The routine starts the same each rainy day before work: LSU veterinarians drive to work as it rains cats and dogs, they circle their parking lot looking for spots before settling for the visitor lot and they enter the building.
Then they pull out a mop and vacuum to clean the puddles of seeping water off the training room floor.
According to the National Weather Service, once the Mississippi river’s flood stage reaches 35 feet, the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine building and its surrounding area “become soggy.” After more than 150 consecutive days of being over that flood level, standing water has been seeping in through the floors and eliminating parking spots for employees.
School of Veterinary Medicine communications manager Ginger Guttner said that when the Mississippi River rises, water seeps through the floor of a surgery training room for students. Parking spots also become unusable due to slippery moss buildup on the surface of flood water, causing employees to park across the street.
“It’s a water pressure issue,” said Facility Services Interim Executive Director Laura Morrow. “That is a design issue. We can’t undo a design. There’s mitigating factors, but there’s nothing that’s going to solve that problem when you’re next to the Mississippi river.”
The building was constructed in 1978, and release wells were installed in 1983 to pump water away from the building. Since that installation, little to no renovations have been made on drainage of the building.
Morrow said this is representative of a much larger issue — a lack of funding for facility services to perform these repairs. There are currently over $623 million in deferred maintenance across campus due to a lack of funding.
“There is no money,” Morrow said. “It’s not attractive or engaging, and it’s not drawing students in. It’s underground and you’ll never see it once you put it in. It doesn’t attract people to say, ‘hey, $500,000 to do a small piece of pipe.’ I think that’s the bigger issue. It’s so widespread — it’s all of campus. We have indications of what we should do.”
According to Guttner, however, the problem is not severe.
“We’re talking about a puddle here and there,” Guttner said. “We just use a shop vacuum to pick it up. The only inconvenience is that where there are large puddles of water, we can’t park there. It’s a little inconvenient, but it’s not stopping people from getting to work or doing their jobs.
Regardless, School of Veterinary Medicine staff members are planning to work with engineers to aid the current drainage pumps. These repairs may not be enough, however, if the water continues to rise as predicted.
Baton Rouge broke the record for the number of days the Mississippi River has remained at flood stage, which hasn’t been reached since 1927. Forecasts predict the river will remain above the 35-foot flood stage until late June. The river measured 43 feet Tuesday morning.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life,” Fifth Louisiana Levee District President Reynold Minsky told the Monroe News Star. “I’m on pins and needles until it falls below flood stage.”