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Sewer line backup floods International Food Co-op’s kitchen and storage

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1901-Laughlin Hall, the location of the International Food Co-op
Julia Nguyen / The Daily Princetonian

Members of the International Food Co-op (IFC) are temporarily displaced after output from a sewage line flooded the co-op’s kitchen and storage rooms in 1901-Laughlin Hall. The spaces are being cleaned and damages are being assessed. 

The University Housing Department contracted ServPro, a fire and water cleanup company to clean and disinfect both rooms, as well as to determine what food supplies remain safe. 

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Members will not be allowed back into the space until Friday in order to “allow some time for the space to thoroughly dry out using fans and possibly dehumidifiers,” according to University media relations assistant Ahmad Rizvi.

Students will be provided with meal vouchers, through Campus Dining, for all meals up to and including Friday, Rivzi elaborated. Members confirmed that they were told they had meal swipes on Tuesday. 

1901-Laughlin is one of the older dorms on campus, built in 1925. Over the past few years, the University has built a number of new residential buildings and plans to continue building more.

It was members of the IFC who first found flooding in the kitchen and storage room, according to a statement by all five IFC officers: David Shustin ’24, Sreeta Basu ’24, Amber Chow ’24, Vinay Konuru ’24 and Brandon Gauthier ’24. 

“One of said members heard that there was supposedly a sewage back up which had left the hallway full of standing brown water that smelled really bad,” they wrote. “The water in our space was comparably less yucky, but considering that we were potentially dealing with sewage we decided to cancel dinner, which was due to start being cooked at 4:30 PM and served at 6:30 PM.”

The IFC officers, known as stewards in IFC, canceled dinner on Monday night because “sewage really does ruin the ambience of a meal,” they wrote, leaving members to find their own food accommodations that evening. 

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The stewards were looking to set up a temporary kitchen to cook dinners for the remainder of the week, but ended the search when the University announced that it would provide the members with meal swipes.

“We decided to cancel cookshifts entirely until Friday,” they wrote. “Our kitchen is unusable, staples like potatoes and onions had to be junked, and setting up a plan B HQ is a big hassle compared to just using the swipes.” 

The University will reimburse the IFC for damaged food and storage containers. Once ServPro conducts an assessment of which items were contaminated, Risk Management will provide a dollar amount to reimburse the co-op members for damaged or perished items.

The co-op stewards stated that ServPro determined most of their supplies safe to consume.

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The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS) oversees spending for the IFC, in addition to most University co-ops, and approves any purchases of replacements to equipment or goods damaged by the flood.

The IFC officers expressed concern about damages to some of the kitchen’s more costly supplies, especially the appliances and items purchased in bulk. 

“Losing bags of flour will be easy to bounce back from, but we have two fridges full of yogurt and frozen perishables in our storage room. If they zapped out, that would really suck.”

They also explained how, because many of their non-perishable and shelf-stable goods are purchased in bulk, spoiled supplies could have greater costs if, for example, 50 pounds of potatoes were spoiled.

They wrote, “Our first concern is the health of our members and the integrity of our ingredients, and we will take whatever measures necessary to maintain a safe kitchen.”

Isabel Yip is a Head News Editor who typically covers University Affairs and student life.

Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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