Issues with Village House plumbing resolved after third flooding incident

| News Editor

After three separate instances of flooding in Village House this semester, Washington University administrators are now confident that the issue is resolved.

The first two incidents occurred between Aug. 29 and Sept. 3, affecting the rooms of eighteen different residents on a wing of the second floor hall as well as the first floor lobby entrance. Although administrators initially believed that the plumbing issue was resolved after the first two incidents, the same areas were affected during another case of flooding a month later, Oct. 4.

Photo by Stephen Huber

In all three cases, the water was immediately shut off for three hours in an effort to stop the flooding. Will Andrews, associate director of Residential Life, coordinated his office’s efforts to repair the damage, provide accommodations for students affected by the flooding and prevent future incidents.

“We brought in an outside contracting company that managed the restoration work, and we also, of course, notified the students and provided alternative housing for students who wished to take up those options,” Andrews said.

The University offered temporary housing units on campus to the eighteen students affected by the flooding while their dorms were being repaired. However, only five students chose to relocate.

Administrators communicated with the students who chose to remain in the Village through a series of emails providing progress updates on the restoration process.

“They would email us with what their schedule planned on being and what they were going to do each day and when they were going to be in the room, so it was fairly transparent,” junior Abigail Anderson said.

Certain students, however, expressed concerns over a lack of communication about when maintenance workers would be visiting the dorms to work.

“They didn’t knock at all, and I often leave my door open when I leave my room…so when they would come into our common space, my door would be wide open and I obviously have possessions there,” junior Sophia Goldman said. “And there would also be no warning, so I didn’t know when they were coming or going.”

Rob Wild, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, expressed regret over the lack of communication with students.

“I think we [are only] as good as our ability to share information, and I don’t think we shared information as well as we could have, both in terms of what was going on in terms of the communication that we needed to make to students,” Wild said. “We have talked that through and are committed to clarity and transparency whenever possible.”

After the third case of flooding, Oct. 4, the Department of Facilities Planning and Management identified the source of the problem as clogging of the pipes supplying Village House with water.

“So Facilities…did some investigating and they were able to figure out exactly what was going on where a lot of the work took place outside of the building,” Andrews said. “Probably some of the students saw that they had to dig underground to clear out some pipes there, but everything is resolved now.”

However, many students remain frustrated that Residential Life failed to resolve the plumbing problems until the third incident.

“My major complaint was that it happened a second time. I feel like they should have been more proactive if it happened the first time,” Goldman said.

“In this case, we thought we had corrected the problem after the first incident, but clearly we did not, which is unfortunate,” Wild said. “But we think we have it now and we are hopeful that those problems won’t happen again.”

Wild acknowledges that maintenance issues are an inevitable part of managing housing for over 5000 different students, but hopes to minimize such incidents by being more proactive about maintenance in the future.

“It is not uncommon, unfortunately, from time to time, when you have a portfolio that big, to have maintenance concerns,” Wild said. “We try to do a lot of preventative work to prevent them from happening, but it does happen, and this was a very unfortunate [group of] multiple issues that happened to the same people in the same building.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.