CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that OWASA did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel by the time of publication. After the time of publication — at the request of the DTH — OWASA provided a statement on the clean water outage at Morrison Residence Hall. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
Updated 4:30 p.m.: OWASA cannot confirm if Monday's leak was directly caused by construction, although construction activity has caused water line breaks in the past, Communications Specialist Blake Hodge said Friday.
"As a result of the construction project, Morrison Residence Hall will be connected to a new water line once the project is complete," Hodge said in a statement. "We do recognize the impact of a loss in water service on the students and apologize for the inconvenience associated with this emergency work."
Students living in Morrison Residence Hall found themselves without any clean running water for four hours Monday evening, and had a boil water advisory in place until Wednesday morning.
A water line broke on Paul Hardin Drive, flooding the Morrison parking lot and leaving students with limited options for water access. The building’s water outage lasted from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., during which the 364 students who currently live in Morrison could not use the bathrooms, showers, water fountains or laundry machines.
The water was restored to the building by Orange Water and Sewer Authority around 9 p.m. on Monday, according to a statement from Allan Blattner, executive director of Carolina Housing.
While the restoration meant water was now running in the building, OWASA issued a boil advisory on Monday night for all drinking water in Morrison, meaning that contamination was possible but not confirmed. Around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, testing confirmed that the water was safe to drink and the boil advisory in Morrison was lifted.
Scrambling for water
While there was no water Monday evening, residents were told by the Morrison Community Director Joshua Ingebretson in an email that they could use the water in Rams Head Recreation Center or Chase Dining Hall — both of which would be closed by 9 p.m.
During the outage, with no apparent timeline of when the water would be fixed, Morrison residents scrambled to get their fill of water for basic necessities.
First-year Eva Buckner said that she had just returned to her room from a long, sweaty walk, desperate for a shower, when she learned of the water outage. She and her suitemate walked to the Student Union for access to a bathroom.
“We also stopped by Chase and filled up every water container we had,” Buckner said, adding that her suitemates brought their Brita filters to ensure they had sufficient supply for the night.
First-year Deeya Pathak said that the boil advisory added another layer of inconvenience to the situation.
On Tuesday morning, Carolina Housing provided plastic water bottles via Carolina Dining Services for residents in need, which Pathak said she and her suitemates picked up from the Morrison lobby.
Sophomore Priyanka Baghaie checked the water from her suite’s sink tap on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the water had been restored, and found it was yellow when it started running.
Baghaie, Buckner and Pathak all described being hesitant about using the discolored water for non-drinking purposes despite the messaging they received about its safety.
Blattner acknowledged the additional stress that Morrison students faced this week.
“We know incidents such as the water line break are an inconvenience to students and cause additional stress during an already challenging time,” he said.
Buckner said that worrying about the water situation on top of studying for exams contributed to the overall stress she has been feeling.
“It‘s just like the straw that broke the camel’s back of having to worry about that kind of thing,” she said.
Pathak said that the water outage and boil advisory has made her think about what a privilege it is to have access to clean, running water and what life is like without it.
“A lot of people live like this, and it’s just hard to kinda wrap my mind around,” she said.
Students have not been told what exactly caused the water line to break, but many speculate that it was due to the ongoing nearby construction.
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