Water Leak in basement of Darwin Hall raises concerns

Gov. Jerry Brown declared California in a state of emergency back on Jan. 23 due to heavy rain storms across many counties, including all of the Bay Area. 

But, that was before more heavy rains fell this past week, creating more hazardous driving conditions and causing more problems with flooding and leaky roofs in Sonoma County.

According to weather figures published in The Press Democrat, Rohnert Park as of Monday had already received 45 inches of rain, more than twice what the city received last year at this time of year.

Sonoma State University’s campus was among one of the institutions affected by the January storms, starting with a leak that reached Darwin Hall’s basement.

According to Christopher Dinno, associate vice president for A&F Facilities Planning and Operations, the large amount of runoff the campus gets from storms contributed to the leak.

“Just prior to the storms in January, we had our sump pit motors actually fail,” Dinno said. 

The sump pit motors power pumps used to remove water that accumulates in the basement.

When the pumps originally failed, campus facilities noticed water making its way into Darwin Hall’s basement.

“Fortunately it was before the storm,” Dinno said, “and we were able to trade out the motors [and] pumps.”

So far, it appears that Darwin Hall is the only building that has encountered problems due to the winter weather.

Administrative Manager Julie Barnes noted how the building was designed to preemptively counter natural disasters such as floods. By placing classes like computer science and geology in the basement, nothing can leach into the ground water. Likewise, putting chemistry on the top floor keeps harmful chemicals the furthest away.

“It’s purposely designed that way so that it’s least impactful if an incident were to happen,” Barnes said.

While the school is still working to keep the campus safe and the facilities up to date, some students are still wary of the severe weather’s implications on campus.

“It’s crazy; it feels like we were just in a drought, and now the rain is non-stop,” said Sonoma State student Shane Fierro, 22.

As the county braces itself for another storm to hit, all the campus can do now is take precautions to prepare itself against impending damages.