Pipe leak in Merritt creates lack of drinking water for the building

Merritt Athletic Center (pictured above) had no safe drinking water for athletes at the gym over a two week period because of a pike leak. The pipe was scheduled to be replaced in the summer, but the leakage prompted a quicker repair (Udeshi Seneviratne/ photo Editor).

For the past two weeks, the water pipe in Merritt Athletic Center was under repair due to leakage caused by old age. During the process of replacing the pipe, the water in Merritt was not drinkable.

The initial plan was to replace the pipe over the summer, but the leakage caused the college to repair it sooner, according to Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Planning George Stooks. 

“We had it on our list to replace it for some time now. We were planning on replacing it this summer and it started to show signs of leakage” Stooks said. “So, we bypassed it and replaced it before it broke.”

Stooks assured students that the water in Merritt is safe to drink now according to tests from the Department of Health. 

“We marked the drinking fountains as ‘do not drink the water,’” Stooks said. “This is no different than we would do in an underground water main break, until such time that we had the line replaced, sanitized and tested by the Department of Health.”

According to Stooks, the pipe line entered the building almost 20 feet down from the surface. This area of campus between Schrader and Merritt has infrastructure that is buried fairly deep and the pipe replacement is “not a cheap fix.” 

“I don’t know if there’s been any negative impact on Merritt,” Stooks said. “There was an impact on athletics and the events that we had scheduled in there. We notified [Office of] Scheduling and Events and had them inform their clients. We also provided 10 cases of bottled water to the athletic department so that they could use it for any events that they had in there or any need that they had while we were restoring the drinking water.”

Work-out center supervisor and psychology major sophomore Samantha Koch said that water was pumped from Schrader Hall to Merritt while the college repaired the pipe, but that this water was not safe for consumption. 

“This was done to keep the restrooms working and to keep Merritt running as smoothly as possible,” Koch said. “Although, the water coming in from the firehose was not ‘food grade,’ in other terms, the water being pumped into Merritt wasn’t sanitary for drinking purposes.”

Koch said that she believes that the college handled the situation “to the best of their ability,” despite the inconvenience it may have posed for students, specifically athletes.

“Not having drinking water during that time period … inconvenienced many people who came to the gym,” Koch said. “Personally, I was able to interact with students who were very understanding of the situation, but others felt the need to take it out on the staff that works in Merritt as if we had a choice in how fast the water main got fixed.”

Childhood and special education major sophomore Lindsay Bazan said that she believes that the college handled the situation poorly and expressed her discontent that the pipe wasn’t fixed in a more timely manner.

“I think [the pipe leakage] is definitely an issue that should have been a top priority and fixed immediately,” Bazan said. “That’s an athletic building that needs to have water that you can drink.”

Bazan said that she did not go to the gym as often during the time that the pipe was under repair because the water was undrinkable.

“Usually I go through more than just the water bottle that I bring, so even if I do fill my water bottle up at home, I will end up running out and I can’t drink while I’m there,” Bazan said. “And usually I’m there for a long time, so there’s nothing for me to drink and I get dehydrated and that’s not effective for my workout.”