Lord-Saunders in a drain dilemma
For over two weeks now the residents of the Afrikan Heritage House, which is also known as Lord -Saunders, have been experiencing the aftermath of the rainy season. On Sept. 18 the sewage back-up system in the dorm experienced a failure and flooded the laundry room before slowly making its way into the rooms of several students. Some residents, their RA and a few student senators accused ResEd of untimely and insufficient response to this problem.
The issue was brought up before Student Senate on Sept. 24 by College sophomore Charlotte Collins, who is the RA at Lord-Saunders. According to her estimations, about 15 to 20 students were “significantly affected” by the problem, and many people on the other side of the dorm are becoming sick.
“[The college] will have to deal with this uprising,” Collins said in front of the Senate.
“We’re paying money to come to this school, and it’s not right we have to live in these conditions,” said sophomore and Lord-Saunders resident Ezinwanyi Ukegbu.
According to the residents and their RA, the College did not respond until two hours after the accident was reported, and the measures that were eventually taken were insufficient. The water level had reached five to seven inches and had saturated the carpets. The response was to have them wet-vacuumed and sprayed with disinfectant.
“I have followed up with the people who addressed the situation in Saunders Hall on Sunday, Sept. 18,” said Molly Tyson, director of Residential Education and Dining Services.
“Security received a call from RA Charlotte Collins and immediately initiated the Facility Office’s Manager On Call system. At this time both custodians and a plumber were contacted.”
Tyson went on to explain that the contacted staff arrived “within 1.25 hours of the initial call to Security and began assessing and correcting the situation.” Keith Watkins, an associate director of ResEd Facilities/Custodial services, verified this.
At that point, Tyson continued, the backed-up drain was cleared and the carpets were extracted and treated.
“Facility Operations continued the extraction and treatment process for the carpets, as well as treatment of the drain, with a bio-digestor and deodorizer throughout the week due to concerns expressed by students and ResEd staff,” Tyson said.
The description of the situation coming from the students, though, was slightly different. The report claimed that the carpet turned black, the kitchen had to be shut down and a foul odor and flies overtook the dorm.
Senator Matt Kaplan, when presented with the issue at the Sept. 24 Senate meeting, called it an “incredible health issue if, in fact, the students were being exposed to sewage and waste.”
One of the residents in Afrikan Heritage House explained that he has bad asthma and finds it hard to breathe in the current conditions there.
After the issue was brought up in front of Student Senate, the senators took it upon themselves to resolve the situation. The first action they took was the unanimously adopted proposal to immediately hire a health inspector at the estimated cost of about $500, for which the Senate would pay, expecting to be reimbursed by the College. The health inspector’s report was to be sent to the College accompanied by demands that any problems be fixed.
“[We] can’t let bureaucracy take its time and have it be another three days,” senator Ozlem Gemici, a senior, said about the proposal for Senate to hire a health inspector only if the College does not respond.
Tyson said that the College has already consulted a health inspector. “The ResEd Office has been in consultation with Dorothy Kloos, a Lorain County Health Inspector,” she said.
“After explaining the incident and the actions taken by Facility Operations...Kloos stated that proper clean-up procedures were followed. [She] did suggest that we complete two types of visual inspections to be sure that carpeting was not damaged. These suggestions will be completed by Facility Operations staff by the end of the week,” continued Tyson.
“If you are asking if the issue of the floor drain in the laundry room that backed up has been resolved then yes, it has been,” said Watkins. “The ‘gray water’ that backed up into the laundry room and the hallway along with some entryways into three student rooms were extracted and treated by Oberlin College custodians on the same afternoon the problem occurred.”
“This also is a common occurrence after snaking [or] clearing a drain,” Watkins said. “On Monday afternoon Molly Tyson and I toured the area and found no bad [or] unusual odors or stained carpet in the affected hallway or laundry room. While in the area we spoke with the Faculty in Residence and one of the Resident Assistants for Saunders. They agreed that the area was back to the way it was prior to the incident.” Some measures were scheduled for later in the week as well.
“ResEd Office has requested that Facility Operations shampoo, extract and treat all of the public area carpeting within the Saunders building,” Tyson said. “This will be occurring on Friday, Sept. 30. In addition, both myself and Keith Watkins were invited to and will be attending the next Umoja meeting of Afrikan Heritage House on Oct. 5 to answer questions and respond to the concerns of students.”
The issue of the floor drain has been resolved for now. However no guarantees have been given to the residents of Lord-Saunders, which has not been renovated in 45 years.
“You ask if it will occur again – as with any mechanical or
utility system you can never predict when problems will occur,” Watkins