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Breaking News: Gunn community navigates water-line break, water-supply shutdown

Thirty+portable+toilets+arrive+at+Gunns+campus+following+the+water-line+break.+
Eric Holm
Thirty portable toilets arrive at Gunn’s campus following the water-line break.

At 11:24 a.m. today, Assistant Principal of Facilities Dr. Mycal Hixon sent a message to all Gunn staff that the school’s water had been shut off after the A- and B-building construction team hit a water line during  excavation. School remained open during the outage, and the water was turned back on at 1:30 p.m.

According to Senior Construction Project Manager Mohammed Sedqi, workers were connecting the overflow for bioswales, or runoff channels, with a storm drain when they hit the main water line. To fix the leak, workers had to first drain out the water in the pipes and then put a patch over the break. After the pipes were “purged” of air bubbles, the line was functional again.

During lunch on the Senior Quad, staff distributed water bottles. (Eanam Maor)

Junior Hannah Kim realized the water supply had been shut off following a trip to the restroom during her Advanced Placement Statistics class.

“Me and my friend went to the bathroom and we realized that some of the water in the toilets looked a little unclear, so we tried flushing them and they didn’t flush,” she said.

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By 12 p.m., three portable toilets had been placed near Spangenberg Theater and water bottles had been placed in the lunch lines in front of the Student Activities Center. According to PAUSD Director of Facilities and Construction Eric Holm, district officials picked up hand sinks from Fletcher Middle School and water from Costco for students to use. Thirty more portable toilets were ordered, but only arrived once the water had been turned on again.

Students gather around a spout near the C-building as it expels water to “purge” air bubbles from the water supply. (Amann Mahajan)

Around 1:30 p.m., water spouts on building walls turned on, and toilets around campus were flushed. According to PAUSD Maintenance Supervisor Ken Culp, this preliminary reopening of the water supply “purged” the emptied water lines of air, preventing the formation of air bubbles when students and staff finally used the facilities. Following this “purge,” the water lines were fully operational, and an announcement at 1:37 p.m. notified students that the water was back on.

The restoration process took a little over two hours in total, occurring much more rapidly than in September 2021, when the main water line was hit during parking-lot construction. Holm noted that this project’s contractors, Sausal Corporation, were more prepared to deal with the situation than Redgwick Corporation, the contractor used for the parking-lot project: In 2021, students were sent home from school early while the construction team attempted to address the issue.

Nevertheless, students — including sophomore Rayla Chen — found the line break frustrating.

“I just walked into the building bathroom during second period, and then all of a sudden, it said ‘out of order,’ and I didn’t know where else to go to go use the bathroom or fill up my water bottle, so that was a bit of a hassle,” she said.

Moving forward, construction will continue as planned. According to PAUSD Operations Supervisor Brett Larson, preventative action is not necessary.

“This is unforeseen, and that happens from time to time, and you can’t control the unforeseen,” he said.

This story was originally published on The Oracle on April 18, 2024.