Students who wanted coffee at the Gelman Library Starbucks or to take a shower in Madison Hall Wednesday afternoon were out of luck after a water-main pipe ruptured on 22nd Street, causing both buildings to lose water for more than six hours.
The D.C. Water and Sewage Authority responded to a report of water bubbling out of the street around 12:30 p.m. After drilling about a dozen holes into the pavement, the source of the leak was identified. A five-by-five-foot hole was dug in the middle of 22nd Street between G and H streets to uncover the pipe.
When WASA officials examined the pipe, two cracks were found on the underside of the 6-inch water line. Eugene DeWalt, the WASA foreman of the five-person crew working on-site said even though the street was closed for the entire afternoon and throughout rush hour, the situation could have been worse.
“There are two pipes underground, one 20-inch and one six-inch, we’re lucky only the six-inch broke,” he said.
DeWalt and University officials said the cause of the break is unknown but said old pipes and the drastic change in temperatures between a mild Tuesday and cool Wednesday are likely causes.
The D.C. government owns the water line and GW does not maintain the pipes. Facilities Management workers from the University were on-scene overseeing the WASA workers.
Residential Property Management posted signs on the entry doors to Madison alerting residents that water would be unavailable for the afternoon and evening on Wednesday. Also, water bottles were provided to students.
“I went to my sink and tried to brush my teeth but the sink wouldn’t turn on,” said sophomore Andre Flores, a Madison resident.
Starbucks, which is located on H Street in Gelman Library was closed for business for the entire afternoon and into the early evening.
Michelle Collins, a spokesperson for WASA, said water main repairs are routine procedures for workers. DeWalt said the repair could have taken just a couple of hours but because the pipe was ruptured in two separate places the repair took more time. Instead of placing a band around the single break, an entire 51-inch section of metal pipe had to be replaced, he said.
Water was restored in Madison hall and Gelman Library Wednesday at about 9 p.m.