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Monday, September 25, 2023


BREAKING: Brown water forces campus restaurants to close


All restaurants at the Student Center South closed early after employees discovered brown water coming from the faucets. The Fire Marshal’s office made the final decision to close them. | Dmitriy Borovykh/The Cougar

UPDATE at 11:23 p.m.: Executive Director of Media Relations Mike Rosen released the following statement from the University advising students to avoid drinking tap water. Rosen said he expects more updates to come Wednesday morning.

“As a precaution, until the City of Houston identifies the problem and ensures the water is safe for consumption, the University of Houston is recommending our campus community avoid drinking tap water on campus at this time. UH is coordinating with the City of Houston to flush the water system on campus to expedite removal of discoloration.  Both the city and University are collecting water samples for testing and anticipate expedited results.”

10:11 p.m.: According to the University’s official Twitter account, all campus dining locations will be open Wednesday.

In an email sent to all Cougar Place residents, Residential Life Coordinator Shaniqua Johnson advised against drinking faucet water from any room. Johnson said residents should “use discretion” before using showers.

“At this time, the facilities crews have informed me that the City of Houston water crews are on campus and looking to detect the issues,” Johnson said. “The UH Facilities and Call Center has not dispersed any advice to me to share as to whether you should use your water or shower this evening.”

9:02 p.m.: According to a tweet from UH Dining, late night food trucks still plan to serve students on campus from 11 p.m. Tuesday through 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Flip ‘n Patties will be parked near Cougar Village II, and Miss Patty’s Wagon will serve students between Cougar Place residence hall and TDECU Stadium.

8:44 p.m.: Retail dining locations across campus will remain closed through Tuesday evening, according to a tweet from UH Dining.

The A.D. Bruce Religion Center and Cougar Village I are also reported to be experiencing issues with brown water.

Jimmy John’s sandwich shop on Calhoun Road has remained open throughout Monday, according to delivery person and UH sophomore Daniel McDonald. The restaurant cut off its fountain drink machine, but Jimmy John’s operations are otherwise normal.

8:10 p.m.: Multiple dining locations on campus closed early Tuesday afternoon due to reports of possibly contaminated brown water.

“We’ve had reports of brown water at multiple buildings, mostly on the east side of the campus,” said facilities services supervisor Chuck Miller. “It’s been reported to the city. We’re doing our best to alleviate the problem.”

Residential, food service and academic buildings across campus have had reports of brown water. The Student Center South, Calhoun Lofts, Bayou Oaks, the Law Center and the College of Optometry are among the affected buildings.


Showers, toilets and sink faucets at Calhoun Lofts are emitting brown water that is reported across campus. Water from a sink at Calhoun Lofts is pictured beside pre-bottled water. | Courtesy of Valeria Dominguez

“Today at 6 p.m., I was in the restroom. I turned on my sink and the water looked weird,” said media production senior Valeria Dominguez, who lives at Calhoun Lofts. “Then I flushed the toilet and the water was brown. I was definitely confused because I hadn’t been notified by any officials.”

As a precautionary measure, The Fire Marshal’s office made the call to close most dining locations at the Student Center South and SC Satellite around 4:30 p.m. Student-run coffee shop Cougar Grounds also closed early.

Locations at the Student Center Satellite and the Smoothie King at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center are reported to be closed.

As of 8 p.m., Fresh Foods Company dining hall adjacent to Moody Towers was serving a limited menu.

“It’s not a state of an emergency or anything crazy like that, we’re just making sure it’s safe,” said Aramark’s UH Director of Operations Joel Cecil. “It’s not anything I can answer at this time. It falls back to the Fire Marshal and city inspectors who work on campus. All the directions we’ve received is from them. It’s out of our hands.”

In the strip mall on Calhoun Road, The Nook coffee shop and Pink’s Pizza also experienced water issues.

“We do have water, but we’re not serving it at the moment,” said The Nook’s manager Erica Arras.  “We’re not really sure what the issue is.”

Arras said that the water looked cloudy, and she made the call to stop the service. At Pink’s Pizza, manager Brad Egan switched from their drink machine to serving only bottled drinks.

“I had to shut down my fountain machine,” said Brad Egan, a manager at Pink’s Pizza. “The water is definitely affecting us. Maybe around 1 or 2 this afternoon, I was filling up one of my buckets and I noticed it had brownish or yellowish color to it.”

Emily Burleson contributed reporting.

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