December 5, 2021

Cotterman Hall: Mildew and water issues

Capital University has had its fair share of mishaps in the realm of maintenance and infrastructure. 

Whether it be mold and mildew outbreaks, or an old pipe bursting, which led to the water being cut off for about 24 hours. 

The thing is, both of those incidents happened a little over a month ago. 

A section of a pipe around 50 years old and about 6 feet underground burst on Sept. 24. The source of the breakage was a quarter-sized hole in the pipe that was caused by old age. 

This led to water escaping through the sidewalk and a lack of water pressure throughout the building. 

Water was pouring out of the ground by the back entrance to Cotterman. Photo submitted by Paul Matthews.

The process for fixing this whole debacle involved digging underground and an outside company to gain the necessary access to Cotterman for repairs. 

That outside company is called Waterworks. In this case, the work they did was the stuff Facilities could not complete themselves.

Paul Matthews, the director of Facilities Management, said, “We had to call [Waterworks] and [when] they said, ‘Well, we can not get to until Monday,’ we went to their superintendent and they came out first thing Saturday morning and dug the hole.”

They also used a tool called the Hydro Vac, similar to a power washer, that shoots water at the dirt and rocks and turns it into a kind of soup, which they then suck out so they can access the broken pipe several feet underground. 

Remedying this broken section of pipe meant removing the broken section, and fitting a new one. However, it was not something they could just wedge in place. 

Fixing it means that there is a new section of pipe that is connected to the rest of the old pipe via two massive clamps to make sure nothing moves about, and that water does not come shooting out. 

There was a burst pipe outside Cottermnan that required digging 6-feet underground. Photo submitted by Paul Matthews.

This raises the question: Why is the entire thing not being replaced? 

Matthews said, “Best-case scenario, yes, you should replace [the entire pipe], but you can’t. You have to weigh the facts.” 

Those facts being that if Facilities were to replace the entire pipe, that would mean stopping all running water to Cotterman, potentially for weeks on end. 

Facilities’s reasoning is that if the pipe happens to break once, then just replace the broken bit. But, if it happens to the same pipe a second time, then that indicates that the entire pipe is unreliable and needs to be replaced. 

Something unrelated but worth mentioning is the occasional occurrence of mildew outbreaks, primarily in Cotterman. 

Ari Woodward, a second-year student at Capital who used to live on the first floor of Cotterman, recalled their experiences with mildew growth in their dorm. 

There were reports of their specific dorm having mildew issues as far back as 2018. Late in September 2021, when it rained heavily, mildew began growing on fabric and wooden surfaces, such as shoes and closet doors.


Shoes are particularly prone to mildew growth as they can easily be dark and damp. Photo submitted by Ari Woodward.
Mildew can even grow on wooden surfaces like a closet door. Photo submitted by Ari Woodward.

After reaching out to Facilities and the RA, much of Woodward’s belongings were moved to a dorm in Lohman while her Cotterman dorm was cleaned by Facilities. 

Woodward has been living in Lohman for over two weeks now, after seeing the dorm that was supposedly cleaned and spotting uncleaned areas and the familiar mildew scent. 

  • Josh Conturo is a reporter for the Chimes and a fourth-year studying Emerging Media with an emphasis on journalism, and loves all things related to cars, coffee, and comedy.

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