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Darien Library Cleans Up After Basement Flood

Darien Library's basement rooms remain closed to the public as the library cleans some rugs and replaces others following two inches of flooding.

Alan K. Gray, chief administrative officer for , was at his home on City Island in New York City at about 11 a.m. Sunday when an automatic email alerted him to flooding in the library basement.

He was already on his way to Darien when a janitor called to tell him a huge puddle had formed at the eastern end of the basement, and when Gray arrived, he found about a half inch of water in much of the basement, but as much as two inches in some spots.

The library is now cleaning up the mess, with the basement now off-limits to the public. Basement computer rooms will need to be closed again later in order to replace the carpeting.

"It would have been a much worse problem had this building management software not emailed to tell us that we had a problem and to deal with it instantly," said Bruce Ferguson, president of the Board of Trustees for the library.

The flood was caused because a pump for sewage and other water had stopped running, and a companion pump that should have automatically provided backup was not working correctly (although it was running), Gray said.

Luckily, almost no sewage was in the water, and nothing smelled, he said. No books or equipment were damaged, although some documents in the employees' work area got wet, he said.

Water had seeped from the Mechanical Room in the southwest corner of the basement over to the northwest end, where employees' offices are located, along with the room where returned books are collected and sorted.

Water also seeped toward the center of the basement, where the carpets in computer rooms were soaked. A microbial shampoo will be applied to the carpeting to kill any germs left there, and library officials expect to replace the carpets later—which will mean closing the computer rooms to the public again for three or four days at a time, Gray said.

The water got as far as the entrance to the Teen Lounge, at the southeastern corner of the basement, but the rest of that room wasn't flooded.

Gray said he doesn't yet know why the pumps failed, but the matter is being looked into.

The pumps are in a covered chamber under the floor of the basement, and a large amount of water was coming in because the library's geothermal heating system was going through an automatic maintenance period, in which water was pumped out of the system.

Darien Library's geothermal heating and cooling system is a device that heats and cools the building by pumping water underground and then pumping it back up again. The relatively constant temperature underground heats the water in winter and cools it in summer. The water then gets piped through the building.

The system supplements regular heating and cooling systems, which then use less energy. Library officials say the institution has been saving money as a result of the device.

But the system doesn't operate with closed pipes. Instead it pumps water through underground rocks, which have iron in them. The iron can ruin the pipes, so it's filtered out. The filters need cleaning, so water is pumped through them and must be removed from the system.

That water was supposed to be pumped out by the two pumps that failed (and which are otherwise not part of the geothermal heating system). So instead, water flooded the basement.

After Gray called 911, police and firefighters from responded to the scene.

An early report that there was enough water in the basement to swim in was probably a misinterpreted joke by a firefighter, Gray said.

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