Student dorm suffers ‘critical issues’ at Hamilton’s McMaster University

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Published December 14, 2023 at 8:05 pm

Tenants of the graduate students dorm on Hamilton’s McMaster University campus have reported numerous “critical issues” including unsafe water, electrical blackouts, bug infestations and other health and safety issues.

The tenants have formed a 10 Bay Tenant Working Solidarity Group in concert with CUPE 3906, which represents McMaster’s academic staff. The group drafted an open letter outlining their concerns with ten major points of contention.

Firstly, they claim the water in the building is unsafe for consumption or washing. Tenants have reported physical symptoms such as rashes, stomach aches and acne from exposure to the water. They have confirmed the presence of coliform bacteria in the building’s water supply. McMaster has announced they are working to confirm these findings.

This family of bacteria includes Coliform consumption can result in significant diseases and health issues. However, most coliforms are not dangerous. “The medical experts we have consulted have been clear with us that total coliforms – a category that expressly does not include E. Coli* – are not considered a significant threat to human health,” McMaster wrote, “Other residents’ concerns listed in your story 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 flushed and chlorinated 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.”

Additionally, the group alleges the electrical power in the building is subject to frequent blackouts, building staff have entered their units without the required 24-hour notice and the lack of a mail room has caused significant problems.

The building has also been subject to construction lately prompting health and safety concerns from tenants. Despite this construction, tenants continue to voice concerns over inadequate repairs, poor maintenance and a lack of needed amenities such as toilet seats, blinds and air conditioning.

They continued that the bug infestations were a particular cause of alarm and needed to be addressed urgently. Finally, the group alleges unauthorized people are frequently inside the building due to a lack of proper security measures.

To remedy the situation, the group has demanded a 75 per cent rent refund for November and December and a 60 per cent reduction until the construction is finished. They’ve also for rent to be reduced until the parking is accessible and a comprehensive review of water and air quality to see if their concerns have been addressed.

Additionally, they want a third-party hazard review, advanced notice of construction and an immediate extermination of all bugs.

A previous edit of this story incorrectly conflated total coliforms with the related, but distinct E. Coli bacteria. 

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