The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Residence Life fails to notify residents of brown water issue

4 min read
By MAGGIE MCCOTTER Staff Writer UMW students are very familiar with residence hall problems- mold, bursting pipes, bugs and AC issues.

Emilia Michalkiewicz


Staff Writer

UMW students are very familiar with residence hall problems- mold, bursting pipes, bugs and AC issues. Three residence halls have been shutdown or under construction within a year, so it’s no surprise when something goes wrong. That being said, it is disappointing- especially when Residence Life doesn’t communicate issues. 

Two weeks ago I came back from winter break to my residence hall, Mason, and expected everything to be normal and for nothing to be out of place. Imagine my surprise when I tried to take a shower, only to be drenched in freezing cold water. I figured this would only last a couple days, but the issue persisted up until Thursday, Jan. 24. The water in both Mason and Randolph Halls was shut off twice in the week of Jan. 21, inconveniencing around 350 students.

I was first officially made aware of the issue on Jan. 18, when I received an email that Mason would have hot water shut off on Monday, Jan. 21. The email sent from Residence Life the Friday before stated, “hot water will be turned off in the building between 10:00am-4:00pm on Monday, January 21 to address facilities issues and improve efficiency in our water heaters. If possible, attempt to stagger shower times in your suites as to minimize hot water demand in the residence hall.” Showering in cold water is something that might be enjoyable in the summer, but it is not when it is 24 degrees outside, and could lead to some students becoming ill.

But the lack of hot water was a problem beyond just losing the luxury of a relaxing bath or shower. It also impacted the washing machines.

 “I couldn’t do my laundry which was full to the brim, including clothes I needed for my upcoming track meet,” said Noel Jackowicz, a freshman living in Randolph.

Immediately residents could tell it was not fixed once the water was turned back on. I tried to take a shower that evening, but the water never got hot, even when I turned the dial as far as it could go. The issue obviously was not fixed during the shutdown, so Residence Life sent out another email on Wednesday, Jan. 23, stating, “please be aware that hot water will be turned off in the building between 10:00am-5:00pm on Thursday, January 24 to continue maintenance in improving efficiency in our water heaters.” 

Hoping that this would fix the inconvenient situation, Randolph and Mason residents patiently waited out the water shutdown. After 5 p.m., a few students turned on their water in hopes of having their first warm shower in a week. To their dismay, the water came out brown. 

Melanie Stone, a freshman living in Randolph, said, “I decided to put a hair mask in, right before I realized that the water was disgustingly brown. I did not want to take a cold shower because I wasn’t even sure if the cold water was clean and I didn’t want my whole body dirty.” Her solution to this problem was messy. “I had to help her rinse out her hair,” Jackowicz said. “This consisted of [Stone] bent over in the shower with the cold water on while I tried to rinse her hair out. We were both so cold from the water and it took forever to get the mask out.”

No email was sent from Residence Life addressing the brown water situation even though it affected and more so, concerned, all of the residents in Randolph/Mason halls. Jackowicz expressed strong feelings about this incident, saying, “It makes me a little angry because if I hadn’t seen the sink water first then I might have washed my clothes in brown water or gotten into the shower with the dirty water. I feel like that is something important that they should have informed us of.” 

“My roommate and I had to call student services because we had no idea what was happening. I think we were the first people to tell someone because they seemed really appalled with what we were telling them [about the brown water],” Stone said.

“The tubing for the hot water heater had built up sediment and needed to be replaced. We got word at 4:45pm today [January 24, 2018] that the contractor had completed repairs and hot water had been fully restored to Randolph/Mason,” said David Fleming, Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Housing.

“It was shut off so the hot water heater can be worked on,” Nolan Akau, Director of Maintenance Services, confirmed.

The water eventually cleared up and there have been no issues in the two buildings since. 

“The water is fine now but we had to run it through the sink and shower for over an hour to get the water to clear up… [it was] very annoying,” said Jackowicz. 

Stone agreed, saying, “I am still too afraid to shower because I don’t want to take a shower in dirty water and I don’t want to get sick.” 

The hot water issue needed to be taken care of in one fix. The most concerning aspect of this, though, was the lack of communication from Residence Life about the brown water coming out of the faucets and shower heads. Residents, including myself, were left stunned and shocked at this incident that persisted for the rest of the day. This was yet another inconvenience that Residence Life neglected to inform residents the cause of and when it would end.

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