Nebraska State Penitentiary incurs damages to burst pipe

A burst pipe led to damage and the evacuation of inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary on...
A burst pipe led to damage and the evacuation of inmates at the Nebraska State Penitentiary on Thursday, Nov. 10.(Nebraska State Penitentiary)
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 10:57 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KTIV) - A burst pipe at the Nebraska State Penitentiary led to the evacuation of a housing unit on Thursday, Nov. 10.

According to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, 134 men were moved to a new housing unit at the Reception and Treatment Center.

Nate Bornemeier, engineering administrator at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services, said the breach was detected in a buried pipe about 10 to 15 feet from the exterior of the housing unit. Once the pipe was dug up and inspected, additional holes were noted.

“The pipes are made of cast iron, and they are rotting out on the bottom. These are the same types of leaks that we’ve had over the years,” noted Bornemeier.

“Based on preliminary estimates, this single incident could take the entire housing unit offline for the next one to two years. That’s how long it could take to go through all the steps to make the building suitable for occupation again,” Bornemeier said.

The location of the leak caused flooding in the housing unit’s mechanical room which operates door controls, heating and cooling systems, steam, fire protection, air handlers, and the IT system for camera security. The water leak also carried a considerable amount of mud into the mechanical room and onto the floor of the housing unit.

“Water reached nine feet in the mechanical room itself,” said Bornemeier. “The mud left behind is at least two and a half feet high. We will start cleaning that out, but obviously, anytime you have a water intrusion, you worry about things like mold growth. There is also the likelihood of foundation issues underneath the building.”

The building housed men assigned to medium and maximum security. The population is made up of seniors and those who require medical accommodations. Currently, a new housing unit at RTC is being utilized for the displaced population. The unit is one that was slated to open in the coming weeks for a different group of maximum-security inmates.

“This will delay that plan, most definitely,” explained Deputy Director of Prisons Robert Madsen. “Based on the initial assessment, we know that the clean-up of the flooded housing unit will be considerable. In addition to bringing in experienced cleaning crews, we will need to undertake repairs and building inspections before that space can be occupied again. That means taking 140 beds offline for a long period of time.”

The entire facility is expected to resume normal operations late Friday, Nov. 11, with the exception of inmate visits. The visitation program will be closed for everyone through the weekend.