Leaks and floods
A former maintenance worker at the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside, Florida said saltwater would "seep through the building's foundation during particularly high tides," per The Washington Post. Further reports of leaks and flooding in the building's parking garage "stretch back decades."
"There was always water in the garage," resident John Turis, who was away at the time of the building's collapse, told the Post. "There was always water leaking — it used to leak on my car all the time."
William Espinosa, the former maintenance employee who worked for the building from about 1995 to 2000, said employees had to pump the excess saltwater, which he noted would "seep downward," out of the garage, reports the Post. "I'm talking about a foot, sometimes two feet, of water in the bottom of the parking lot." But when Espinosa flagged the issue with building managers, they reportedly said it had been happening for "years" and did not take action.
Although the cause of the building's downfall is still under investigation, engineering experts note that "consistent garage flooding" could have been a contributing factor. "The cracks exposed the reinforcing steel; reinforcing steel got all rusted out. It lost all its structural integrity," Henry Koffman, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California, told the Post.
In fact, a letter from the president of the condo association sent less than three months ago warned residents that damage to the building had gotten "significantly worse" since "major" structural issues were flagged by an engineer back in 2018, The New York Times reports. The communication was intended to highlight "the worthiness" of new building construction projects, writes The Wall Street Journal.