Varner Hall experiences two water main breaks, water cleared for drinking


Mary Mitchell

As of 4:15 p.m. on Thursday, full water service was restored on campus.

Faith Brody, Life Editor

New year, new pipes for Varner Hall.

According to Terry Stollsteimer, associate vice president of Oakland University Facilities Management, Varner Hall, Elliott Hall and Pawley Hall suffered from a water main break that was discovered by the OU Police Department on Jan. 1.

Since the suppliers were closed on New Year’s Day, work could not be done until the following day.  Stollsteimer said the work began the morning of Monday, Jan. 2 and was completed around 6 p.m. that same day.

However, another leak was discovered shortly after, this time affecting only Varner.

Stollsteimer said Elliott Hall was not affected by the second leak, even though the two buildings are connected.

Work on that leak began immediately Monday night and was expected to be completed by 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Maintenance crews could be seen working in Varner around 2 p.m. They installed new pipes and replaced valves.

Inside, even though the university was still on break, students, faculty and staff continued to work, wondering when the water would be safe again.

Signs were plastered on doors and above drinking fountains, warning people to use alternative sources for drinking water in Varner, Elliott and Pawley until Thursday. Water fountains were also covered by garbage bags as an additional precaution.

Around 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 3, an email was sent out to the campus community advising that water service was restored to Varner, but the water was still not safe to drink.

Cora Hanson, environmental health and life safety manager from the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, said that the campus community will be notified when the water has been cleared to drink. She said that hand washing and toilet flushing are safe.

The water must be tested by the Oakland County Health Department to ensure it is safe for consumption. For the tests, two sets of water are drawn 24 hours apart and tested for bacteria, according to Hanson.

Stollsteimer said that the cause of the leak was “not known, other than age.”

As expected, according to OU’s homepage, the water cleared for drinking by Thursday afternoon.

An email was sent to the entire campus around 4:15 p.m., stating, “University leadership appreciates the patience and understanding that the campus community demonstrated during the repair and testing process.”

Varner Hall was built between 1969 and 1971. According to the Campus Master Plan completed this fall, Varner is No. 13 on a list of buildings and renovations to be completed.

An expansion plan was approved in 2013, but the request for the estimated $98 million to renovate and expand the building has been since denied by Michigan legislature. A second request was sent in October 2014, but the building is still awaiting renovation. .