Plumbing problems plague ResCo

ResCo students experience plumbing issues at the start of the spring 2024 semester. Photo courtesy of Vivian Rodkey. 


Students returning to Residential College (ResCo) from winter break — excited about the reopening of the long-awaited ResCo dining — were greeted by unappetizing plumbing difficulties, ranging in severity from leaks and residue in sinks to intense flooding. Several students have been affected, and maintenance has been slow to help at the beginning of the spring 2024 semester. 

First-year history major Vivian Rodkey experienced an extreme case of these issues — her sinks overflowed with sewage water, flooding her bathroom before maintenance could help. 

“Monday [Jan. 15] is when [my roommates] started noticing that the sinks weren’t draining — or they were — but very slowly,” Rodkey said. “Tuesday morning we noticed that the sink was filling up more. The water was discolored, and there were particles of gunk and dead bugs coming up.” 

Rodkey struggled to get maintenance to fix the plumbing issues despite contacting the office several times. They only arrived once the problem became severe. 

“I put in a work order Tuesday morning,” Rodkey said. “ … They didn’t fix it until it flooded on Friday morning.” 

Rodkey also contacted the maintenance office on Thursday, and she was promised aid that was not delivered. 

“I directly called their offices in the morning, and I told them, ‘The sinks aren’t draining, there’s water coming up, and it’s turning brown,’” Rodkey said. “They said they’d send someone to come and fix it that day, and no one came.” 

Leah Foster, a first-year risk management & insurance major, has faced similar problems with ResCo plumbing and maintenance. Her issues began as a minor leak beneath her sink on Monday, Jan. 15, but the situation escalated as the days went on. 

“The first day we had the leak, we asked our [residential assistant] what to do,” Foster said. “Then we called the RA on duty, and they said that they put in a work order. So by the third day that nobody had come, we put in our own work order because in the sink there were dead bugs, bug larvae and little worms. As soon as we all put in a work order for that, they immediately came the next day.” 

Rodkey and Foster’s experiences with slow maintenance response times could be due to maintenance services being understaffed. In a phone call with maintenance services, Rodkey was told that there were not enough plumbers to manage the demands of recent plumbing issues. 

“When the flooding happened and I called, they were like, ‘We only have a couple plumbers, and there’s a lot of issues going on,’” Rodkey said. 

This lack of plumbers proved troublesome when work orders skyrocketed at the beginning of the semester. John Lacheta, the manager of facilities and operations, explained in an email to The Butler Collegian just how overwhelming the number of work orders became. 

“We had under 200 work orders open or pending the week before students moved back, and it jumped to above 350 just over the weekend when students moved back,” Lacheta said in his email. 

Due to the immense number of work orders and the small number of plumbers, the most urgent cases are prioritized. If orders do not convey a sense of urgency, as Lacheta explained, then they will be delayed until time allows for the plumbers to fix them. 

“There were other work orders that were actively spilling water or creating damage,” Lacheta said. “Since these rooms were higher on the scale of urgent, it’s always helpful to include as much info as possible in a work request.” 

Old pipes are not the cause for this added pressure on the plumbers, as Lacheta explained that plumbing fixtures were included in the recent renovations. Instead, flushing non-flushable items appears to be the main cause. According to Lacheta, these clogs do not affect just one room but can impact other students too. 

“The water that goes down your sink may tie together with rooms next to you, or above you, before exiting the building,” Lacheta said. “Therefore, the room experiencing the issue may not be at fault, another room where their pipes connect could cause the issue, hence why we urge residents to be cautious of what they flush or send down a drain.” 

An email sent by Residence Life to inform ResCo residents of the increase in plumbing issues both in ResCo and across campus gives students advice on how to best avoid similar issues in the future. 

“With the drastic changes in temperature over the last few days, there have been some plumbing issues around campus,” Residence Life said in their email. “To prevent plumbing issues: keep windows closed, make sure your thermostats are set to the heat side and do not flush unflushable items.” 


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