As crews continued Monday to mop up the last of the mud and water that cascaded into the University Hospital from a ruptured water main Sunday morning, hospital officials were breathing a sigh of relief.
What could have been a major disaster at the hospital - logistically and financially - is being called by hospital spokesman John Dwan "a major inconvenience."Damage is estimated at $150,000, excluding Monday's massive cleanup efforts that had University Hospital looking more like a medical center and less like an aquarium. The facility had been submerged by as much as 2 feet of water in some rooms the day before.
"They've been working on it for 24 hours now and have done a pretty good job, but the cleanup will continue for weeks," Dwan said. "We're pretty well back to normal, but it's a major inconvenience."
Expensive diagnostic equipment in the cancer treatment center and clinical-testing labs - with the value of individual pieces ranging from $50,000 to $1 million - were spared from water damage. And other than the brief rerouting of emergency-room cases to nearby hospitals and the temporary lack of phone and elevator services, University Hospital patient care was essentially unaffected.
The 16-inch water pipe on the hillside above the hospital apparently burst during a routine annual inspection at 9:58 a.m. Sunday, spewing 5,000 gallons of water per minute directly toward the east walls and through the main doors of the medical facility.
By the time the flow was shut off 15 minutes later, nearly 2 feet of water covered basement areas that house a major clinical lab and supply rooms.
Hospital and fire officials first feared that damage could exceed $1 million had water reached several pieces of expensive, high-tech lab equipment. However, none of the major clinical-testing and cancer-treatment equipment was damaged.
Water reached the base of such equipment in the hospital's clinical-testing department, with workers able to spare expensive equipment.
Dwan also credited firefighters from keeping water from damaging the two linear accelerators - valued at nearly $1 million each - in the hospital's cancer-treatment center. The successful efforts included creating a makeshift barrier with canvas tarpaulins.
Patient care was not affected, but phone service and elevators were temporarily shut down and the emergency room was unusable for about four hours, Dwan said. Most functions were back to normal by Sunday night.
However, the hospital's "stat lab" has been knocked out of commission indefinitely, Dwan said. The hospital will rely on a second lab on the first floor, and it also has access to other lab facilities in the nearby University Research Park, he said.
Salt Lake Fire Battalion Chief Gary Maxfield said it appears that maintenance crews had shut the waterline for inspection. When they restored the flow, the sudden pressure may have burst the 16-inch pipe at or near the point where it branches into a 12-inch line.
"The water was shut off in short order, but a line of that size has a lot of water in it," Maxfield said. "It reached up to 18 to 20 inches around the building."
Dwan said there was extensive "cosmetic damage" - carpeting, wall coverings, furniture, ceiling tiles, - on the first floor and throughout the two levels below ground. Damaged equipment included several computers that had been soaked by the unexpected deluge.
A Utah Disaster Control team worked on the cleanup through the night, while landscaping efforts spruced up the grounds near the break, where water, mud, rocks and shrubs had flowed down the hill and into the hospital.
As the water rose in the basements, it came within inches of reaching high-voltage transformers. "It stopped just in time," Dwan said.
Power to the emergency room was interrupted, but the hospital maintained full emergency services at an alternate location. All patient rooms are above the first floor, and no one was evacuated. The break forced the hospital to switch to a secondary water supply.