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Harriman Campus Pipe Upgrade Changes Student Routines, Delays Research

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Upgrade work on a water line underneath a parking lot in the Harriman State Office campus temporarily reduced water pressure on the uptown campus last Monday, postponing experiments and causing some confusion for low-rise residents.

A construction worker at the site reported that new, larger pipes were being installed to increase water flow, but was not aware that the installation had had any effect on the college. The construction site is on the edge of Harriman parking lots H and G.

New York States’ Office of General Services confirmed through email that, since the college’s domestic water supply is provided via Harriman Campus, the pressure drop occurred when workers took a water line out of service last weekend.

“A lot of that infrastructure on Harriman dates back from the ‘50s, so you had to go in there and replace pipes that are decaying and fittings and things like that,” said John Giarrusso, associate vice president of Facilities Management.

Though unsure of the problem, Giarrusso said possible culprits could be design flaws, broken valves, or construction errors. OGS did not expect the pressure to drop, and told the college there wouldn’t be any more issues with the project.

Over the last 11 years, there have been over four water pressure problems.
UAlbany staff were alerted to the problem on Monday afternoon via an email instructing them to conserve water. The memo also stated that “ornamental fountains and chiller/cooling units will be curtailed.”

The university’s police department alerted students approximately six and a half hours later, at 6:50 p.m. The email instructed low-rise residential students to stop using second and third floor restrooms.
Adrianna Reitman, a freshman living in State Quad’s Fulton Hall low-rise, said the problem was poorly communicated with students.

“I feel like not everybody checks their email, so it just would have been nice if our RA would have told everyone.”

Students, like Reitman, in upper-level floors had to walk down the stairs to the first floor to use the bathroom, and weren’t able to shower until the following day.

According to Giarrusso, if a majority of students hadn’t followed UPD’s directions, toilets may have been locked in endless cycles of running without flushing, and water pressure would have been further reduced.

Several graduate students reported that the pressure decrease did not substantially interfere with their research, though they were told to hold off on performing certain reactions Monday night. Unstable water pressure might have caused certain pieces of equipment to break or explode.

Zheng Zhou, a chemistry graduate student, identified a piece of equipment called an evaporator which was put off-limits Monday to prevent damage.

Lisa Donahue, director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, confirmed that certain experiments were postponed as a result of the pressure drop, and that some equipment was affected because of fluctuating pressure. They alerted chemistry department staff and students of the problem to ensure safety and curtail water usage.

In a separate situation, State Quad, Indian Quad, and some academic buildings will be without hot water for approximately 36 hours next week in order to facilitate maintenance, according to Facilities Management.

Administration learned that the college’s high-temperature hot water system was in need of repair at the beginning of the month, and the exact date of the maintenance has not been determined. Students impacted will be notified when a date is decided upon.  

 

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Joe Hoffman is the managing editor for the Albany Student Press.

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