The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Sewage spill: Orphanage club loses everything after pipe breaks


I haven’t even begun to think about how Orphanage Club will be affected. Everything used for our outings, materials we’ve used for years, is gone. We’re taking it day by day,” says Mr. Arnold, Orphanage Club (OC) sponsor.

On January 14th, a sewage pipe broke, flooding the Orphanage Club’s storage area in the TAS basement with water from the showers and toilets. According to Mr. Arnold, the flood destroyed hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of NT worth of items. All of the toys that may have been contaminated by the sewage water had to be thrown away, as Mr. Arnold did not want to risk giving children toys that could have been contaminated by bacteria.

Since the alarm that usually sounds in the case of a flood was either broken or idle that day, by the time the OC members headed down to the basement, many of their donations, as well as all the valuable items stored in “the cage”, were soaked and could not be saved. Charissa C. (12), co-President of OC, says, “I was one of the first people to find out about the flood. At first I assumed that it was because of the rain since there was heavy rain the night before, but then there was the smell. For some reason it smelled like urine and feces.” Clarence A. (11), Vice President of OC, was also one of the first people to witness the flood. When he first entered the basement, the water was ankle deep, so he had to tie plastic bags around his shoes. However, soon after, the plastic bags broke and and his shoes soaked up both the smell and the water.  

After the students notified the maintenance crew of the flood, they worked nonstop from 7 AM to 5 PM to clean out the mess. Since Orphanage Club had so many things stored in the basement, it was unclear how severe the damage was. With the strong smell of sewage, masks and bleach were a must, and the cleaning process was painfully slow. In the end, the custodians even washed the cars in the basement and the hallways leading up to the basement to ensure the health and safety of people at TAS.

According to Charissa, “the water dried and the bacteria went airborne” after the maintenance crew spent days scooping the water out with dustpans. Everything the club uses on outings was lost, along with all the prizes and decorations OC uses for PTA fairs and other events. Thousands of greeting cards, whose proceeds assist indigenous children at the Puli Christian Hospital, were ruined. Approximately 400,000 NT of the T-shirts and sweatshirts designed and sold by the Orphanage Club since the 1970s also had to be thrown out. All clothing and household items that were going to be sold at the rummage sale on June 10 had to be discarded, as well as the winter clothing OC had been accumulating to give as part of Christmas parcels to the inhabitants of Orchid Island.  

Charissa says, “I was absolutely taken aback by the amount of donations we had to throw away. Everything that needed to be thrown away took up a couple of parking spaces and were piled in a huge mountain that almost touched the ceiling of the basement.”

Most devastating of all, all of the club’s photographs, annual scrapbooks, awards, correspondence, and written history collected over the past 47 years was lost forever. Mr. Arnold recalls how Mrs. Peng, a now retired cafeteria lady, had created thousands of origami pieces when she worked at TAS in the 1970s. That too, was destroyed.

Jing Yi N. (12), co-President of OC with Charissa, says, “Right now I think we’re just really trying to ensure that we’ll be able to cover our expenses for outings and our annual donations without having to spend too much of the money that is already present in the OC account. We also have to replace items for our different committees, and that’s definitely a challenge given how much we lost. [Along with a raffle ticket sale on February 15] we also have an upcoming book sale.”

Dr. Hartzell, upper school principal, says, “While the broken pipe was an unfortunate setback for OC, the event provided yet another example of the dedication of our maintenance and custodial staff, many of whom gave up their time off to respond to the extremely unpleasant work of cleaning up the mess. The TAS staff—in all areas of the school—are exemplary, and we can never celebrate them enough.”

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