What’s Up with the Water?

By Koko Christiaanse

— Leakages, broken pumps, faulty heating: issues with the hot water in the AUC dorms have been a long running phenomenon. AUC-related Facebook and Whatsapp groups have been flooded by complaints about the lack of heating and hot water. However, students who have noticed drilling and the appearance of new copper-colored pipes in the hallways can rest assured progress is being made to fix the problem. DUWO is currently replacing the water pipes with a more sustainable, long-term solution to student’s water-woes.

In the past year alone, seven e-mails informing tenants of water-related issues such as leakages have been sent out by DUWO’s social caretaker, Danielle van Tol. 

Although DUWO’s emails inform tenants of large, building wide issues, they do not shed light on individual incidents that have resulted from issues with the water system. Lanie Preston, third-year Science major, says she has had issues with losing hot water for days at a time every two weeks for the past six months. Last week, she did not have water for three days. Because she did not want to go to class without having showered in four days, Preston went to Universum to take a hot shower despite having an injured ankle. She says, “In the process I injured my ankle further to the point that I am now on crutches for an indeterminable amount of time.” Although Preston does not blame DUWO for the injury, she says, “for some people, not having hot water or a working elevator is more than a minor inconvenience, it’s something they can’t deal with.” 

DUWO announced their solution to the problem in an email to all tenants on October 21, 2019. According to the email, the problems with the water have been caused by the leaking of the synthetic pipes that the building is equipped with. It is explained that “the technical conditions of the warm water pipes is insufficient, which is why they need to be replaced with new pipes from stainless steel and isolated well.” 

An independent contractor hired by BAM Techniek who goes by Renzo explains; “What there is now, so-called UPONOR, is rotten and broken at a lot of places. They’re bad quality. So that’s why we are replacing them with copper.” According to Renzo, the synthetic pipes are especially weak at the connectors, causing leakages. The new pipes are currently installed in the hallways of the dormitory buildings, and the existing piping provisions will be replaced eventually. The cold water system will remain unaltered. 

An overview of the old water pipe system

In addition to the construction of new pipes, the warm water system, which is currently powered by a boiler, will be replaced by an “air-water heat pump.” These pumps will be placed on the roof of the building. The air-water heat pumps warm up water by using energy from outdoor air. The hot water generated is then used in the tap water and in the floor heating. According to DUWO, this system is a much more environmentally friendly option as it does not use natural gas, as opposed to the traditional boiler. DUWO says, “We will save approximately 195.000 kg CO2. In order to compensate for this, 10.000 trees would have to grow for one year.”

The firm BAM Techniek has been carrying out the constructions in the building. DUWO has informed of inconveniences surrounding the construction. New holes had to be drilled into the concrete walls, ceilings, and floors, causing noise pollution. Bluma Brecher, second-year Humanities Major, lives in the building where the drilling started. She says, “I would hear a lot of drilling noises specifically in the morning, which is not great at 8 am, or when I was studying or something like that. […] I think it was mostly the drilling noises that were very annoying if you’re trying to focus.” 

Construction workers have been seen around the building, and two large green containers have been placed in the parking lot furthest from AUC to facilitate the construction. The three bike sheds on the fifth floor will be halved in order to create room for warm water storage. These particular bike sheds will be affected because the air-water heat pumps are placed on the roof and the water needs to be stored on the floor below. According to Renzo, the water storage is necessary as the new pumps would not be able to provide enough warm water if everyone were to shower at the same time. DUWO says they are “considering where to compensate the “lost” bike storage spaces.”

In addition to these forewarned inconveniences, students have noticed an increase in unreliable hot water since the reparations started, especially in fluctuations in the hot water. For Alin Ataz, first year Social Science major, this resulted in a first-degree burn. Ataz started having issues with extreme fluctuation in the hot water after the pipe system was changed. Ataz says, “one day when I was taking a shower I got a first degree burn because the water fluctuated from cold to boiling hot water in one second. The insides of my thighs were burned because of the boiling hot water. I got a Doctor’s report saying that I had a first degree burn, I had blisters from the hot water.”

Before contracting the burn, Ataz and her roommate were advised by someone sent by DUWO to open the hot tap to its maximum and adjust the cold water accordingly. After the incident, which occurred about two weeks ago, Ataz says she contacted DUWO about her burns. “My roommate and I were both afraid to shower,” she says. “All they did was fix the shower head. The guy who came to fix the shower didn’t know anything about the situation; he asked if our toilet wasn’t working. They didn’t even inform him it was about our shower.” According to Ataz, the new showerhead did not have an impact on the situation, but that the water has been working “fine since this week”.

Many other students experienced similar problems with the hot water while the constructions were being carried out. Ataz knew from speaking to other students and from the AUC-oriented  instagram meme-page “aucommunism” that she was not the only one having these issues.

The meme posted on the “aucommunism” meme account.

As of now, all holes have been drilled through the ceilings and floors. In the dormitory building furthest from the AUC Academic Building, pipes have been covered using metal enclosures. In other buildings, the pipes are yet to be installed or still bare. There is no hot water running through the completed sections yet. DUWO projects that construction will be finished by the end of April, 2020. The contractor will make an individual appointment with tenants to connect rooms to the new water system.  

DUWO was not available for further comment or information in time for the publishing of this article.

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