Recurring problems elicit concerns from students and staff
Students in Tower Court have complained of strange odors for several years. Recently, the smells have gotten significantly worse. According to Resident Director of Tower Meghan Todd, these persisting smells may be due to a disposal system in the dining hall. Todd reported that several students have reported the smell being so bad that they were forced to move.
Shannon Kearney ’18 was one of the students who reported extremely bad smells in Tower.
“[The smell was] in the hallway… I was just going to deal with it because it wasn’t in my room,” Kearney said.
Wenyan Deng ’15 also smelled odors in her room at the beginning of the semester, although they dissipated after a week. In addition, Deng reported persistent odors in the bathrooms of Tower but did not report them to maintenance.
“My thought has always been that on the weekdays the janitor comes in and opens the window and cleans the trash and so the smells go away, so I never thought about reporting [the odor],” Deng said.
Director of Operations Trina Learned sympathized with student’s concerns.
“We are always concerned with student comfort and odors that detract from that. Certainly, any ‘sewer’ or equivalent odors are both unpleasant and hard to endure for very long,” Learned said.
While investigating the smell in recent months, Facilities found an out of use pipe running the height of Tower, which they believed to be transporting smells. In addition, they found a dry trap under a custodial sink that was possibly leaking sewer gas. After sealing the pipe and flushing the odors out of the trap, Facilities reported that the strong smell had disappeared.
While Learned claimed that the source of this specific smell had been dealt with, students continue to experience other odors around Tower less severe than those related to the dry trap. Kearney said that she had smelled odors in early March after maintenance had dealt with the pipe and trap.
Tower has had problems with odors dating back to 2012, when a new grease trap was installed between Tower and Severance. This was the last time Tower underwent any major renovations. These types of problems can be hard to fix because tracing odors is a difficult task. The process involves locating possible shafts or pipes that can transport odors and locating breaches in the systems currently in place.
Odors are sometimes due to mechanical problems with the building itself, but are often due to student neglect.
“Often their cause is rotten food that’s been forgotten and left behind or sometimes odors come from soiled laundry,” Learned said.
Student opinion varies on whether Tower should be renovated. Students have responded positively to the renovations in both Schneider and the Field House and are looking forward to Munger’s renovations.Kearney believes that Tower should be renovated sooner than some of the other dorms.
“I think it is one of the oldest dorms. I’m fine with it the way it is now. But, if one dorm were to be renovated, I think it should be this one,” Kearney said.
Deng, who previously lived in Freeman, was specifically concerned about the structure of Tower. She said that problems such as the smells and leaking warrant another renovation.
“I think it should be [renovated] especially having moved over from East Side. The East Side building is a lot newer and I respect that, but at the same time I think that in terms of leaking, it could do with another renovation,” Deng said.
Students in newer dorms do not experience prolonged odors as those in Tower do; however, contrary to the belief of many students, the age of buildings has nothing to do with the odors.
“When older buildings are renovated, it is possible that obsolete mechanical systems such as piping, ductwork, electrical conduits, etc., may be abandoned in place with new systems laid in a new configuration. There is nothing particular to Tower nor to its age that makes it more prone to odors or problems of this type,” Learned said.
These out of use mechanical systems can carry odors across the building, Learned explained.
Tower was identified as a priority on the Campus Renewal plan. However, no major renovations will be made in Tower until several years from now, after renovations in the Science Center are complete in 2017.
Photo courtesy of Wellesley College