Tiny pieces of 'slag' blamed for Zenith water woes

A water pipe blocked by tiny pieces of "slag" — likely pipe shavings or soldering residue — was to blame for the water issues that left many residents of the downtown Zenith apartments without water or air conditioning this week, according to a city public works spokesman.

Going floor to floor Tuesday afternoon, crews restored services in the 21-story building, said Lauren McDonald, a spokeswoman for the company that manages the Zenith.

The slag pieces, each about the size of a dime, were located by city crews Monday in the filtering screen of a 6-inch-wide "backflow preventer" in the building's internal water system, not in lines maintained by the city, said Kurt Kocher, the public works spokesman.

"When water goes into a building, there is essentially a system within the building set up so the water cannot back up into and contaminate the water system," Kocher said. "The blockages were significant enough that it was causing problems for them."

The city worked with Bozzuto, the management company for the high-rise luxury apartment building overlooking Oriole Park at Camden Yards, to identify the problem after residents in the building said they began losing water pressure and air conditioning as far back as two weeks ago.

Residents reported temperatures in their apartments reaching the high 80s. Some moved into hotel rooms.

McDonald had said Sunday that Bozzuto had taken "a number of investigative steps" to identify the problem but had "ruled out any issues within the building or the building's systems." She said Bozzuto was paying for residents to stay in nearby hotels.

Kocher said that because the building was built within the past 10 years, the pieces of "slag" found in the pipe were likely shavings from when construction crews were first fitting the pipe or residue from their soldering of it.

Micah Adams, a 15th-floor resident who with his wife pays $1,800 a month in rent and $150 for parking, said in an email that the building's water pressure first dropped after the water main broke underneath Light Street on July 16. The temperature in his apartment reached 88 degrees before he booked a room at the neighboring Hilton Baltimore, Adams said.

Many Zenith tenants work for the University of Maryland Medical System, and being displaced from their homes "compromises their ability to do good work," Adams said.

"These are the people who are supposed to be on call, ready for a crisis, and able to do their jobs no matter what happens," he said. "Not only is this situation aggravating, it's downright dangerous."



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