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River Falls High School leaks still a pain; worse in the library

Another leaky HVAC pipe leak inside River Falls High School is patched over to keep heated water from spilling out. (Submitted photo)

They stopped for a while this fall but now they're back.

More defective HVAC water lines for heating the high school sprouted leaks late last month. They occurred throughout the building.

In the school library alone there have been more than a dozen water leaks.

Superintendent Jamie Benson said all such leaks were quickly patched to keep pipes working temporarily.

“(There was) no significant damage because we caught it immediately,” he said.

Come summer the school's network of HVAC piping with the too-thin Schedule 10 galvanized pipes will be replaced with the much-thicker Schedule 40 black steel pipes.

The high school will have to close for much of summer for this reconstruction.

“The biggest concern is Kids Club,” Superintendent Jamie Benson said. “We may need to relocate that program to another building.

“Other summer camps and clinics may be affected, but we have not yet made plans for all of those details. Most of our time and attention has been spent on addressing the immediate concerns.

“We have time to organize the summer issues.”

The corroding, pinhole leaks of pipes and valves started in early November — about one a day. Then they stopped for a good week, then started up again. Benson said one of the newer pipe leaks was the diameter of a pencil eraser.

“We have created a new custodial schedule to monitor the building 24/7,” Benson said. “Our staff literally checks over 290 classrooms, offices, restrooms, hallways, etc.”

Most of the HVAC piping installed when the high school was built 16 years ago is considered inadequate for a building its size. School district officials say the wrong thickness and durability of piping was installed.

So who's at fault? Benson said that issue is still under scrutiny.

“We continue to navigate the process of identifying "who" and "why" certain pipes were installed,” he said. “We remain diligent in our commitment to be wise stewards of taxpayer interests but at this time we have no further comment related to your question of liability/fault.”

Meanwhile, the fixing goes on.

“As anticipated, we are going to have more leaks until full repairs/replacement is completed in summer,” Benson said. “We are replacing sock-filters, diluting chemical additives, and reducing pressure to these water lines as preventative measures to slow the deterioration process.”

Because of the spate of pipe leaks in the library, Benson said a plan is being formulated to replace all those pipes over winter break.

For the complete story, see the Dec. 8 print issue of the River Falls Journal.