Editorial: Plumbing issues in the cafeteria and bathrooms

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When it comes to people discussing aspects of Schreiber they enjoy or appreciate, the bathrooms of the school never seem to make the cut. As hard as the custodial staff try to maintain them, they are always dirty and can be, in some cases, frankly disgusting. This is understandable: they are public facilities used by hundreds of people each day and with limited time available for upkeep.

What is not acceptable, however, is the state of some of the plumbing infrastructure that exists within the school and has been steadily deteriorating over the years. This is a common problem in many public facilities and, unfortunately, it is an expensive one to remedy. That is, if the school wanted to permanently (or at least for several decades) push this issue into the realm of obscurity rather than only providing small patchwork that will never be sufficient.

Pipe deterioration and clogging can have serious impacts on both sanitation and utility of school facilities. This was demonstrated recently when sewage began backing up through drains in the technology wing bathrooms and even through the drains up into the Automotive Shop. This made the room unusable and required the urgent attention of custodial staff to remediate the room from the effects of raw sewage. For days following, the room smelled strongly of bleach.

As appreciative as students are for the prompt reaction, was it really enough to provide this measure? Would it not be more beneficial in the long run, not just for reasons of ease, but financially as well, to have a survey done on pipe deterioration and clogging in order to create a permanent solution? Nobody ever likes to hear that the necessary solution is to replace, that you simply cannot manage with what’s in place, but with pipes, sometimes that is the only solution. For the hundreds of feet of pipe that are likely rusted through or in danger of becoming so, replacing them now, as expensive as that may be, can save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run in sanitation and water damage remediation costs.

Additionally, even for pipes that are not deteriorated, clogging is a significant issue. Pipes can become easily clogged from buildups of fat (from soap) mixing with whatever foreign products find their way into the sewers (toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, etc.), creating masses known as “fatbergs,” which can, in city sewers, grow to over ten feet tall, shutting down an entire system. On the smaller scale, here in the class, a mass something like this would be the likely culprit behind recent flooding in the Technology Wing, and nobody knows where else these potential clogs could be lurking in the system. A comprehensive survey of the plumbing works, replacing damaged pipe and clearing large clogs, is the only way that the school can bring its utilities into the 21st century with a solution that will stand the test of time.

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