Carnegie residents face hot water crisis

In the fall semester of last year, Carnegie Hall experienced a hot water outage. Coming into the new spring semester, three consecutive instances have left Carnegie residents without hot water in their dorms.

“When the hot water cuts out, the water is cold enough to turn your lips blue during a shower,” said M. Nance, a Carnegie resident.

Tensions and frustrations have been on the rise for students living in Carnegie, and the lack of hot water has put a significant dent in more than a few schedules. Unable to take showers or baths in their own dorms, many have taken to using the facilities of friends’ residence halls —which in some cases involves a trek across the campus — or even borrowing the showers of off-campus friends or relatives.

Residence Life in Carnegie sent out emails urging students to make use of Cooper Athletic Center and the Alumni Gym for their shower facilities. Still, complaints soon arose when it came to light that both buildings had only one available shower in each.

Complaints have also been made about the channels of communication regarding this issue. When hot water went out most recently on Monday, Feb. 3, students claimed they were not informed by ResLife or Resident Assistants until Thursday, Feb. 6, three days later.

“Yes, we knew that the water was out, and yes, we told the R.A.s, but we didn’t get any confirmation about that knowledge being received for three days,” Nance said. “They should have communicated their solution to the problem before they acted on it so that the students could know what to expect.”

Reggie Dailey, head of the Physical Plant on campus, clarifies that Carnegie does not work on a “typical” home water heater system. In the building’s basement, there is a medium-sized gas-fired boiler with two accompanying storage tanks. The boiler heats the water, which is then moved to the storage tanks before being circulated throughout the hall.

“Back in November, when we had the first significant outage with the hot water system, that was largely due to failed gas control valves … which took a while to diagnose,” Dailey said. “But when we found out what the problem was, we did not have any replacement parts on hand and had to order them.”

Reggie Daily checks to see if the Carnegie systems are running properly.

Picture by Grace Mathews.

After a few minor outages that came with the system adjusting to the new valves, things ran smoothly throughout Christmas break and into the first few weeks of January. However, things became more complicated later that month with an increase of high winds, which shut the boiler down.

Dailey and his employees at the Physical Plant thought that the higher than average wind speed affected the exhaust duct from the boiler or the amount of fresh air entering it. Modifications were made to fix this problem, but there was another significant failure regarding the airflow switch, not a week later, which required another part that the Physical Plant needed to order.

More complications followed. With Dailey’s morning building checks, he found the boiler down and in need of a restart on several occasions. The latest major outage came the night of Sunday, Feb. 9. It was caused by an entirely different issue within the heating system — a broken igniter. The igniter was replaced within the week, but not before grievances from students came in.  

The current solution involves redirecting the exhaust duct out the side of the building temporarily. However, this has required all residents on that side to keep their windows closed, and carbon monoxide detectors needed to be installed to avoid the health risks that come along with diverting the duct this way.

The Physical Plant has already ordered two new replacement boilers to find a more permanent solution to the problem, one of which will likely be installed over Spring break in March. Dailey affirms that things look stable for the time being.

Many have seen this state of affairs within Carnegie Hall as an indication that Maryville College needs to update some of its facilities.

“I think this is a greater sign that general maintenance with heating, plumbing, and keeping things up to date has not been done recently,” said Ali Lawson, Junior Class Senator for SGA and Carnegie resident himself. “Moving into this new decade and the new hundred years, Maryville is going to have to make sure their infrastructure is kept up to date with standards students expect from a 21st century establishment.”

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