McMaster dorm residents moved to hotels for water repairs in Hamilton

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Published January 24, 2024 at 3:10 pm

The McMaster University dorm that was recently accused of facing “critical issues” has temporarily evacuated all residents so they can fix the building’s water system.

Residents in the dorm, mostly graduate students, formed the 10 Bay Tenant Working Solidarity Group back in December to bring attention to issues in the building. Working with CUPE, the group claimed to have experienced unsafe water, electrical blackouts, bug infestations and other health and safety issues in the building.

The water issue was paramount as the tenants reported it was flowing from the tap white and cloudy. The tenants claim they experienced stomach aches, acne and rashes due to exposure to the water. They had the water tested, which confirmed the presence of total coliforms (which does not include the related but distinct E. Coli bacteria).

McMaster’s own testing confirmed the coliform presence. The university stressed, however, that coliform exposure is “not considered a significant threat to human health.”

McMaster wrote, “Other residents’ concerns listed were dealt with promptly as they arose.”

The group has additionally provided images which show a white murkiness in the water. The university has advised students to boil their water if they remain concerned about coliforms after they flush and chlorinate the building’s water supply. McMaster also provided bottled water to the residents after the Solidarity Group made their complaints public “out of an abundance of caution.”

The university wrote to the tenants of 10 Bay St. on Jan. 24 to say they were continuing to work on addressing the coliform issue in the pipes. However, McMaster noted, “Due to the size and complexity of the plumbing at 10 Bay, addressing this issue is complex.”

A water consultant has recommended a “comprehensive course of action to resolve this issue,” including a full-scale chlorination of the building’s water system, including all pipes and all in-unit plumbing and fixtures. This includes cleaning and replacing all pipes under the apartment sinks, showerheads and faucets.

As a result of the extensive work, all residents are asked to move into a nearby hotel from Feb. 4 to 9.

“While we recognize this is an inconvenience, the success of this approach requires the complete isolation of all water sources in the building and access to all units in the building so the detailed methodology and timing for chlorination can be implemented over the course of several days. If any residents use the water system, it may compromise the testing and the ability to address the treatment,” they wrote.

The hotel stay will not cost the residents. The university has covered all hotel fees and bookings and will provide a $100 per diem for food. They’ve also reduced the February rent by 25 per cent.

“More information will be provided, but please pack everything you will need during your stay, including any medications, identifications, cables, chargers or other important items. If you forget anything, we will provide you with escorted access to your unit,” McMaster told residents.

A spokesman for McMaster said the letter sent to residents was all the university could provide as comment.

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