Gummere’s 1/1 (‘‘first-first’’) hall had the first inklings of trouble coming up the pipes around two weeks ago when they noticed “weird stuff” happening in one of their two shared bathrooms on a Saturday night.
Weird stuff? A first-year living on the hall expanded.
“I noticed ‘dirt’ in the shower. It looked like a puddle with mold in both showers, but we just assumed it was dirt,” said Poppy Northing ‘22. “Turns out it was the first round of sewage coming out of the shower.”
A total hygienic exodus began the next morning, April 14th, when sewage began backing up out of the toilet and showers in the bathroom, seeping out into much of the carpeted hall and the common room.
The college temporarily controlled the flood late that night, and the Office of Residential Life notified the whole dorm via email that the entire first section’s water would be cut off for four hours for “sewer repairs” on the 16th, impacting 1/1 as well as the two floors above it.
However, the repairs did not halt the rampage. The hall began flooding again that Thursday night, and the facilities were not fully clean until the next Monday, April 22nd.
The sewage troubles came right in the middle of Open Campus Weekend, during which many admitted students get to know Haverford with overnight stays in first-year halls like Gummere. One prospective student overnighting on 1/1 was caught up in the chaos, too. “I woke up at 2:00 in the morning with two people shouting ‘Oh my god, why do we live like this,’” said Gaia Getzel, who has committed to attend college elsewhere.
In the meantime, until the floors were dried and cleaned, students bypassed the stairwell next to 1/1 and neighboring halls closed their main doors. 1/1st’s residents were not so lucky. The first-years and customs folk who lived there began showering on other halls. “I mostly just avoided spending time on the hall and kept my window open all day and my door closed. We would hold our breath walking through the hall because the air felt unhealthy and smelled awful,” a first-year who lives on 1/1 wrote. However, the events did come with a small upside: “On the other hand, our bathrooms are now cleaner than they’ve been all year.”
The unfortunate circumstances lent a little urgency to rumors that Gummere’s bathrooms would be remodeled this summer, including a Residential Life email notifying residents that contractors would be touring the building following the incident. The Clerk contacted David Harrower, the College’s Assistant Director of Facilities Management for Planning and Design, who laid out the long-term plan to completely renovate Gummere’s bathrooms and plumbing.
Over email, Harrower confirmed the rumors. “The College is planning a four-year phased renovation of the Gummere toilet rooms during the summers. The scope will include all new infrastructure, finishes and fixtures. Some of the toilet rooms will be reconfigured to improve the layouts. All layouts have been reviewed and vetted by the Office of Residential Life.”
He further explained that plumbing in the building is laid out vertically, in “stacks” of three bathrooms such that there are six stacks in the entire building, since each of Gummere’s three sections contains two bathrooms per floor. The first two phases, or years, would likely involve renovating one stack each, or one of the two bathrooms per hall in one section, and the next two phases two stacks each.
Future residents of the dormitory can rest easier regarding potential future floods, as the long-term project also involves new hot-water heaters and, crucially, a new backflow preventer.
The project’s elongated overall timespan comes down to annual renovation budgets and the need to use Gummere for housing over the summer, according to Harrower. Once the work is complete, however, the dorm’s incoming first-year residents will be able to save their apprehension for the year ahead of them instead of the pipes beneath them.