Goodwin Hall Faced Water Shutdown

Photo courtesy of Jeff Bolster.

Last week, from Sept. 23 to Sept. 28, Point Loma Nazarene University students in Goodwin Hall faced a water shutdown, stemming from a leak in the canyon southwest of the residential hall. 

The central waste line was obstructed by tree roots leading to a burst in the pipe. Facilities were forced to shut off water service to Goodwin, while they worked to repair the issue.

Jeff Bolster, vice president for university services, was monitoring facilities’ progress on the leak throughout the week. Bolster said that a community member was mountain biking down in the canyon by Nease Hall and was alarmed by a smell, to which he informed PLNU Provost Kerry Fulcher.

“I’ve been here 30 years, I’ve never never been in the bottom of that canyon, it’s crazy, it’s pretty remote,” Bolster said. “We had a clogged pipe, and it had backed up and eventually broke.”

Some of the remote infrastructure and pipes on the campus are made of clay, and the specific waste line was susceptible to a break from the tree roots that had crossed into its path, according to Bolster. The clog occurred in the elbow section of a sewage line leaving Goodwin, within a border property between PLNU and Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Past the elbow, the pipe goes right on Amiford Drive and connects to the main sewage line.

Julia Bharwani, assistant resident director of Goodwin Hall, said “I know there was something similar in Klassen last year, but this one I think is a bigger issue, affecting the neighbors.” 

On Sept. 24, temporary bathrooms and drinking water stations were set up for the Goodwin residents. Two portable shower units, with eight showers in each unit, were brought in on Sept. 25. The individual showers had hot water, and a small personal preparation area in each. Two 24/7 on-site security guards were placed at the site, one on the south side of the hall and one on the north side.

Emma Vaughn, a second-year psychology major living in Goodwin, said “the only concern I had was that they started to close the showers by 10 p.m. and wouldn’t open up the next day until 6 a.m.”

Vaughn found it inconvenient for those who had nighttime classes and were forced to sometimes shower in other halls or not shower at all. 

On Sept. 25, the PLNU Campus Facilities Department and the third-party contractors working on the issue met with the City of San Diego inspectors. The City approved the repair of the pipe and the two parties concluded that there were no health risks or environmental concerns for students or neighbors within range of the incident. Facilities informed students and staff via email that they anticipated water service to be available by Sept. 29.

“We just don’t get a lot of this. We’re trying to be preventative in changing out our infrastructure and updating infrastructure,” said Bolster.

Of his 30 years at PLNU, Bolster said that the last time portable showers were brought in was 15 years ago when a water main broke on the hill going down to the Flex Apartments. Only Klassen Hall was affected and the showers were provided to the residents. 

On Sept. 26, facilities and third-party contractors cleared the clogged pipe. Bolster said that if they couldn’t unclog it, they would be forced to lay a new pipe that would circumnavigate the affected area, which would draw out the process. 

Initially, some students were unaware of the proceedings of the situation. Dan Toro, associate vice president of facility operations and campus planning, said in an email to students, “I was informed that previous email updates related to Goodwin have been going to the ‘Goodwin Hall Staff Group’ instead of the ‘Goodwin Hall Residents Group.’”

Bradley Miner, a third-year accounting major who lives in Wiley, said that at first he was confused to see random people entering the restroom in his hall on the first day that the pipe broke.

Facilities implemented a new seal within the pipe to ensure that the issue would not happen again. Starting on the morning of Sept. 27, facilities conducted increasing pressure tests for the next 24 hours, with the intention of the water being available to Goodwin residents on Sept. 28.

“In terms of facilities, I don’t think we find these things stressful, they’re inconvenient, they’re unfortunate,” said Bolster. “I think they’re very stressful for the students. The student experience, that’s the thing that we’re trying to protect all the time.” 

On Sept. 28, the pipe was fully tested and repaired, and water service was restored in Goodwin at 1 p.m., around 24 hours before the initial projected completion time. All Goodwin restrooms were sanitized and made accessible to the students by Sodexo. The portable showers, restrooms and water stations were removed the next day, Sept. 29.