“I feel that as students at MSU, we should be able to wash our faces and shower from our dorm room without wondering if the water is safe for us to use,” said Amber Grubb, a freshman music education major from Marshall, Texas.
On Sep. 26, Rice Hall Resident Advisers notified all residents to not use the water from the sinks located in each room for drinking, washing faces or brushing teeth, due to contaminates reported in the plumbing. Since this incident, residents are complaining about the color and odor of the water in Rice Hall.
Rice Hall was constructed in 1968, and is located in the South Zone at Mississippi State University. Rice Hall houses 511 female students and is one of the oldest dormitory on campus.
International graduate student Luisa Lang said establishing a home with all the issues accompanied with living in Rice Hall is a challenge.
“Apart from the southern hospitality that I am experiencing from the people in Mississippi, it is hard to build a ‘home away from home’ when I am constantly facing issues in my residence hall,” Lang said.
The ladies living in Rice Hall have been advised three times this semester to not use the laundry machines in the building, due to water contamination and clothing being potentially ruined by the old plumbing.
Grubb said she does not trust the washing machines to wash her important band clothing.
“I am a band student, and with the constant cleanliness problems of mold in our showers and rust in the water, I cannot afford leaving campus to go to a friend’s house to shower, I cannot afford to wash my clothes in the washing machines that will damage them,” Grubb said.
The laundry problem was the first sign of a water contamination in Rice Hall. This quickly spread to other water utilities. These basic housing features being called into question add further stress to the students.
“Every time I attempt to do laundry, it feels like I am playing the lottery to see if I am able to wash my clothes,” Lang said. “Every other week the residents at Rice Hall cannot use the shower nor the sinks due to safety concerns.”
Regarding the continuous water problems in the 49-year-old building, Fred Mock, associate director of maintenance and facilities for the housing department, spoke on a specific problem from Sept. 29 because the resident director of Rice Hall was unauthorized to comment on this issue.
“A technician was working in the basement (of Rice Hall) and turned some valves off and on,” Mock said. “There is sediment in pipes, usually iron or manganese, that’s why it has the orange color, and if we turn a valve and change the flow of water, it stirs up that sediment in pipes. He saw something on the computer system that he wanted to go and check out, so that’s why he went down to the basement to work on it.”
Virtual Construction Specialist and Journeyman Plumber Bradley Phillips said the combination of color and odor of the water could possibly be attributed to iron and manganese in the water in the old building. Phillips, who has 38 years of experience, said the smell coming from the water comes from the iron and chlorine combining when the sediment mixes in the pipes.
“That sediment didn’t come from Rice (Hall), it came from the big water lines that feed Rice. Discolored water happens on campus several times a year, I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s not an uncommon occurrence,” Mock said. “It usually happens if they’re working on something outside of the building, but it can happen when they are working inside of the building too.”
Mock said the water was not tested, but rather assumed to be an orange-brown color due to iron and manganese in the pipes. He also stated during Christmas break, facilities will be replacing a heat exchanger in Rice Hall to help solve the recurring problem.
Phillips confirmed the replacement of the heat exchanger can improve the situation, but ultimately it will not remove all of the iron from the water. However, he did say there is no harm in the water if iron and manganese are in it.
Mock gave residents several recommendations to deal with the current water situation.
“It’s iron and manganese deposits, they’re already in the lines, but just let the faucets run, let the water run out,” Mock said.
The women living and paying approximately $2,718 per semester for housing include said living in Rice Hall entails: electricity outages, cockroaches in the hallways and showers being “out of order” due mold and bacteria growing in the shower stalls and shower heads.
Mock addressed the ongoing cosmetic renovations to Rice Hall within the last year.
“New mattresses in the rooms, the refrigerators were put in last summer, we put in new lighting in the ceilings this past summer,” Mock said.
Mock did acknowledge these are separate from the plumbing and wiring problems, but ensured they are trying to make improvements to Rice Hall.
Mock said administration is discussing the future of all housing buildings including Rice Hall.