Dispelling the rumors: the pipes aren’t broken

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The scent of sewage has permeated the bottom floor of Bing Performing Arts Center without explanation for far too long. Claims of “pipe bursts” and “plumbing failures” have been slowly adopted as fact, which has evoked fear in many members of the Harvard-Westlake (HW) community.

“I thought it was concerning that we couldn’t find a source for this mysterious smell. It restricted us from being able to practice our instruments, which is not ideal. I found it really upsetting that we couldn’t have access to our practice rooms because I am very passionate about the instrument I play and not being able to play was disappointing,” an anonymous member of the middle school orchestra brass section said.

“Every time I walk down that staircase, the one by the orchestra rooms, I hold my breath. Until I can make it to the bathroom to change for dance, I try to adjust to it. I wish whatever it is could just get fixed. This has been bothering me since last year, and I know many other kids who feel the same. At the very least, may I suggest some Febreeze?” an anonymous dancer said.

Maintenance team head Richard Bogen has knowledge of Harvard-Westlake plumbing, planting, and upkeeping that extends far past this issue. The sewage pipes in Bing and Hazy were never broken.

In fact, Bogen says they are, “in good working condition.” Their installation in 2008 is fairly recent compared to that of other commercial structures, and their support of a large community like Harvard-Westlake results in frequent depletion. Because of this, the maintenance crew performs preventative actions to combat such odors.

Bogen claims, “The main culprit for the sewage smells are a result of dried out p-traps.” A “p-trap,” or plumbing trap, is exactly what you think it is. Under most sinks you can see the a pipe in the shape of a P, which transport water to drainage systems. In a residential sense, the pipe-traps of unused bathrooms, showers, and kitchen sinks could dry up and create a sewage odor.

Bogen stated that HW maintains their pipes thoroughly and frequently, even hydro-jetting it three times a year. However, these unventilated traps are common in commercial buildings, and there is little that can be done to prevent it all the time.

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