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Water leaks for hours, damaging Flagler College's historic building before getting noticed

A pipe burst on July 4th when construction crews were not onsite. Security staff found the leak, according to Flagler College

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — First Coast News has learned more about what happened in an iconic building in St Augustine that caused extensive water damage.

The water pipe break at Flagler College’s main building had a water pipe break, damaging 46 dorm rooms and has now displaced students. 

The water leaked from the pipe for two hours on the third flood before it was noticed. That's because it happened on a holiday. 

"There were two pipes connected at a joint," Flagler College Vice President or Marketing and Communications Carol Branson said. "And then the pipes burst."

The pipes burst in a room on the third floor of the Ponce Hall – which is the main building of Flagler College. It was built as swanky hotel in the late 1800s and stands as a legacy of the Gilded Age in St. Augustine.

"The water came down in the room and went down along the walls and spread out into some of the rooms and then went down the stairwell," Branson explained. 

The water leaked from the third floor to the first floor. Because it was a holiday, no construction workers were on-site. Branson said security guards noticed the leak two hours later.

RELATED: Decorative wall or destructive barrier? St. Augustine wall prompts worry over potential flooding

Flagler College did not let First Coast News' cameras in to see the damaged rooms and did not provide photos.

A multi-million restoration project was already underway at Ponce Hall. The leak damaged 46 dorm rooms that had just been renovated. This now forces 247 students to move into other dorms that are already occupied.

Freshman Paul Schedlbauer is one of those students who have been displaced. 

"I’m sharing a room with two others, so there are now three people in one room," he said. "And I'm sharing a bathroom with another room. So six people to one bathroom."

The entire east wing of Ponce Hall will be closed for the 2022 – 2023 school year. That includes the 46 damaged rooms.  There are 120 rooms total in the wing.  They will all be vacant this academic year because the college "did not want the noise from the renovation work to disrupt the students," Beth Sweeny said. She is Director of Community and Government Relations at Flagler College.

"With the supply chain issues, it’s not like we can just order (supplies) and they will be here in a week or two weeks," Branson noted. "We’re looking at months-out of getting all of the supplies needed."

Branson also said there was no structural damage to the building. She said the school had an engineer check it out.

She also noted the leak was not caused by the renovations, but because the water pipe was old. 

RELATED: Remodeled rooms in historic Ponce de Leon building destroyed by leak at Flagler College, will be closed whole school year

RELATED: Dredging, pumping and channeling: Flood prevention work in store for Aquatic Gardens

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