September 13, 2012

U of L and MSD attempt to control campus flooding

By Caitlyn Crenshaw–

No matter what season it is, students at U of L are accustomed to the alert that warns of “flooding.” The university has made the prevention of flooding a priority since the flood in 2009 that cost $20 million to repair.

With the threat of Hurricane Isaac last week, rain was on the mind of campus. This threat is such a typical occurrence that university officials have taken steps to prevent flooding.

Metropolitan Sewer District, MSD, has given the university an incentive to prevent flooding. Larry Owsley, vice president of business affairs for the university, said, “They will give us two dollars per square foot of every hard surface that we keep out of the sewer system.” This incentive means that “if you can keep water out of the sewer system, it won’t cause the flooding,” said Owsley.

Since the collaborative program with MSD began two years ago, the university has “done roughly $9.9 million of those projects,” said Owsley. And that money has been going back to the university to support efforts making improvements since the 2009 flood.

Mark Hebert, director of media relations for the university, said of the 2009 flood, “It was unbelievable.” In the time of an hour and a half 8.5 inches of rain fell on campus. MSD said of the situation in 2009, the “drainage system was overwhelmed with rainfall intensities.”

In 2009 the damage to U of L was extensive. “The total damage took us a little over a year to repair,” said Owsley, “it was 20 million dollars” of damage to repair. Of the cost of repairs, $18.5 million was from damage to buildings and $1.5 million was from damage to the contents of buildings.

After the broad damage from the 2009 flood, the university has taken preventative measures totaling “$800,000 worth of work over a year and a half period of time,” said Owsley.

The most recent intensive rainfall in May 2012 poured 3.25 inches of rain on campus within an hour. Hebert said, “Some of the measures we had taken after the 2009 flood appeared to work because we didn’t have as much damage. I think it’s fair to say that it was money well spent.”

Owsley said, “We’re spending the money we get from MSD to make these improvements. It’s not taking away from the educational programs.”

The flash flood in May of this year did less damage than that of 2009. The university “had $170,000 worth of damage to Houchens and Chemistry at that time,” said Owsley.

As hurricane Isaac headed for Louisville on the day of the football season opener against UK, fans were encouraged to keep alternate parking in mind due to flooding. With the risk of flooding almost every season, Owsley said, “We will continue to work on as many areas of campus as we can.”

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Photo: Flickr/UniversityofLouisville

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