrow.

Port-a-potties will remain in the areas still without water, said Burnett, and a map of their current locations was released.

During the campus closure, the Saddleback College police department has been distributing bottled water, said Jennie McCue in another email to those currently on campus.

“If your department needs, or would like to have bottled water, cases are available for pick up at the Police Station,” said McCue, addressing faculty, staff and management. “If you need assistance and do not have the means to pick up the water, we can deliver it to you. We will need to know where to deliver it and who will be there to accept the water.”

For assistance, call the campus police department at (949) 582-4585, or, if you are on campus, extension 4585.


UPDATE: [4:30 p.m., Oct. 7]

Classrooms in the TAS building, under which the water leak occurred, have not been damaged, McCue said. The leak occurred close to the service areas, near where the auto-tech program is housed.

“[The leak] is at the building site but outside of [the building],” she said.

Alan Cherry, Facilities, Maintenance, Operations and Support Services Plant Engineer, confirms that the leak was in the auto bay of the automotive and technology department.

Campus officials say that it is too early to assess what the cause of the break was, however a contractor was brought in to repair it.

“In order for them to dig deep, because [the leak] is 10-12 feet underground, they had to turn off the water. Then it can be inspected, they can figure out what and where the issue is, and then fix it,” McCue said.

The leaking pipe in question is 12 inches thick and buried under concrete, said Anthony Marquez, a Mini-Excavator operator.

Soil compassion is a common cause of damage to pipes, and may have been a contributing factor to the leak on campus, Cherry said. Facilities, Maintenance, Operations and Support Services  are still making assessments.

As of right now no roads or parking lots have been closed.

Students, faculty and staff have been kept apprised of the event throughout waves of  notifications sent from McCue and Saddleback President, Tod A. Burnett’s, office. Updates were sent by email, text, over campus phones through the PA system, and were posted on the college website. Also, in situations like this one, [administration] really does rely on employees to share information with students, McCue said.

“I feel they should have given better notice about the water being shut down,” said Max Nelson, 19, Computer Science, who found the library closed and didn’t understand why.

Students are automatically placed in the Saddleback College alert system when they register for classes, however they are given the opportunity to opt out of the service.

“If students are not getting an email or text message, we urge students to check the website for updates,” McCue said. “Approximately 30,000 people get our communications. Sometimes, because we’re sending to so many people at once, [notifications go] in waves, so if people aren’t getting the messages right away and they’re wondering if there might be an update, they should refer to the website.”

Updates on campus situations can also be found through social media, namely Saddleback’s Facebook and Twitter.

“Not only is it good for students to keep up with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for general news, but for situations like this. It’s a really good reason to follow up and stay informed,” McCue said.


UPDATE: [2:27 p.m., Oct. 7]

On-site classes will also be cancelled on Wednesday, Oct. 8.

The 30 Port-a-potties initially ordered for the remaining staff members on campus were delayed in delivery and did not arrive within the hour as expected. Remaining classified staff have now been released to leave.

“We train and prepare for emergencies but emergencies don’t train for us,” said Chief of Police Wilkinson of the fluid and unpredictable nature of campus issues. “Every situation is different, and may require a different approach, so we have to be flexible in how we handle things.”

He stressed the necessity of dialogue between departments and personnel.

“The water main was looked at and employees met and conferred for quick action,” Wilkinson said. “Communication and adaptability are key.”


UPDATE: [1:22 p.m., Oct. 7] 

“On-site classes today will be cancelled. Faculty are advised to leave the campus.

All other employees must speak directly to their supervisors to determine if they will be needed on campus for the remainder of the day. The college is expected to reopen classes and services tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 8, unless otherwise noted.

Port-a-potties will be made available on campus; an update with specific locations is forthcoming.

Employees and students will be emailed with information as it becomes available. You may also check the college website, for updates.”

-Jennie McCue, Director, Public Information and Marketing at Saddleback College


UPDATE: [1:00 p.m., Oct. 7]

Campus personnel were originally notified at 11:58 Saddleback College Director of Public Information and Marketing Jennie McCue via email, noting that “A campus-wide mainline water break occurred at approximately 4 a.m. this morning. Facilities, maintenance and operations have assessed the leak, which is located in the service yard of the Advanced Technology and Applied Sciences building. The repair of the mainline water pipe will require an interruption to campus water service for 24 to 72 hours. Campus-wide water services will be unavailable beginning at 1 p.m. today, October 7. This outage will affect the water supplies to all buildings, and will interrupt service to all restrooms, custodial closets, cafeteria sinks, pools, and central plant cooling. College services and operations will continue as usual until further notice. Updates will be provided to college and district employees when new information is available.”

At approximately 12:50 p.m., a campus-wide intercom announcement was broadcast, announcing the water mainline break and shut-down of all water facilities.