Campus drainage solution under way

Students are accustomed to sloshing through puddles on wet days and fording pools of water from massive snow melt, but that may change as Oswego State maintenance begins repairing problem areas.

New construction projects to fix spots on campus where water is unable to drain are planned for the coming months. They will include drainage, road and walkway repairs.

According to John Moore, engineering coordinator for Oswego State’s Office of Facilities, Design and Construction, the campus is already well equipped to handle drainage.

"We do have a large and significant storm drain system," Moore said.

The biggest causes of water pooling or "ponding" are snow, ice and leaves. Snow builds up and then melts which creates a huge amount of water in a short period of time. The ground cannot accept a large amount of water at once, which causes it to back up.

"You’re going to have more water than the system typically handles," Moore said.

When snow melts, it seeps into walkway cracks and storm drains and can freeze. The newly frozen ice results in plugged drains and heaving sidewalks. Leaf buildup in the fall can also clog vital drainage outlets.

Another less obvious cause of drainage problems can be walkways settling over time. When the walkway settles, it creates a low spot that can be flooded. Weather conditions and construction contribute to a majority of the settling.

"We’ve had various construction throughout the years, so we may have a water line break and we have to dig up a section of walkway and that may settle and we’ll get some pooling in an area, " said Mary DePentu, director of Facilities Maintenance and Operations.

DePentu’s office oversees the construction and maintenance of over five miles of road, 36 acres of parking lot and 15 miles of walkways.

For roads, drainage takes place during design. Surveying is done to make sure roads are pitched properly toward storm drains and the roads are crowned so that the highest point is away from the center. The water then flows from there to the drains.

Repairing potholes during winter months is problematic because traditional methods do not work well. Instead of using a mixture of stone and hot oil to patch holes, maintenance must cold patch and repair holes without oil. Without anything to hold the stone together, patches usually do not last long.

However, maintenance recently began renting a special machine that allows them to effectively repair potholes in nearly any weather condition. The device is mounted on a truck and is multi-purpose. An arm postions over the hole and blows air into it to clear out any debris. Then it pumps out special water based oil that mixes with fine stone and goes into the hole. The result is a patched pothole that can be ready to handle traffic almost immediately after.

"It’s not cheap, but it seems to work," Head Grounds Supervisor Ron Randell said. "So far what I’m seeing is that the holes we filled have stayed filled."

Most of the ponding that occurs on campus happens when the ground is frozen or there are large areas surrounded by snow. Both Moore and DePentu say the climate contributes to a lot of the problems with walkways and roads cracking and heaving.

One drainage problem area that will be fixed is located on the north side of Cooper Dining Center, between Hart Hall and the dining hall.

Construction work was done on the area years ago and the ground has since settled, making the walkway to the building lower than it should be.

"Occasionally it’s going to happen, but its something we would try to prevent," Moore said.

Maintenance dug a ditch to catch the water that would pool up away from the walkway, but it did not work. A contractor was brought in to give an estimate to dig up and re-grade the area.

Unfortunately, work could not begin before the construction season ended. However, the walkway will be re-graded and repaired in the spring.

An area near Cayuga Hall also settled and had significant ponding. That area, said Moore, was redone so there is no ponding when it rains.

Maintenance is in the process of replacing all the sidewalks on west campus and has already finished half the project. The rest are slated to be finished in fall 2010. The final cost of the project will be approximately $250,000.

Other spots on campus, such as the steps on the north side of Culkin Hall, have posed problems with settling.

DePentu said a lot of her office’s maintenance efforts are preventative and involve trying to assess areas of concern. They have hired a company in the past to evaluate every hard surface on the campus, but some of the most useful information can come from simply walking along the campus, which DePentu has done.

The newly replaced walkways near Rich Hall and on West campus were a result of the walk DePentu took.

Construction on the science complex and the Village will add new walkways to campus, which DePentu said will only improve things more.

"We’re really excited because if we were to take a time machine back five or 10 years you’d be amazed at the improvement that we have on the campus," DePentu said.