Hamilton

Some tenants at McMaster residence will have to relocate — again — as water issues persist

McMaster University says some tenants living in its downtown residence on Bay Street may have to temporarily relocate, again, as the school tries to tackle lingering water-quality issues.

McMaster says 23 tenants will need to move again as the school tries to rid the water of bacteria

A man holds a cup of murky, white water.
Tap water in the downtown McMaster residence on Bay Street is white and murky. Students have called for McMaster to offer full rent relief until construction is complete and the water is rid of total coliform bacteria. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Roughly a week after moving back into 10 Bay St., some tenants at the downtown McMaster University residence may have to temporarily relocate again due to lingering water-quality issues.

The school's housing and conference services department sent an email to students on Feb. 15 saying 23 tenants living on the 10th, 11th and 12th floors will have to move on Tuesday so the school can do targeted chlorination.

Tenants have complained about various issues since they moved in and spoke with reporters in December, saying the school wasn't doing enough to address numerous issues in the unfinished $100-million, 30-storey building.

McMaster spokesperson Wade Hemsworth previously said the school opened the lower floors of the building to tenants in the fall of 2023 while upper floors were still being built "because we know how challenging it is for students to find safe and academically supportive housing."

One of the key issues since then has been poor water quality. The building's water, which has appeared murky and white, has tested positive for total coliforms bacteria since at least December.

WATCH | Tap water in McMaster residence was previously white and murky: 

Tap water in McMaster residence is white and murky

4 months ago
Duration 0:27
McMaster graduate students living at the school's downtown residence say the conditions inside are terrible.

web page from Public Health Ontario states water with total coliforms is not likely to cause illness but "may be unsafe to drink" because it indicates "your water supply may have been contaminated by more harmful microorganisms or may be a sign of bacterial regrowth."

McMaster has said its experts "assured" the school the water won't cause severe illness but also previously told students if they want to take extra precautions they could boil their water before drinking it or to add bleach when cleaning their dishes, among other suggestions.

It also supplied bottled drinking water on all floors, chlorinated the water system and implemented a schedule to regularly flush the system.

A building under construction.
The outside of McMaster's downtown residence. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

In early February, tenants had to move out for six days so the school could do an extended chlorination treatment of the whole building. McMaster paid for hotels and offered other accommodations.

In updates to students on Feb. 9 and Feb. 15, the school said floors 10 to 16 still tested positive for total coliforms.

The school offered tenants a 100 per cent rent reduction for February,  a virtual meeting, construction updates and a continued supply of bottled water.

The school also said water is contained within plumbing zones, so there's no chance of contamination or chlorination reaching other floors.

The CUPE 3906 Tenant Working Solidarity Group, a group representing many of the students in the building and speaking on their behalf, has called on the school to offer full rent relief until construction in the building is finished and there's no more bacteria in the water.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

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