Damaged line stops water service

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wednesday morning, Max Ashby ’12 woke up at 10 a.m. and began his morning routine. But when he got to the shower, the water had been turned off. He went back at noon, and again, he was not able to make use of the shower.

Ashby was not alone, as water service for 28 buildings on campus were turned off yesterday between shortly after 8:30 a.m. and shortly after noon. The water had to be turned off when contractors working on the Utility Infrastructure Renewal Project damaged an underground domestic water line on Waterman Street, said Paul Dietel, director of project management for Facilities Management. Providence Water was called in to make repairs to the line, and in order to do so effectively, it had to turn off a water main that provides water service for various University buildings, including Faunce House, Hope College, the Rockefeller, John Hay and John Carter Brown libraries and buildings on the Main Green.

Dietel said he thought the contractors working on the project and Providence Water did a good job dealing with the situation and getting the water back online as efficiently as possible.

While Dietel said it is not uncommon for utilities to sustain damage during construction, this particular problem was unusual. “I can’t remember the last time something like this happened. Not an everyday occurrence, I would say.”

Showers were not the only amenities shut down due to the lack of water. The Blue Room was one casualty, and the workers had to scramble to keep it running, said Ken Richardson, a food service worker there. Richardson said they had to get coffee from the Sharpe Refectory, use pre-made sandwiches from Josiah’s and close down the deli line.

“It was embarrassing. We couldn’t serve certain things, couldn’t wash our hands, so we had to use other means,” Richardson said, noting the use of hand sanitizer and trips to the Ratty bathroom. “It was terrible.”

At the Rock, the bathrooms were out of service. Senior Library Specialist Sue Gervais, who was at the library while the water was down, said they had to use the facilities across the street at Horace Mann. Gervais, who called it “very inconvenient,” said she did not use the bathroom while it was down, opting to stay at the Rock rather than cross the street for those.

But Gervais said the library, including the cafe, remained open despite the shut down. “I was able to get coffee. I think we were able to get it all poured before it happened,” she said. “We got all the important stuff.”

Ashby was not discouraged by the lack of water. Instead, he walked to Morris Hall on Pembroke campus to use those showers.

“I might start using those regularly anyways,” he joked, referring to the private showers in that dorm.