Building leak puts church archives at risk

By on September 4, 2007

A leak in a neighbouring mechanical room has once again put the archives of the Anglican Church of Canada at risk.

Four boxes of archival records sustained “minimal water damage” when a spill from the mechanical room, housed above General Synod’s archives vaults at 80 Hayden St., Toronto, seeped through a small portion of the ceiling, causing it to collapse July 10.

The records – mostly correspondence in the diocese of the Arctic during the 1960s – have since been air-dried and moved to new folders.

Water from the air-conditioning system in the mechanical room above the archives spilled through a pipe that was misaligned with the drain, according to Delta Mechanical, the company that looks after building maintenance, which inspected the leak July 13. The faulty pipe has since been realigned.

As a precautionary measure the floor above the archives has been sealed, said General Synod archivist Nancy Hurn. The insulation around the pipes, which got wet from the spill, will be replaced, along with the damaged ceiling tiles, she added.  

This is the fourth time that archival material has been subject to overhead leaks, noted Ms. Hurn.

Last year, the church’s national office postponed closing the deal on its then two-year-old offices in downtown Toronto, until the developer, Philmor Ltd., repaired a leaking vent in the mechanical room. The problem dragged on for six months, and last summer, staff endured a period without air conditioning, since turning it on caused water to leak into the archives vault. It was a catch-22 situation, however, since the archival collection also faced the risk of being destroyed by the heat and humidity.

“We want to have a clear understanding of why these leaks happen. We want the mechanical room properly sealed,” said Ms. Hurn, who has also recommended that an alarm system be set up that would warn of any leaks, particularly on weekends when the offices are closed.

Peter Blachford, General Synod treasurer, said, though, that an alarm system would be too costly, “given our current financial constraints.”

Ms. Hurn argued that the archives must not constantly be put at risk: “Any water damage can lead to mould growth and so we need to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” (The archives holds an extensive collection that includes paper, newsprint, photographic prints/negatives, microfilm, motion picture film, audio and videotapes, digitized documents and images.)

Mr. Blachford said it was “unfortunate” that the archives was located under the mechanical room. “Further down the road, we have to make sure it isn’t,” he said. (General Synod is examining the possibility of selling the Hayden Street building, which it acquired as a condition of the $3.65 million sale in 2002 of its nearby Jarvis Street building to Philmor Ltd. Staff moved into the building in June 2004.)

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