WATERVILLE — Waterville Public Library officials, volunteers and professionals were cleaning up and assessing damage Monday morning after a copper pipe burst over the weekend, sending a jet of water into stacks of children’s books on the ground floor.

The library was closed over the weekend and into Monday, but it was expected to re-open Tuesday, according to Library Director Sarah Sugden.

About 500 children’s nonfiction books about animals, wildlife, natural history, geography and science were destroyed by the flooding, as were three staff computers, a color copier and library furniture, Sugden said Monday morning at the library. Carpeting in two rooms was damaged, as were ceiling tiles, walls and the lobby floor, which is covered with a type of linoleum, she said.

The city-owned library is insured through Maine Municipal Association, which was sending an insurance adjuster to the library Monday afternoon to assess the damage, Sugden said. An estimate of monetary damage was expected to be determined after that assessment.

City Manager Michael Roy, Fire Chief David LaFountain and the city’s technology director, Josh Grant, had visited the library earlier in the morning, she said.

Sugden said that, thanks to the city’s fire department, which responded quickly Saturday morning after the burst pipe and flood were discovered, the damage was contained to the staff work room, nonfiction children’s stacks and lobby on the ground floor.


“They’re amazing — they really are so amazing,” she said of fire officials. “What a team and what a service they did for the library and the community.”

Cindy Jacobs, president of the library’s board of trustees, also was at the library Monday morning. She praised all those who were helping to get the library back in order, including staff members who came in to help on days when the library was closed.

“The city’s been fabulous,” Jacobs said. “The fire department and Advance 1 Cleaning Services and the staff here have been outstanding. People want to help. It’s a great staff — that’s all there is to it.”

The pipe burst in the ceiling of the staff work room sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, and a jet of water shot out of the pipe and through a doorway to the carpeted room containing stacks of nonfiction children’s books, Sugden said. Workers arriving at the library Saturday morning found about 2 inches of water in the staff work room and children’s nonfiction stack room, and from there the water had traveled down a ramp to the library’s lobby, whose floor is Marmoleum, a type of linoleum. Only a few inches of water from the lobby traveled into the carpeted children’s room, Sugden said.

Roy was not immediately available for comment late Monday morning, but LaFountain said a “cold” wall of the staff work room near where the pipe burst will have to be insulated, as the copper pipe apparently absorbed the cold and broke. He said drywall near the floors will likely have to be removed and replaced, and carpeting removed to help prevent mold.

There’s not a lot people can do to prevent pipes from freezing when it is as cold outside as it was over the weekend, but LaFountain said he leaves a faucet dripping and uses a hair dryer, which throws dry heat, to prevent pipes from freezing up. A fan also may be used to throw warmth toward a cold wall, he said.


LaFountain warned against using anything with an open flame to thaw pipes, as that is how fires start.

In the library’s children’s room Monday, a sheet of plastic was taped to the carpet where about 500 children’s nonfiction books lay swollen. Sugden said they would have to be disposed of to avoid problems with mold.

“A lot of these items are out of print, and sometimes there’s not an equivalent,” she said.

Advance 1 employees were not only working inside the library but also had placed stacks of books inside a trailer parked outside the library to freeze them, according to Sugden. Those books would then be freeze-dried to help prevent mold, she said. Advance 1 also was working on walls of the library that were affected by moisture getting into them, according to Sugden.

“We don’t want to compromise the safety of any children,” she said.

On Friday, a 40-year-old copper pipe near the one discovered Saturday also burst, but staff members discovered it quickly. Houle’s Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning of Waterville responded and fixed that pipe. Mechanical Services of Augusta also responded, and the damage was contained to the staff work room and nothing was damaged, according to Sugden.


After the Saturday problem was discovered, the fire department, Houle’s and Advance 1 arrived, and local businesses and individuals wanted to help also, she said.

“People have been so kind and caring in terms of asking how they can help,” she said. “What a wonderful example of the kind of town Waterville is.”

She said people have asked what they can do. The most useful gift is to donate cash to help cover costs not covered by insurance, she said.

People may drop off donations at the desk, mail them to the library at 73 Elm St., care of Restore Library, or go to watervillelibrary.org, she said.

She said the last time a major event affected the library was in 1959 when fire tore through the library after a boiler exploded.

“Five communities responded with fire trucks, and Colby College students helped move books from the library to the church across the street,” Sugden said.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247″


Twitter: AmyCalder17

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: