Christmas-Day water line break at local apartment complex displaces 16 families

BUCKHANNON – Sixteen families from the Cambridge Heights Apartments have been displaced after their water lines broke due to cold weather.

Amanda Wenzel, property manager at the Cambridge Heights Apartments, said their hot water tank line burst in building four on Christmas Day.

“Nobody knew because it was my vacant unit, so we’re not completely positive how long it was leaking before my son came home and heard it,” Wenzel said. “By that time, it was already saturated, [one unit] was soaking [a second unit] and flooding out my bottom floor, unit 402, so about 45 minutes or so after that, there was a break in the hot water tank room in building one. We got that taken care of and then about 45 minutes after that, the main water supply for my sprinkler system line busted and flooded out one of my bottom floor apartments – that was all on Christmas Day.”

On Monday, another water line broke in a vacant apartment.

“They heard the smoke alarms going off and couldn’t figure out what was going on. They were searching outside because that’s where the water lines have been breaking, but this particular water line busted inside of the unit, which was another vacant unit and completely drowned out my bottom floor unit, where I have tenants that were living,” Wenzel said. “All of their stuff was ruined – they’re not going to have anything, I know they don’t have renter’s insurance, one tenant does, thank heaven.”

Water and electricity have been shut off to the affected units, but the water spread to other apartments, forcing 16 families to vacate their buildings.

“We have already put up seven families in a hotel, and other families have found families to stay with,” Wenzel said. “I have a lot of people messaging me about things, but I think the biggest need is someone to donate food. Subs, salads and chips – things they can quickly eat in the hotel, rather than trying to go out and pay for their food. We’re not low-income housing, but we’re tax credit, so you have to be within a certain income to live here and they don’t have disposable income.”

Pizza Hut has donated five pizzas and four orders of breadsticks, and someone has contacted Burger King to inquire about meal donations.

“I would say if it’s a monetary donation, you could get that to me,” Wenzel said. “We’re going to divide that up between the families who are displaced and that would help them with food because I have some people donating things which will help quite a few of my units as well.”

“We’ll have an office full of stuff for people because one of my unit’s kitchens got flooded out from the top down and three of my units have severe water damage,” she said. “Four people are not going to have any beds.”

Wenzel said they have tried to contact the American Red Cross for support, but their tenants do not qualify for help.

“Because it’s not considered an emergency or natural disaster, they won’t help,” Wenzel said. “The emergency management team was already here yesterday, and I spoke with them,” Wenzel said. “[The tenants] have no water, they have no electricity and they have no home currently – how is that not an emergency?”

Wenzel said she plans to reach out to the Upshur Parish House and Crosslines, but they are closed until Jan. 5. She also wants to contact someone at Mountain CAP of WV. All items and donations can be made at the Cambridge Heights Apartments at 1 Cambridge Heights Drive in Buckhannon.

Buckhannon City Recorder Randy Sanders said the city made repairs Monday, Dec. 26, and everything on their end was functioning as of Dec. 27.

“We have no new repairs today,” Sanders said. “We made a major repair yesterday that affected some residences on Barbour Street and a couple on Marion Street, but that’s finished right now.”

“What the city is doing is just responding to customers who need the water turned off while they make the repairs,” he added. “Everything is functioning properly on our service lines, so there’s no major outages. There’s nothing that we need to be addressing other than turning people’s water off and turning it back on; we have a ton of calls for that.”

On Monday, the City of Buckhannon sent out a bulletin encouraging residents to locate their water shut-off valves should a leak due to frozen pipes occur.

“As the temperatures begin to rise following the frigid conditions we have experienced these last few days, be prepared for possible water leaks that are caused by frozen pipes,” the press release said. “One of the easiest things you can do is simply be aware of where your water shut-off valves are located, so you can quickly stop the water flow and minimize further damage. It may take some time for service providers and repair personnel to respond due to the increased call volume. The City of Buckhannon Water Department monitors all areas of our water delivery services throughout the Holiday Season and during all types of weather.”

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