All of the water flowed out of the fish tank on the second floor of Lutnick Hall due to a leak at the end of the school day on Tuesday, November 23, Head of the Science Department Dr. Lisa Rosenblum said.
The leak occurred because a seal at the bottom edge of the tank released and the glass separated at the joint for an unknown reason, Director of Facilities Management Gordon Jensen said. The failed seal was a shock to the maintenance staff because the engineer and the manufacturer had never had this issue with any of the tanks they had designed and installed, Jensen said.
After the leak occurred, Director of Athletics Robert Annunziata, physics teacher Oleg Zvezdin, Biology Lab Manager Alison Woolford, and Rosenblum began to take the fish out of the tank and transfer them to another saltwater tank that was already set up for a ninth grade biology lab, Rosenblum said. They also transferred the corals from the leaked tank to a separate tank in the basement of Lutnick Hall, Rosenblum said.
Isha Krishnamurthy (11) saw the leak when she was walking to swim practice on Tuesday afternoon, she said. “Water was literally gushing out of the ceiling, and there were people holding garbage cans, trying to catch the water,” she said. “It was honestly shocking to walk in to.”
There were no repercussions to the building, primarily because of the deliberate structuring of Lutnick Hall, Jensen said. Without that design, the impacts of the leak could have been more severe, he said. “We built the building to allow for some water, and the Bio Lab actually has a floor drain in it,” he said.
The company that maintains the fish tank arrived later on Tuesday afternoon and were able to transfer several of the organisms into bags to take them back to their on-site saltwater tanks as well, Woolford wrote.
While a few fish died as a result of the leak, by the end of the day on Tuesday, most of the fish had adapted to the change and were swimming around in their new tank, Rosenblum said. “It seemed to me that most of them had survived, and I really hope that’s the case,” she said.
The original installer of the tank — the same company that maintains the tanks — is currently manufacturing a new tank free of charge, Jensen said. Once the tank is complete, it will be re-installed in Lutnick Hall. Once the tank is installed, it will take time to get the water balanced for fish to be introduced, and when that occurs, the fish will be transferred into the new tank, he said.
Woolford believes that the students can take the situation with the leak as a learning experience, she wrote. “I know a lot of students enjoy walking past and observing the fish tank every day, so I think for the time being it is something that will be missed,” she wrote. “However, it will be rebuilt and we will get to see the process of building a new ecosystem from the ground up. It should be fascinating.”
Jensen is proud of the maintenance staff, the Science department, and the Athletic Department for their help with the flooding, he said. “Everyone worked as well as they could under the circumstances and with the help of the Science and Athletic departments we were able to save many of the fish and coral. There is nothing we would have done differently – everyone pitched in and helped.”
Overall, Rosenblum believes that everyone acted proactively given the circumstances, and she is eager for the tank to be restocked, she said. “We at the science department love that tank,” Rosenblum said. “Right from the fish tank observation lab in ninth grade, it’s such an amazing way of making everyone aware of the fascinating interactions between organisms.”