Ngosu Ndiwane, a junior Accounting student at UMass Lowell and a resident of the Inn and Conference Center, took to Twitter last week after she discovered that the water coming from the faucets in her dorm room were brown.
Ndiwane claimed that it was not the first time that the water was brown and she had reached out to the UMass Lowell ICC and various other university officials but received no explanation in return.
“Yet again, my water this morning was BROWN,” Ndiwane’s tweet stated. “This is not the first or second time this occurred. I’m tired of putting in the SAME complaints and no resolutions. This is DISGUSTING.”
According to other students who lived in the ICC and wished to remain anonymous, their past issues with the water were eventually fixed, but they never heard back from any university officials.
In a joint statement from UMass Lowell Dean of Student Affairs and Enrichment James Kohl and Director of Operations and Services TJ McCarthy, the brown water was the result of sediment coming through bypass pipes as the university has been working diligently to resolve issues of a lack of hot water in the ICC.
“As part of a state-funded sustainability initiative, the university installed new, state-of-the-art, high-efficiency boilers last fall,” the statement read. “The reality is that for a large, complex building like the ICC, which was built before this type of boiler technology existed, it has taken us some time to fine-tune the system to ensure all residents and guests have access to as much hot water as they need…To drain and clean the tanks, water is rerouted through bypass pipes. That process likely stirred up sediment and caused isolated incidents of discolored water for a small number of residents. Friday’s maintenance should further minimize these rare instances of sediment in the water.”
The university also said that the water, while unappealing to look at, is 100 percent safe to drink and use as the city of Lowell says in their health code safety manual.
“[Sediment] exists in all water systems with metal piping and anything from a water main break in the city system to the use of fire hydrants by the fire department to valve operations in an individual building can disrupt it,” the statement read. “Running the water will flush the sediment and it remains safe to drink and use as testing by the city of Lowell demonstrates.”
Still, Ndiwane and other ICC residents were not happy with the lack of communication, and the university acknowledged that it is an area where they can improve when they are upgrading or doing maintenance work on the water pipes and any other systems in the ICC and across campus.
“While I’m glad that [the university] has fixed it, the fact is that they haven’t reached out to any students the last few times that the water has been brown,” a student who asked to remain anonymous said. “It shouldn’t take the school at least a whole semester of things like this occurring to finally get an answer after a tweet blows up.”
Multiple students who lived in the ICC said that the water issue was eventually resolved after running their faucets for about 10 to 15 minutes, but some students said that because they were not sure if they could use their water, these students showered and went through their daily hygiene procedures in other dorms that they knew had clean water.
“I’m glad that [the water issue] is fixed,” the anonymous student said. “But I don’t know if this will be a common occurrence going forward. This should have been taken care of in between semesters.”