Eliot Takes Cold Showers
The problem was traced to a hot water tank that became uncalibrated. The tank was recalibrated on Tuesday, but malfunctioned again a few hours later. Many students in Eliot went without hot water through Saturday afternoon.
Chafen C. Watkins ’03 wanted to take a shower on Wednesday morning, but was unwilling to brave the frigid water she encountered, so she did without.
“I had to wear a hat,” she said. “It was unavoidable. I felt like I was getting weird looks from professors for wearing it in class, but I thought my [dirty] hair would have been more disrespectful to the professor.”
Shivering students have complained since Tuesday morning of highly variable water temperatures in Eliot House showers and sinks, ranging from cold to lukewarm.
Eliot House’s water supply was switched over to the auxiliary tank late Wednesday morning, meaning that most students were generally able to take hot showers during the day.
Because House Superintendent Francisco Medeiros was out of town for the week, a rapid response to the hot water problem was difficult, House Master Lino Pertile said.
“These are old Houses that have a very temperamental system,” Pertile said. “We immediately called two plumbers. We thought it had been fixed, but obviously not.”
The manufacturer who installed the boiler system was scheduled to repair the system Thursday evening, said Scott Heywood, the superintendent for Kirkland House who oversees the maintenance of three of the river Houses, including Eliot House.
Although many students had hot, or at least lukewarm, water by Wednesday evening, some were still without hot water Saturday.
In a message to the Eliot House internal e-mail list on Saturday evening, Pertile wrote, “I understand some of you are still without hot water.…Unfortunately, the plumbing does not seem to respond to whatever the people from Harvard Central Maintenance are doing. They will be working at it until it’s functioning again properly.”
Yesterday, he wrote, “At 6:30 I was again given assurances that our hot water system appears to be functioning normally and that all rooms in the House should have hot water.”
Heywood said that he did not learn about the problem until a resident of Eliot House called him at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday.
“Unless these things are brought to my attention, I can’t really do anything,” he said.
In the meantime, the auxiliary tank was operational, according to Heywood.
Since about 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the Eliot House internal e-mail list was awash with messages from irate students.
Joe S. Bell ’03 wrote, “I don’t mean to beat a cold wet horse, but does anyone else have hot water yet? It’s been a solid 36 hours now without it. I feel like if there’s more of a delay in student showering, already spotty at Harvard, we’ll have to rename Eliot House to Smell-iot House.… Is there something we need to do to get hot water? Did I not pay some bill?”
While a few students have opted not to shower, some students chose to make the trek to the N-entryway, where the hot water supply was not interrupted. That entryway is connected to the same plumbing system as the Master’s Residence, which obtains its hot water through a different source.
Other students came up with more creative options. In his post to the Eliot e-mail list, Bell wrote, “I for one am sponge-bathing with the water from a contraband coffee maker. I’ll be out in the courtyard with a hose if any of you have really stinky roommates.”
Bell told The Crimson, “I don’t normally shower, so it hasn’t really affected my life all that much. But my roommates reek up the high heavens when they don’t shower.”
A few brave students bit the bullet and withstood the subzero temperatures in favor of personal hygiene.
Yakov Golorgorsky ’03 said “It wasn’t comfortable…[it was] the most uncomfortable shower I’ve ever taken.”