Campus Question: Why have there been a series of water issues on campus?


Chetana Ramaiyer

Additional reporting by Sepand Rouz and Claire Chang.

n Wed. Nov. 23, while walking to his fourth period class, junior Matthew Hsieh was interrupted by a tall stream of water gushing out of a broken pipeline at the back of B building, near the bike racks. Later that day, an announcement was made during fourth period informing students that the water was going to be shut off, leaving the bathrooms unavailable for students to use.

“There was this huge sound. It sounded like a thunderstorm or something like that. And then a sudden gush of water just like burst up. It was almost to the second story building,” Hsieh said. “[Our school is] wasting a lot of water when these things happen. So we should really pay attention to what we’re doing and be careful to try to prevent these things from happening.”

While walking to his fourth period class, junior Matthew Hsieh encountered the broken pipe. While looking for another valve, the construction crew ended up hitting a pipe, causing it to burst. Video used with permission of Matthew Hsieh.

The problem originated from a breach in a pipe near the bicycle racks, where water was gushing out from under the asphalt and running onto the street. The construction crew searched  for a valve to turn the water off to stop the leak.  Although the broken pipe from Wed. Nov 23, was fixed, the water was again set to be shut down on Tues, Nov. 29. The administration planned for this shut down before that Tuesday and had notified the school, but this was later cancelled after school that day. It is not a simple task to fix pipes that have burst which is why the water must be shut off for long periods of time.

The series of water pipeline issues have become prevalent especially in the last couple of weeks,  especially with the recent construction around the B Building. 

15608435_1868467850095396_1310948336_oOn Nov. 29, after school the construction crew continued their work in the renovations for the additions to the B Building. Photo by Sepand Rouz.  

Principal April Scott explained how the construction crew bases their plans off of maps of the entire campus, that have information about all the buildings, sewer lines, water lines and conduits that carry any of kind of electricity. According to Scott, however, these maps, called asbuilts, have not been updated.

“You always hope that those as builts are accurate. So when they started digging out there in this big U-shape footing for the building, the asbuilt showed 7 conduits running through there. There are actually 17,” Scott said. “It was kind of like searching for a needlestack in a haystack, literally.”

MVHS Construction

During the process of digging for the construction, the construction crews faced many unexpected difficulties because of the outdated maps. On Wed. Nov. 23, in the process of searching for another valve, they hit a pipe that they didn’t know existed, causing it to burst.

“It’s a much more significant project than turning off the water for a couple of hours and repairing a pipe,” Scott said.

According to Scott, they have to disconnect the pipes, dig new trenches, and rerun a new route for the water, all of which takes about 15 to 16 hours. So they bring contractors to do it at night in order to prevent the construction work from disturbing school during the day.

Two years ago, in March 2014, a water main ruptured on campus and all students were sent home. According to the California Department of Education, “Chapter 558 of the Statutes of 2010 (Senate Bill [SB] 1413, Leno) establishes California Education Code (EC) Section 38086, which requires school districts to provide access to free, fresh drinking water during meal times in school food service areas by July 1, 2011, unless the governing board of a school district adopts a resolution stating it is unable to comply with this requirement due to fiscal constraints or health and safety concerns.”

So, on Wed. Nov 23, if the school is legally required to send students home without drinking water, why were the students kept at school?

“So the funny thing is is that as long as we can serve food and serve bottled water we can technically keep school open,” said Secretary Diane Goularte. “We’re more concerned about output and not being able to give enough facilities for that.”

If the students are released, like they were in 2014, the school must get approval from the district office in order to send out the emergency notification to all the parents and let them know that students are going to be released early. But because the construction crew encounters unexpected episodes as they are constructing, this is not feasible for the MVHS Administration.

Currently, the construction is causing many issues with the water system, but ultimately it will lead to the progress of the school as a whole. As the construction is planned to end in 2018-2019, there will be many new additions to the campus that will greatly benefit MVHS Students. There are just a few bumps along the way.