University of Southern Maine officials were working Monday to relocate a food pantry, a dining hall, the campus bookstore and other services from the student center because of flooding caused by a water pipe that burst over the weekend.

The school is still not sure what caused the underground fire main to rupture beneath the floor overnight Saturday, pushing silt into the bookstore and flooding parts of the Woodbury Campus Center in Portland with 6 inches of water. While the dining area and kitchens were untouched by the water, other areas sustained heavier damage. The building will be closed for two weeks.

Nancy Davis Griffin, USM’s chief operations officer, said a facilities staff person discovered the break Sunday morning. The building’s entrances were blocked off with red tape and yellow barricades Monday afternoon, and construction and utility workers with neon work vests walked in and out.

“We are working with engineers and contractors to determine the actual site of the broken pipe, so that we can begin to repair that and bring things back online,” Griffin said. The extent of damage and the cost of repairs were not known Monday.

In the meantime, the services typically provided in the campus hub have been moved to other locations. Griffin said most critical are the food operations. A city health inspector supervised the transport of all food from Woodbury to a dining hall at the school’s Gorham campus. Employees stocked extra “grab-and-go” items such as sandwiches in cafes in the Glickman Library, the first floor of Luther Bonney Hall and on the second floor of the nearby University of Maine School of Law.

Doreen Devou worked the register during breakfast and lunch at the Luther Bonney cafe on Monday. She normally works in food services in the student center, but her supervisor moved her to the other building during the repairs. She said the cafe was busier than normal, as students dropped in for sandwiches or Pop Tarts.


“I love the kids,” Devou said. “They really haven’t complained about it.”

Students and faculty get their lunch from an outdoor barbeque at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus on Monday. Woodbury Campus Center, the hub of the campus, will be closed for at least two weeks while crews work to repair the damage caused by a water main break. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The school also set up a makeshift buffet line with hot dogs and hamburgers outside of the closed student center Monday. Madison Elkins, 19, ate a bag of potato chips at a nearby picnic table, but the sophomore from Hampden said the disruption of services won’t be a problem for her. She spends more time at the school’s Gorham campus, where she and many other students live and which has its own dining hall and other services. “For my group of friends, it’s not a big deal,” Elkins said.

The Portland campus student center also housed a food pantry that serves as a buffer against food insecurity among students. Griffin said the pantry has been relocated to 147 Luther Bonney Hall. She said she received messages Sunday night from students who were concerned about going hungry if the pantry were closed. University officials had raised at least $600 to help the pantry as of Monday afternoon, Griffin said.

“We heard loud and clear that feeding folks is our true need,” she said.

Other services, like a campus bookstore and a prayer and meditation room, found temporary homes as well. Griffin encouraged students to contact her directly if any regular activities in the student center have not been relocated yet.

“Right now, we’re trying to determine what does happen in Woodbury that we’re not aware of,” she said.

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