UCD Estate Services offer €30 gift voucher after wastewater channelled into resident’s toilets

Image Credit: Sínead Mohan

UCD Estate Services have apologised to residents in its new Village Studio apartments, after it was revealed that trace amounts of foul wastewater were accidentally channelled into residents’ toilets.

In an email circulated to all residents, UCD Estate Services explained that a mistake was made by a builder on site, who connected a foul wastewater pipe from some toilets to the rainwater harvesting tank for the Village Studio apartments. As a result, a mixture of fresh water and foul water, which was ‘likely’ to contain urine and faecal matter, filled resident’s toilet bowls on the 3rd and 4th of November.

Residents from the about 60 affected apartments reported a strong smell coming from their bathrooms and noted that the water in their toilet bowls had become discoloured.

In the email, UCD Estate Services explained further that a range of bacteria, viruses and parasites may have been in the contaminated water. They advised students that while the risk of infection from these organisms is low, as the water is not ingested, there was still “a very small risk that water droplets from toilet flushes could have created aerosols or landed on adjoining surfaces”, and that these organisms “can cause illness including gastric problems such as diarrhoea, nausea, and abdominal pain”. The email further advised to contact Residence Operations if they “have experienced any symptoms particularly if you were unwell with gastrointestinal problems”, and that  students “with a compromised immune system you should be vigilant for symptoms”

Students were also advised to dispose of toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads stored in bathrooms, to clean all towels and bathrobes stored in the bathrooms at 60 degrees, and that any students who wished to disinfect the surfaces of personal toiletries could do so using household bleach.

Students were told they would be reimbursed for any expenses incurred during this process, and were given a €30 One4All gift card as compensation.

Residents were notified that an extensive “deep clean” of their bathrooms would be taking place, which involved a fogging method designed to disinfect all surfaces in the bathroom. Students were also told that on the 9th of December, toilet lines would be flushed through with chlorine, which would require access to individuals’ bathrooms.

The statement finished by ensuring residents that this was an isolated incident, and announced that an investigation was being carried out into the matter, in order to prevent it happening again.

Residents have expressed their disappointment with the downturn in conditions. Speaking to the University Observer, one student described the situation as a “farce” considering the high costs involved in seeking accommodation in Dublin. They mentioned that during the affected times, they found themselves using a friend’s bathroom rather than their own, an experience they found to be ‘embarrassing’, describing the odour in their own space as ‘overpowering’. When asked about the offer of compensation, the same student described it as being “little more than hush money”, and the “least they could do” given the circumstance.

UCDSU has stated they are seeking further compensation. Speaking to the University Observer, UCDSU President Ruairí Power stated “I think it’s welcome that management recognises a need for compensation, I don’t think a €30 one4all voucher is cutting it, students are paying upwards of €1,000 a month for a supposedly luxury experience”

“We have regular meetings with residences to do with maintenance issues on campus. We have raised this issue again. We have said said we would like to have an engagement on the compensation end of it. It’s very much a live discussion at the moment. We are hoping to have a positive engagement with management and we hope they will be reasonable on it. Equally, we are not prepared to leave it as is.[...]It has been made very clear to us by the students impacted they don’t see the compensation as adequate, they would like to see upwards of one week’s rent at least being discounted, we are asking for two weeks. I think that would be a reasonable ask.

“I think students are being marketed a luxury product, what we are hearing in a general sense is that there’s issues with heating, there’s huge issues with maintenance, there was an issue with water flooding covering apartments with two inches of water the last day. We understand this is a new build, there’s pressure to get it done on time, however you cannot charge students extortionate rents and then not have a serious conversation about compensation when issues like this come up. It’s something we will be trying to galvanise students on. Students should know their rights. If we don’t see a satisfactory solution from management we will pursue further action.”

UCD Estate Services did not respond to a request for comment.