The State Worker

Board of Equalization ‘horror house’ springs new leak

A section of broken drain pipe presented to The Bee in 2014 at the Board of Equalization’s headquarters. The 23-year-old building’s drain system was incorrectly installed during construction, causing the pipes to corrode.
A section of broken drain pipe presented to The Bee in 2014 at the Board of Equalization’s headquarters. The 23-year-old building’s drain system was incorrectly installed during construction, causing the pipes to corrode. The Sacramento Bee

Trick or ... leak.

The day before Halloween, 2,200 employees at the Board of Equalization received yet another message from Deputy Director Edna Murphy about a problem in their defective tower.

This time a drain pipe serving a 4th-floor break room sink had cracked. Water from it soaked carpet, file boxes and drywall on the 3rd floor and two ceiling tiles on the 2nd floor.

The water was discovered on Tuesday at 7 a.m., according to Murphy’s Friday memo. Within two hours, state maintenance crews swooped in to fix the pipe and replace the ceiling tiles, she wrote. By that evening, the drywall on the 3rd floor had been removed.

“No visible mold growth was observed in the areas impacted by the leak,” Murphy wrote. New drywall will be installed this week after business hours.

The Halloween Eve memo was the fourth time this year that Murphy has notified employees of a plumbing problem that led to flooding.

The 24-story tower, which opened in 1993, has become the state’s unofficial house of horrors. Early on, water leaks during winter storms led to toxic-mold growth throughout the building. There was a bat infestation. Exterior glass panels crashed to the ground without warning. Water lines have burst. Elevators have trapped occupants.

A few years ago, the board settled a lawsuit for an undisclosed sum that claimed the building made employees ill.

California taxpayers have spent more than $60 million in repairs to the state-owned structure, and it still needs tens of millions of dollars more to fix the drainage system and to replace the exterior panels. The state purchased the building in 2006 for about $89.8 million.

And another lawsuit is pending which claims employees remain exposed to hazardous substances in the building, despite assurances any danger has been contained.

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