Sprinkler causes extensive damage to Reiman building

Jennifer Nacin

A sprinkler head in the fire protection system of a Reiman Gardens building failed Wednesday, causing extensive water damage to the ceiling of one building.

The damage occurred in the Mahlstede Horticulture Learning Center, which sustained water damage to the ceiling of its entryway reception area, light fixtures, carpets, power outlets and office equipment.

The ceiling above the reception area will need to be removed because the drywall was ruined, said Teresa McLaughlin, director of Reiman Gardens.

The Speer Meeting Room and office areas near the entryway will also need to be repaired.

McLaughlin said staff first heard the noise from the broken sprinkler head around 1 p.m.

“There was such a quick response from staff and visitors eating in the cafeteria who dropped their forks and volunteered to help out,” McLaughlin said. “They came and helped us save our paperwork.”

Ronald Cochran, manager of facilities maintenance, said the failure occurred in the fire protection sprinkler system. One of the sprinkler heads in the entryway area failed and released the water, he said.

The reason for the sprinkler head failure has not yet been determined.

Workers were able to locate the bursting point, isolate the damage and correct the leak by 3:30 p.m., he said.

The damage estimate is undetermined at this time, although Reiman Gardens’ insurance should be able to pay for it, McLaughlin said.

The drywall ceiling replacement will begin Friday, McLaughlin said.

Cochran said cosmetic issues concerning the water damage still need to be addressed. The ISU Department of Environmental Health and Safety and Reiman Gardens staff are working to determine the amount of corrective actions to prevent mold infestation, he said.

Despite the damages, the Mahlstede Building will still be in use. McLaughlin said some events booked in the Reiman Gardens Mahlstede Center may be moved to other rooms within the building.

“All events [in the Mahlstede Center] are still on,” she said.

This is not the first time Reiman Gardens has sustained water damage.

Two water main breaks occurred Nov. 16, 2003, that severely damaged the Town and Country garden, the center area of the gardens. Damage also occurred to Lake Helen, the garden’s large pond, and the Marge Hunziker House.

Paul Wiegand, public works director for the city of Ames, said temperature changes caused the ground to move and weak spots in the pipes were exposed, which caused the breaks.

Even though the pipes that broke last November were owned by the city, he said the city was not liable for any damages that occurred from the broken water mains.

“The city doesn’t know when and where it’s going to happen. They weren’t negligent, they do [their] check-ups … that is their responsibility,” Wiegand said.

He said 35 to 40 city pipes break each year in Ames.

Reiman Gardens was responsible for paying for the damage.

Even though Reiman Gardens has experienced these damages, McLaughlin said it’s still business as usual at the gardens.

“This doesn’t impact where most customers are going, which is the Conservatory [Complex], or our events,” McLaughlin said.