Several problems with the heat and hot water in the HiRise and LoRise residences over the past few weeks have required a temporary external boiler to provide these functions. On Oct. 16, residents were informed that hot water would not be available until the boiler was installed that night. The next day, they received another email explaining that Physical Plant was not successful in restoring hot water.
Hot water was restored to the buildings by the evening of Oct. 17. Repair to the underground supply lines on William St. began on Monday, Oct. 21. However, after Fall Break, hot water and heat were temporarily unavailable in LoRise, and on Oct. 24, LoRise residents found themselves without any water at all.
According to Director of Utilities Management Peter Staye, the problem before Fall Break, which caused a lack of hot water in both HiRise and LoRise, was the result of a failed pipe that connects the building complex to the power plant. The problem after Fall Break, which affected only LoRise’s hot water and heat, was the result of a section of a pipe that had rotted outside of the entrance to HiRise.
Staye said that Physical Plant anticipated that LoRise would have no water at all during this latter repair.
“We most definitely knew that would happen,” he said. “We had to take the pipe out of service to fix it. We dug up the ground, found the pipe, and replaced the section of pipe that had rotted out.”
Program Housing and Apartments Area Coordinator Brian Nangle added that had the water gone out for longer than a few hours, the Office of Residential Life would have had to relocate LoRise residents to hotels or other spaces on campus for the duration of the repair.
“We knew there was a potential for the water to totally go out in LoRise, so in that case we may have had to move all the residents,” Nangle said. “Luckily that didn’t happen. The water did go out, but they were able to fix it really quickly. If we knew that it was going to be an extended period of time, we would have needed to find places to put all these people, because it’s not acceptable to be in a space and not have any running water.”
LoRise resident Dylan Nelson ’15 expressed his frustration with the situation.
“The worst of it in my opinion was on the 24th when we were without any water, cold or otherwise,” Nelson wrote in an email to The Argus. “I was expecting to have to deal with an ice shower; fine, that’s alright, I’ve gone without hot water before. But not being able to brush my teeth, wash my face and hands or shave, let alone take a shower, is profoundly aggravating. As it was, I ended up taking some of my toiletries to class and brushing my teeth in the bathroom of the Career Resource Center.”
Nelson added that having cold water is better than having no water at all.
“I suppose they’re doing the best they can, but it’s still been quite a major inconvenience,” he wrote. “Having only cold water to shower in can certainly be miserable first thing in the morning…but at least you can wash up.”
As of Monday, Oct. 28, it seemed that the problem had been fixed; the only exception was that some LoRise units may still be experiencing heating problems. Nangle informed residents that they must call in any heating malfunctions, as they will be addressed on a room-by-room basis. Staye explained the reason behind this potential problem.
“When you drain a pipe, you drain a building; you take the water out of it to do a repair to a pipe,” he said. “When you fill it back up, there’s going to be some residual amount of air that’s going to find its way somewhere and stop the flow of water. I haven’t heard of any of those issues actually happening.”
Last year, the pipe connecting the HiRise and LoRise complex to the power plant also failed, resulting in a similar loss of hot water.
“We were actually hoping that the pipes from the power plant, including the repair that we did last year, could make it through until next summer, when we can replace the entire line,” Staye said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so we’re looking to replace the line next summer—that would be both the pipes from the power plant to the entire complex.”
Once Physical Plant completes the temporary repair on this pipe, the external boiler will not be needed to heat the water for LoRise and HiRise residents. Staye hopes that this will be completed by Friday, Nov. 1. This will allow the pipe to function as usual until a full repair can occur over the summer.
Nangle emphasized the importance of keeping residents informed.
“I think letting [students] know what’s going on eases the complaints,” he said. “I totally understand how they would feel—if I went home and my water wasn’t working and no one let me know about that, I mean, that’s not cool at all. I don’t mind if people call me and say, ‘Hey, this is going on in my house, what should I do, do you know about this?’ Either I know about it or I don’t, and I’ll just relay that to Physical Plant.”
Nelson, however, was frustrated by the continued problems, despite being informed.
“The email sent out [on the 24th] contained the bit, ‘I’ve heard from some folks that there is no water at all. Physical Plant is looking into that,’ implying they had no idea it had happened until some very unhappy LoRise residents brought it to their attention,” he wrote. “Not exactly reassuring.”