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Leaks from soot removal damaging Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Bill Zlatos
Friday, June 8, 2007

The Cathedral of Learning is springing leaks.
The $4.8 million scrubbing and restoration of the 42-story landmark at the University of Pittsburgh has caused leaks throughout the building — including in two nationality rooms.

“It’s a wonderful project, and the building is looking great, but it’s causing a lot of chaos inside with the water damage and sand blowing through the windows and the noise level,” said Chris Metil, associate director of the Summer Language Institute and an administrative assistant in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Six or seven wastebaskets caught water dripping from the ceiling during an orientation held by the institute on Monday.

“On a lot of different floors, water from the sandblasting is seeping through windows, and it’s coming in through cracks in the mortar,” Metil said. “Some departments have had water dumping in.”
A teaching assistant in the German Department had his books and papers destroyed when water drenched his desk on the 14th floor, she said.

“Downstairs, there was water coming into the Czechoslovak Room,” said E. Maxine Bruhns, director of the Nationality Rooms Program. “We caught it in time. No enormous damage done.”

Bruhns was in the Middle East when the accident happened, but said the leak was discovered before it permanently damaged a mural in the Czechoslovak Room.

There was also some water around the Tudor rose corbel — an architectural projection — in the English Room.

“I go day by day and hope for the best,” Bruhns said.

University spokesman John Fedele said there have been minor leaks, but there has been no significant damage. The solution, he said: Using absorbent tube-like devices called socks to suck up the water.

“It’s like throwing a towel down,” he said, “but they’re more absorbent than towels.”

The removal of 70 years of soot is being done by blasting the building with recycled glass powder mixed with water. The Cost Co. in Forest Hills has been working on the project since March.

The company expects to finish by Sept. 28.

Bill Zlatos can be reached at or (412) 320-7828.

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