Utility problems cause shutdown of Pfeiffer, several water outages


Mo Marks

Construction crews are working to fix a problem with Simpson’s pipes.

by Mo Marks, Staff Reporter

**This story has been updated from its original form 

Simpson College is working with Indianola’s Municipal Utility service to fix a broken water main which has led to water outages in several buildings on the north-western side of campus. 

The broken water main services Wallace Hall, Dunn Library, Barker Hall and Pfeiffer Dining Hall. All of these buildings temporarily have no access to water due to the break. 

The main reportedly broke Monday morning after breakfast service in Pfeiffer, forcing the dining hall to shut down. Tyler’s Grille is also temporarily out of order due to an mechanical issue that occurred last week.

Foodservice was moved to Kent Campus Center indefinitely.

An email from Heidi Levine, Vice President for Student Development and Planning, stated that the pipe has been repaired as of 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 7.

“Crews just completed repairs to the water main break which affected part of Barker, Dunn, and Pfeiffer today. While there is not sufficient time to get Pfeiffer up and running for tonight’s dinner, it will open as normal tomorrow (Tuesday) morning,” the email said.

Levine stated that dinner will still be available in the Kent atrium tonight from 5 – 7 p.m. and Sub Connection will remain open tonight until 9 p.m.

Tyler’s Grille is being used as a staging ground to prepare sandwiches, fruit, cookies and drinks which students can purchase from the Kent atrium to eat in the Black Box Theater where students can watch the Winter Olympics while they eat. 

It is unclear if this service will delay the reopening of Tyler’s Grille. Julia Neer, general manager of Sodexo declined to comment on anything regarding the current food service situation. 

Mo Marks

The city is working hard to fix the break, but fixing the main is not as simple as it might seem. The water main is private Simpson property meaning it is not regularly monitored and repaired by the city. 

Monica Thompson, a Customer Service Representative for the IMU pointed out that just locating the break is a challenge. 

“[The repair crew] have to pinpoint where the break happened, dig up the pipe, and repair, patch or replace it,” she said. 

The crew originally assumed the break was close to Pfeiffer and broke up the cement there to dig up the pipe. Instead of finding the break in the pipe, they discovered that the water was coming from further east and had simply been surfacing near Pfeiffer because that’s where the largest drain is. By noon on Monday, the crew had drilled four more holes in the sidewalk to try and determine the source of the break to no avail. 

Many students have voiced frustrations at the break, as this is not the first time a burst has caused outages on campus. 

There have been several major incidents in the last year alone. A water main broke near Kent on Oct. 26, 2021, a leak in the Colonial Apartments, pipe repairs in Barker on April 16, 2021 and a water pipe break in Buxton on Feb. 18, 2021, all left students without water for several hours at a time. 

For students like Teagan Townsend, a first-year international relations and criminal justice major living in Barker Residence Hall, it is not just one or two incidents, these problems are an everyday nuisance. Not only did the college shut off warm water on one side of the building without telling anyone, but students also had to deal with a host of other issues. 

“The water has days where it smells like sewage in the second-floor bathroom and the entire bathroom smells disgusting. With this water main break, they turned the water off on the only side of the building that has hot water so everyone is washing their hands and showering in freezing water. It’s gotten so bad that I walk to Kresge every time I need to shower,” Townsend said.

Megan Schultz, Director of Presidential Initiatives, is leading the response to the water main break. 

“Water main breaks are most typically considered an act of God. No preventative maintenance could have been done to ensure this didn’t happen and that it cannot happen in the future,” Schultz said.

The IMU firmly disagrees. 

“There’s a life span for everything, pipes in Iowa have the freeze and thaw cycle so when their expiration date comes they start needing a lot of maintenance, repairs and eventually replacement,” Thompson said. “It’s likely a lot of those pipes were put in around the same time so they’re all reaching the end of their lifespans around the same time.” 

Preventative maintenance clearly is available: replacement of the system will stop future delays, closings and breaks.

Because Simpson has so many different terrains water mains run under including grass fields, sidewalks, streets and buildings, it’s unclear what the cost of replacement for the system would be. 

What is clear is the campus system is aging fast and these problems will only get worse before they get better.