Facilities malfunctions have caused hot water outages in South Hall and District House for about three months with reports of cold water in the residence halls extending into last week.
More than 30 District House residents and more than 20 South Hall residents said they experienced “lukewarm” to “frigid” water temperatures from their showers and sinks as of last week, forcing them to either skip, shorten or relocate their routine showers during the outages. Some residents said the issue has persisted since fall semester, during a time when officials sent at least 10 emails with updates about efforts to fix broken parts in the residence’s irrigation system to temporary or failed avails.
In eight emails from Jan. 31 to Feb. 21, KC Costanzo, a GW Facilities customer engagement and service enhancement associate, updated South residents about a myriad of broken water system equipment in building-wide emails. The defective equipment ranged from faulty “booster pumps,” “shower cartridges,” “bleeding air,” “circulating pumps,” “boiler pumps” and a clogged “strainer.” In his most recent update Tuesday, Costanzo said Friday that staff replaced a broken “mixing valve,” a device that mixes cold and hot water to make tempered water, after shutting off the water for two hours Feb. 17.
“All three water heaters are online and functioning properly,” Costanzo said in a Feb. 6 email after announcing issues with South Hall’s booster pumps and shower cartridges. “We believe we’ve now pinpointed an issue with air present in the domestic hot water system.”
But the following day, Costanzo said the bleeding air issue was not the entire cause of the outage, and updates about different faulty parts in South Hall continued for the next two weeks.
Community coordinators and GW Facilities staff sent six emails to District House residents between Nov. 28 and Feb. 20 alerting them of hot water outages in the building, but, since December, water outages have only affected residents on floors five through 12. Officials attributed the outages to issues with the building’s mixing valves.
About two weeks after GW Facilities staff shut off District’s water for five hours Dec. 2, coordinators said they replaced “machine parts” Dec. 15, which they said would “partially resolve” the issue when fixed. The coordinators encouraged District residents in an email to shower at Lerner Health and Wellness Center as an alternative.
The outages also caused Halal Shack, located in the basement of District House, to close for business Feb. 6, with staff placing a paper sign on the vendor’s fence alerting students of the outage.
University spokesperson Julia Metjian said GW Facilities staff have repaired all “identified” mechanical problems in District House in a Friday email. She said the recent hot water issues in residence halls have each had different causes and are not connected, but staff will start conducting “frequent operational checks” of all domestic hot water systems and keep stock of parts they identified as “common failure points.”
Metjian said staff continues to track water temperature and monitor FixIt requests for any “sudden spikes” in hot water issues. She said Campus Living and Residential Education “typically” offers the showers in Lerner as an alternative when residence halls are unable to offer hot water.
“Facilities has seen a significant downturn in the number of FixIt tickets in all residence halls that have had hot water issues,” Metjian said in an email Friday.
More than 20 South Hall residents said they experienced occasional hot water outages since the beginning of the spring semester. Some residents said they still have to wait 15 to 30 minutes for the water to heat up, even though officials have replaced numerous parts in the building’s water system to solve the issue.
Crystal Magandazi, a senior and third-floor resident in South, said her shower lacked hot water from the start of the semester until last week. She said when the water heats up after 15 minutes, the heat is “in and out.”
She said GW Facilities staff has marked all three of her FixIt requests resolved – the first of which she filed at the end of January – but a staff member has never come to her room. She called GW Facilities staff about the outages, and they told her they could not solve the problem, Magandazi said.
“It was horrendous, absolutely ridiculous,” Magandazi said. “Imagine waking up and having to go to work at 9 a.m. and the water is freezing cold, like ice cold, and it’s not warming up.”
Sidney Grimsley, a senior and third-floor South resident, said last week she still doesn’t have consistent hot water, with her shower heating up for only minutes at a time. She said she has to run the water for 30 minutes for the water to turn “lukewarm.”
“I couldn’t kick this cold that I had for like a long time because I was taking cold showers every night sometimes,” Grimsley said.
Ryan Cedeno, a senior, ninth-floor South resident and a member of the men’s soccer team, said he could not shower in his own bathroom because the water was “ice cold.” He said he traveled to the Mount Vernon Campus where he could use athletics facilities to shower.
“That’s like the only place I was able to get hot water,” Cedeno said.
A total of 52 District House residents said water temperature has changed frequently at some point during the school year on all building floors. About 34 of those residents, all of whom live on the top seven floors of the building, said they experienced a hot water outage last week, primarily over the weekend.
Justinian Rahmat, a freshman who lives on the 12th floor of District, said he resorted to showering at his mother’s house about an hour away after taking cold showers in District for three days starting Feb. 17.
“I’m not going to do this cold water, and I don’t want to go to my mom’s house like an hour away,” Rahmat said. “So I just be chillin’ or I take the cold shower and usually, I chill.”
Jess Malobisky, a senior and fifth-floor District resident, said in the first half of the fall semester, the water would get “really hot” without setting it to the highest temperature, but halfway through the semester, the water then became “ice cold.”
Malobisky said the water was fixed over winter break but stopped heating up and became “lukewarm” during the first few weeks of February.
“Everybody, including people in my room, kept submitting FixIts,” Malobisky said. “But nothing was really done. We kept getting emails saying that they were addressing it, but nothing was changing.”
Madison McMullen, a sophomore on the gymnastics team who lives on the seventh floor, said she has come to expect hot water outages in the building given their frequency in the past.
“I just pray that it’s hot,” McMullen said.
Erika Filter contributed reporting.
This article appeared in the February 27, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.