Water issue at Weisenfluh corrected

Water pump issues caused temperatures to be too low for state standard

Published by Joe Wells, Date: March 24, 2022
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An ongoing plumbing issue that threatened Aramark’s retail food license to operate in Weisenfluh Dining Hall was resolved last month.

The main issue revolved around proper hot water temperatures for the sinks throughout the facility.

During multiple inspections, inspectors with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services found that sinks were either below the required temperature or too high and could possibly cause injury to anyone washing their hands. Inspectors also found one kitchen sink clogged but still in use.

The slew of inspections and follow-ups began on Jan. 25 when the inspector found five violations including the clogged drain and a leaking roof in a dry food storage area. Those violations placed the facility out of compliance with the state.

If a retail food facility is out of compliance, they are unable to renew their license until fixes are made.

Inspectors followed up with the facility on Feb. 2 and found the initial problems corrected but then discovered the previously clogged sink was not producing hot water. Pennsylvania requires water from handwashing stations to be at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The sink in question did not rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even with the minor issues, the facility was brought back into compliance.

Aramark was given five days to correct the issue, but when the inspector returned Feb. 9 the issue was still present and another sink in Revolve was found to be below the standard temperature.

The hot water issues and a leaking ceiling above uncovered mixing product in the bakery placed the facility back out of compliance.

During this failed inspection, Aramark reached out to SRU Dining to get the plumbing issues corrected.

In turn, SRU Dining reached out to facilities who sent maintenance personnel out to Weisenfluh the same day, said Paul Novak, executive director of facilities, planning and environmental safety.

Maintenance found a circulating pump had failed, causing the low temperature. This circulating pump was replaced on Feb. 11, fixing the issue, according to Novak.

During the repair though, a second circulating pump was found to not be working. Due to supply chain issues, facilities had to wait to repair this pump.

But Aramark and SRU’s pump and water temperature problems were known when the company had its change of owner inspection back in June 2021. That inspection found a circulating pump needed replaced for numerous sinks that did not reach the standard temperature. That problem was corrected within days of being found.

Circulating pumps typically have a lifespan of 10 years. Novak said he did not know off-hand how long the circulating pumps were in operation.

When the inspector returned on Feb. 18, many of the sinks were found to still be too low in temperature, but now Revolve’s sink was producing hot water in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a five-minute exposure to water of that temperature could result in third-degree burns. Water at 130 degrees Fahrenheit can produce third-degree burns within 30 seconds.

The inspector noted that while the water was too hot for the standard, it was not hot enough to cause injury.

By the time Pennsylvania inspectors returned on Feb. 25, the water problems had finally been corrected, with sinks producing water just above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The facility has been in compliance ever since.

According to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture regulations, facilities found out of compliance and needing repeat inspections can be required to pay anywhere from $150 to $300 per subsequent inspection. None of the inspection records indicate that Aramark was required to pay any fines or inspection fees.

The Rocket reached out to Aramark for comment on the inspections and the work SRU facilities did to get the building back into compliance, but did not hear back before publication.

While Aramark’s facilities have had numerous inspections since taking over last June, Weisenfluh is the only facility to be placed out of compliance. The Rocket has complied all of Aramark’s inspections over the past year and they can be viewed here. 

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Joe is a senior communication major with concentrations in converged journalism and digital media production. This is his second year with The Rocket and first as the news editor. With a penchant for asking tough questions, his byline can be found on more than 100 articles for The Rocket including many breaking news and investigative pieces. During the hours he’s not wearing the hat of student journalist, he spends his time as a husband, father and dog owner in Slippery Rock.

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