Buidings 9 and 16 affected by water leak

The recent water emergency that took place on campus was caused by a leak, resulting in a temporary restriction of water use and contamination concerns. The incident took place Feb. 26. 

According to Assistant Principal Catherine Halbuer, on that Monday morning, Athletic Director Tony Riopelle noticed water bubbling up out of the ground by Building 19, the concession stand building. Because the water was clear, Halbuer realized it was drinking water and called the district’s maintenance department, which sent out plumbers to assess the situation. 

“When the plumbers arrived, they dug up where the water was coming from and tried to pump out the water so they could get to the main supply line pipe,” Halbuer said. “However, the water was coming in faster than they could pump it out. That’s when I had to make the announcement that we were shutting down the [the primary water supply pipe] for a little bit because we needed to stop the water from coming in.”

Halbuer said from there, through a process of turning valves and directing the water to different truck lines, which feed to different areas throughout the school, they were able to determine that only Buildings 9 and 16 were affected. During this time, as the water was shut off, students were unable to use faucets and water fountains and were told not to flush the toilets in the bathroom.

Principal Rick Fleming said that upon the discovery, the school implemented a series of protocols to address the water shortage. 

“We brought bottled water and jugs of water in for the students [and the cafeteria] and kept the water fountains in the building shut down,” Fleming said. “[At that time], students could resume using the water in the bathrooms in the areas other than the two buildings.”

Once the plumbers repaired the leak late Monday afternoon, Halbuer said administration had to address fears that the water supply was contaminated.

“When you lose water pressure in your system, contaminants could come in at any point along it, so we have to have two clean water tests without any contaminants to make sure it’s safe to drink,” Halbuer said. “It’s a very precautionary measure. Usually, nothing ever shows up, but we never know what could have been impacted.”

Fleming explained the water safety protocols in place after incidents like this. 

“After a water leak, you can’t drink the water until you have two days of clear water, and [the district] does water sample testing over a period of 24 hours,” Fleming said. “Thus, you have to have two clean 24-hour tests, ensuring that the water is ‘potable,’ before you can turn the water back on [for the water fountains]. But we still had the water dispensers over the two days, so students could have clean water to drink.”

Halbuer illustrated the timeline for the process. 

“At 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, they were here, pulling samples from different areas around campus, like different water fountains and sinks [because there are multiple feeds of water coming into the building],” Halbuer said. “We got those test results back Wednesday afternoon and everything was clear. They had also pulled test results Wednesday morning, and [we were given the all clear on Friday, allowing us to be able to restore the water supply].”

Fleming, who has experienced situations like this at least half a dozen times during his time at West Shore and other schools, said the last time there was a similar water crisis at West Shore was during the construction of Building 16, which was about 14 to 15 years ago. 

“There’s a lot of coordination [during these situations],” Fleming said. “When you’re responsible for around 1000 students and 100 staff members, you immediately have to shift your focus towards handling a crisis like that. [In this case], we didn’t want any students drinking water that’s contaminated, so their safety becomes a priority. [In the end], if the water leak ultimately just means us having a little bit of inconvenience having to bring in water, we can definitely work through it.”


By Kristen Ye

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