SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A water leak that set off alarms at Thomas Memorial Hospital two weeks ago was an act of vandalism that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
About 10:30 p.m. May 8, an unknown person removed a cap from a firestack in a second-floor stairwell in the Clinical Pavilion and opened up the valve, said Bob Gray, senior vice president of business development of Thomas Health System.
"We had brass caps on those stacks, and somebody stole them," Gray said in a Thursday Board of Trustees meeting.
"So we put other caps on them, which somebody was able to open and then opened the valve. We have the incident on film, but it's indistinguishable.
"We're still looking at it, but I don't know that we'll find the guy."
The 6-inch pipe contained 120 pounds of pressure. When the water pressure decreases in the pipes, an alarm that is direct-wired into the fire station sounds.
The South Charleston Fire Department responded.
"They came running over here in their trucks with the lights on and went over and opened the doors -- and it hit them in the knees," Gray said. "So much water backed up. We had about 4 inches of standing water in the Starbucks lobby."
Gray said repair contractors have been working two shifts in the hospital for about 10 days.
Damages were limited to the Clinical Pavilion and were mostly in the main lobby and basement, according to Paige Johnson, director of marketing and public relations for Thomas.
Contractors had to cut about 30 inches off the bottom of the walls, remove insulation and replace the drywall.
"On that evening, we called SERVPRO, the disaster cleanup people," Gray said. "We had most of our maintenance department, all of our housekeeping department, and most of our housekeeping department from St. Francis down here fighting this flood."
The hospital has ordered chrome caps for the firestacks that require a special wrench that firetrucks carry.