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The student news site of Beachwood High School.

The Beachcomber

The student news site of Beachwood High School.

The Beachcomber

What Was That Awful Smell in the 100 Hallway?

What Was That Awful Smell in the 100 Hallway?

“It smelled awful. A student actually tapped me on the shoulder and warned me to stop breathing,” freshman Inkyu Kim said.

“The smell was absolutely repulsive. It was nauseating,” sophomore Casey Blum said.

“It started to come up from the pipes,” said English teacher Todd Butler. “It wasn’t a huge amount, but the stench was unbearable for many people.”

What caused this awful stench in the 100 hallway? At least two times this year, a pipe has backed up, leaking sewage onto to the floor.

BHS Principal Ed Klein said the issue could be simply a matter of people flushing things like paper towels and feminine products that clog up the system. Klein said it’s also possible that the flushing is exacerbating an underlying issue.

“A few paper towels shouldn’t be creating a blockage in our system, and we do not believe they are,” Assistant Superintendent Robert Hardis said.

There’s a couple possible theories to explain the situation. The leading theory is that the pipe connection is not the right shape. Currently, the connection from the plumbing pipes to the outside sewage system is a t-shape.  Many think that a y-shaped connector would fix the problem.

So why was the y-shaped connector not considered originally?

“Sometimes when you build something it doesn’t function as it was intended,” said Dave Stahl, senior project manager at Turner Construction.

The second theory is that the line was not installed properly. “Over a certain distance plastic will bow a little bit,” Hardis said. If the pipe is not installed at the perfect incline, problems can occur. “Our worry is that this line has a few dips in it, and when you have an incline the solid waste is going to back up.”

However, according to Stahl, this problem is not likely. “To our knowledge it was all installed correctly, it passed the building officials’ inspections but there’s a transition from one pipe to another which we believe could be done better,” he said.

Supervisor of Buildings & Grounds Jeff Smith also said that an installation issue is possible but not the most likely culprit.  “We’re looking at the t and the y [connectors] more than anything else,” Smith said.

To prevent such leaks from re-occurring, the maintenance staff examines the pipe weekly. “The custodial staff keeps an eye on it so if the water’s running slow, we contact the plumbing company right away,” said Smith. The plumbing company then snakes it out, at no charge to the district.

But this is only a temporary fix. “It’s a bandaid,” Hardis said. The contractors will not attempt a permanent solution until this coming summer.

“This summer right in the middle of that hallway we’re going to cut a several foot wide swath of the hallway right out and cut [out] the t-shape connector and put in a y-shape connector and then test the heck out of it,” Hardis said.

While this is expected to permanently stop the problem, nothing is guaranteed. “At this point I don’t think there’s going to be a problem, but you can never guarantee with construction,” Smith said.

One thing that is for certain is that this summer work will not be free. “This is probably a $3,000 problem,” Stahl said. However, Stahl said that a subcontractor, not the Beachwood taxpayers, will be paying.

While there is still the potential of a leak, there is no risk to students.

“The bathroom was closed until it was all sanitized. It was all quickly and efficiently dealt with. At no point was safety to students, security, welfare, health [threatened],” Klein said.

“We’re not going to live with sewage waste backing into our classrooms when this project’s done,” Hardis said.

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