Boiler Failure Causes Wellness Center Class Cancellations

Caution tape marks off Wellness Center bathroom stalls after a leak was caught in a room adjacent to the water system on april 11, 2016. (Photo by Gabriella Angotti Jones/The Guardsman)
Caution tape marks off Wellness Center bathroom stalls after a leak was caught in a room adjacent to the water system on april 11, 2016. (Photo by Gabriella Angotti Jones/The Guardsman)

By David Horowitz

A Wellness Center boiler failure created a leakage that required City College to cancel more than 270 classes in the facility from April 4 to 7, and caused a communication quagmire among the departments.

The facility’s classes resumed April 8 although bathroom sinks, locker room showers and water faucets remained taped off through April 11. Hand sanitizers were used in classrooms and bathrooms.

The leak was discovered in a Wellness Center room adjacent to the water system and caught fairly early, marketing and public information Director Jeff Hamilton said. Maintenance, Buildings and Grounds (MBG) notified the Wellness Center faculty and staff of the water problem on April 4.

“It wasn’t damaging and didn’t cause any major problems. The leakage itself, of course it’s a problem. The building had to close,” Hamilton said. “But the leakage didn’t flood anything or destroy a classroom or cause any problems in that sense.”

Cause Reportedly Unknown

MBG management told assistant Brian Tom to direct any questions about the facility to Hamilton, who had no additional information as of April 11.

“We are unable to give a statement about the Wellness Center. The vice chancellor has instructed us to not make any information about it public,” Tom said.

On April 7, Hamilton did not know if the source of the boiler’s problem had been discovered yet. He apparently had yet to be informed what caused the boiler failure.

“I think just when this sort of thing happens, it triggers the requirement for an inspection,” Hamilton said. “Even though you don’t know whether or not there’s been any compromise of the quality of the water, you don’t take that chance. You shut it down and you have to conduct tests.”

Water Tested

MBG shut off the Wellness Center water supply on April 4 and and put caution tape around water faucets and bathroom doors.

They posted notices on the facility’s doors stating the building’s water had been shut down for repairs and Monday’s classes were canceled, but the cancellations continued through Thursday, April 7.  

“I think there was word some boiler water might have gotten into the main water, and they’re checking to see there’s no contamination,” physical education department Chair Dan Hayes said.

MGB took samples of the facility’s water sometime during the week and sent them to a lab for testing.

“My understanding is that they’re simply waiting to get the test results back, and they expect to have them back today,” Hamilton said on April 8, the day classes resumed.

Hamilton added that if the water is deemed safe for use, facility operations will return to normal. If City College does not receive the test results they want, Hamilton said, “We’d have to look again at what we’d do on Monday.”

Hayes said MBG received clear test results on April 8, with the exception of one result that was still pending. The Wellness Center bathroom doors were open April 9 with working toilets, but its water faucets, sinks and showers were still taped off.

Canceling Classes

Who canceled Wellness Center classes during the facility’s water issues has yet to be disclosed.

“I think Dan Hayes did everything he could to keep the building open. He was getting direction from his superiors—I think Ray Gamba,” men’s soccer head coach Adam Lucarelli said. “I felt disappointed for the students.”

Dean of physical education and dance Ray Gamba was unavailable for comment.

“When these decisions get made, there’s kind of a collaborative conversation that happens. Like, (between) the dean, the facilities, and buildings and grounds people,” Hamilton said. “So it’s not like there’s this one person who just said, ‘Closed.’”

These departments are all close-lipped about the issue and what details are known or not.

Communication for Some

Physical education instructors were notified about water problems beginning Monday morning, and the City College website ( was updated daily beginning late Monday.

“There was confusion about the extent of the water problem and I’d say we were never told if the bathroom, showers, and water faucets were available,” Lucarelli said. “I don’t think the instructors were informed, because the department head wasn’t informed about how bad the problem was.”

Starting Monday evening of the week of the boiler failure, every City College student received brief emails almost daily from the women’s swim team head coach Phong Pham.

Water to the Wellness Center has been shut off for emergency repairs of water leak/breakage. As a result, all classes in the Wellness Center are CANCELLED TODAY, APRIL 4TH AND TOMORROW, APRIL 5TH, 2016,” the email said.

Communication Hindered

Gamba’s secretary Faye Koester, Chair Hayes, aid to the chair admin Anna Hernandez, and instructors all referred The Guardsman to MBG, as did campus police.

Tom recommended interviewing MBG Superintendent Ted Aranas for information. The Guardsman called and visited MBG periodically and was eventually told on the phone by Tom  that Aranas was in the building.

Tom answered the door, only to say MBG was instructed by someone “on the Vice Chancellor level” to not speak publicly about the Wellness Center problem. He said his supervisor told him to refer any question about the Wellness Center water issue to Hamilton.

Hamilton was not told anything about this.

“Nobody’s told anybody not to release any information,” Hamilton said. “It’s rather who should you talk to when you’re a member of the press—so if it has to do with talking to (The Guardsman), or The Chronicle, or The Examiner, I’m that person. But nobody’s been told not to release any information.”

Contact a reporter

Send an email to: David Horowitz