New wells drilled to prevent building floods

Tricia Michel

After years of minor flooding problems, the University is constructing a pair of wells to keep water out of the Civil Engineering Building.

Gary French, senior administrative director for the civil engineering department, called the building “the drain for the East Bank.”

Since the first day of classes, the southeast side of the building has been cluttered with fences, trash containers and construction equipment.

Workers are using a 50-foot drill to dig two wells that will plunge 170 feet beneath the surface. The new wells will automatically start pumping water into nearby storm drains when water levels pose a flooding threat, said Tony Traut of Traut Wells Co., which was contracted to do the digging.

When completed, the project will have two 12-inch tubes surrounded by sand to keep dirt and other objects from clogging the wells. They will be located outside for easy access in case repairs are needed.

The building, constructed in 1974, already has two wells in the basement. For the past few years, it experienced mild flooding due to heavy rainstorms and melting snow. Most recently, the almost 30-year-old wells have not been able to pump the excess water out of the basement.

The lowest level of the building has seven floors, extending 110 feet underground. Although the majority of classrooms and offices in the building are located above the bottom floor, the basement is home to graduate students and computer equipment.

Cenk Tort, a fourth-year doctoral student specializing in earthquake civil engineering, has a corner office in the basement of the Civil Engineering Building. He said the sloped floor in the basement has caused his office to flood more than other offices located on the same floor.

Tort said he knows when his office is going to flood because his carpet starts to smell.

“In the wintertime when the temperatures warm up, the water comes out from the ground and the carpet gets wet,” Tort said.

Although Tort’s office has never suffered any permanent damage, his carpet has been replaced several times.

Assistant civil engineering professor Bill Arnold said although the drilling location is “hard to miss,” the noise is not extremely bothersome.

The two wells are expected to be completed by Wednesday.