Library roof leak nailed down

March 21, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

HYDE SQ.—The cause of the latest leak in the Connolly Branch Library roof has been found, meaning a permanent fix can finally be made, according to Boston Public Library branch libraries chief Carol Mahoney.

A cracked roof drain is the problem, Mahoney said. Testing by the roof’s manufacturer and installer found the leak. When the weather improves, the drain will be fixed—work that will involve tearing into both the roof and ceiling.

The library will have to close during the ceiling work, Mahoney said.

“We’re not talking months at all,” she said. “This will be expedited.”

A timeline is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, the library again had an unscheduled lunch-hour closure on Valentine’s Day due to short-staffing related to the leaks, according to Mahoney and Friends of the Connolly Branch Library co-chair Fran Streeter. Also, a small fire in a fan circulating fresh air—installed to alleviate health concerns related to the previous leak—caused a brief evacuation and visit from firefighters on Feb. 29.

On the other hand, no further leaks sprang during recent heavy rainfalls, Mahoney noted.

A new roof was installed on the historic 433 Centre St. library in mid-2004. Since then, the roof has suffered eight major leaks in various areas.

The library currently has a “drip pan,” or water-catching bucket, bolted to its decorative ceiling under the site of the most recent major leak, which spouted in January.

Unlike some previous leaks, the last one did not damage anything in the collection, though one patron recently told the Gazette that some books in that area remain somewhat difficult to access.

The repeated leaks and lack of a permanent fix have drawn complaints from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, City Councilor John Tobin and state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez.

The roof is still under warranty, Mahoney has said.

She said other leaks appear to have involved trouble with the roof’s flashing—material placed over seams and joints in the roof.

Flashing also was the culprit in a lesser leak that recently sprang in the back of the library building.

All of those earlier patches appear to be “solid,” she said, adding that the entire roof will be checked again during the drain repair.

“They’ll do a good overview [and] look and see that everything is tight,” she said.

While there is no evidence that the recent leaks have caused mold to grow in the building, three librarians who are reportedly sensitive to mold have been temporarily reassigned to other branches until a final roof fix is done.

As a result, the library has sometimes been short-staffed and had to close for lunch hour. Mahoney previously told the Gazette that extra staff members have been brought in to prevent that. But it happened again on Feb. 14.

Following the drain repairs, the branch will be thoroughly cleaned and tested for any type of air pollutant, Mahoney said.

The Feb. 29 fan incident caused no damage to anything except the fan itself, Mahoney said.

“We had a little bit of a fire there,” she said, adding that it produced “that acrid smoke you get when a motor goes.” The motor was replaced.

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