High school hot water in hot water

Distance from boiler, anti-scald faucets, hamper hot water flow in bathroom sinks. 

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Hot water isn’t functioning properly in the bathrooms of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, members of the school’s facilities subcommittee learned Tuesday morning from facilities manager Mike Taus.  

“There is a portion of the building that does not have hot water, right? The bathrooms?” school committee chair Kim Kirk asked Taus.

“Not true,” Taus said.

Taus explained there was a problem with pipe lengths and anti-scald faucets, but the bathrooms are connected to hot water. Taus said the bathroom sinks faucets are fitted with special 10-second spring valves. Per use, he said, these faucets don’t move enough room-temperature water though secondary pipes to get to the hot water circulating in the main trunk line. “To get out from the main branch to the individual bathrooms, and individual locations, there’s a half-inch copper pipe that could be 20, 40, 50 feet long,” he said. “On all the sinks, there’s a 10-second anti-scalding device … The problem is it can’t pull all the water off the pipe to get the hot water into the bathrooms.”

Taus said he was exploring electric on-demand hot water heaters to solve the problem. 

“Are you saying that those sinks don’t have hot water because of the mechanism that’s in place?” subcommittee member Robert Lionette asked. “If I were to go into that bathroom and wash my hands, am I getting the hot water I should be getting? If I go to every sink in this school, is that the case?”

Taus didn’t answer those questions.

“If not, can we look at a short-term fix of putting a mixing valve instead of a spring-load [valve] so the hot water [makes it] to those sinks?” Lionette asked. 

The distance it takes water to travel through secondary pipes from the main trunk line would still be a factor, Taus said.

“That fact that we have hand sinks that don’t have hot water accessible is highly problematic,” Lionette said. 

Subcommittee member Jeffrey (“Skipper”) Manter questioned the utility of sinks without hot water during a time when coronavirus is a growing concern.

“Surfactants don’t work without hot water,” Lionette interjected.

A question was posed as to whether hand sanitizer was prevalent enough in the school to mitigate the hot water problem.

“We’re covered right now. We have enough hand sanitizers in the building,” Taus said.

Manter asked if the dispensers were in the bathrooms near the sinks.

“Soap dispensers are in the bathrooms,” Taus said. 

Manter pointed out soap dispensers need hot water. 

Taus simply said hand sanitizers were “readily available around the school.” 

“Do we have staffing to support refilling and maintaining all of those?” Kirk asked.

Taus said extra custodial help would begin later that evening to help with maintaining sanitation. 

Taus also said another hot water problem, one stemming from a 1,000-gallon tank in the boiler room that’s “uninspectable” and can’t be accessed, has a design proposal and bid in now. He said he wanted to see the project in the “$97,000 range”; now it’s roughly $10,000 above that.

“We can start the project at any time. It can be during the school hours, because it’s all in the boiler room. And this would supplement the hot water for the front half of the school that contains the cafeteria, kitchen, the bathrooms, the nurse’s office, and all the way back to room 510 [and the] bathroom.”

“Does that mean … the cafeteria and the nurse’s office don’t have hot water?” Kirk asked. 

“No, they do,” he said.