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After Massive Leak, Water Becomes Valuable, Quickly

Life without clean tap water is tricky, but finals without coffee?

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As the city of Boston and 37 other communities enter their second day without safe drinkingwater in the wake of a massive water line break, bottles of water are being distributed to BU students at University dining halls and the George Sherman Union.

The dining hall distribution centers, which are open until 2 a.m., were ready yesterday with 10,200 bottles of water, half of which were picked up by students. The University has arranged for the delivery of 34,000 bottles of water per day, as well as several tons of ice to be used to cool water that has been boiled.

Craig Hill, vice president of auxiliary services, says complimentary single serve bottled water is available in the residence hall dining rooms at West Campus, Warren Towers, The Towers, Shelton and Myles. “The residence hall dining rooms are running very close to regular services,” says Hill. “All cooking and washing of produce is done with water that has been previously boiled. Servicesthat use tap water such as fountain soda and juices are not currently available, but fruit juices from concentrate (made with water that is previously boiled) will be available startingMonday.”Hill says residence hall dining rooms will provide hot beverages such as coffee and tea as more boiled water becomes available.

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said he has been impressed with the patience of students. “We are monitoring conditions on campus and several online communities,” says Elmore. “We are using the feedback we get from all sources, and the students seem to be taking this in stride. Cheers to our residence, dining services, and facilities staff for quickly stepping up to respond to our students — they, like access to clean water, remind me that I take much forgranted.”

In addition to leaving a major city without drinking water, the water line break has delivered a particular challenge to BU students: How to find a cup of coffee during finals. Fortunately, Hill says, bulk coffee and hot water for tea will be available in the dining halls, and in Mugar Library, as had been planned for finals week. Local Starbucks report that they will be closed Monday, and Dunkin Donuts and Einstein’s will not be serving coffee. Elmore reports that Sunday morning saw an exodus of students headed across the river to get coffee in Cambridge, whose water is unaffected by the leak.

David Zamojski, residence life director, encourages students with concerns to talk to their RA or visit their local ResLife offices. “Our goal is to support students as well as we can while they prepare for final exams,” says Zamojski. “We’re all in this together, and we are here to be helpful during this stressful time.”

Until potable water is returned, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) advises all Boston residents to boil waterbefore using it for drinking, cooking, washing food or brushing teeth.University officials warn that hot plates should not be used to boilwater. Because the water must be kept at a full boil for one minute,microwaving is not recommended, for safety reasons.Officials advise staff and students not to use departmental coffeemachines, and not to drink hot drinks from vending machines.

Peter Fiedler, vice president for administrative services, asks all staff and students toconserve bottled water, and advises staff traveling from towns with potable water to bring water to work. Fiedler reports that as of Sunday morning, there have been no water related medical calls or other problems associated with water contamination. Students with any signs of gastro-intestinal distress should contact Student Health Services at 617-353-2000.

After learning on the leak on Saturday, the University assembled an incident command team, with representatives from Public Safety, Operations,Facilities, Communications, Environmental Health & Safety, Student Affairs, Residence Life, Student Housing andDining. Executive Vice President Joseph Mercurio said the team has beenmonitoring the situation and coordinating University activitiesintended communicate, to assist students and staff, to providehealth information, to formulate plans for procuring adequate suppliesof drinking water and arranging for orderly distribution.  The team isalso working with the Medical Campus and assisting with any potentialimpacts to ongoing research projects at bothcampuses. Mercurio said  the incident commandteam will continue its work as long as the water emergency continuesand expand its membership as necessary to support students, faculty andstaff.

The MWRA reports that the leak, located at the junction of theMetroWest Water Supply Tunnel and the City Tunnel on Recreation Road inWeston, has been sealed, and the agency has activated its emergencywater supplies, including the Sudbury Aqueduct, ChestnutHill Reservoir, and Spot Pond Reservoir. Officials say repairing thesystem will take days, if not longer.

Click here to readmore and see a list of communities affected. Click here to learn how to purify water.

Check back for updates on this story.

4 Comments

4 Comments on After Massive Leak, Water Becomes Valuable, Quickly

  • Anonymous on 05.02.2010 at 12:10 pm

    cancel finals :) hehehe

  • Anonymous on 05.02.2010 at 12:32 pm

    Can you stop sending me texts and calls and emails on this???????? I freakin pay for texts and we are all grown up and can deal with this ourselves. This is not an emergency at BU and I will ignore all future stuff you send as probably will
    most people. Sao in case you really need the emergency thing nobody will pay attention!!!!!

  • Anonymous on 05.02.2010 at 12:46 pm

    WHAT ABOUT SOUTH…. where is my water

  • Anonymous on 05.02.2010 at 1:00 pm

    Boil water, folks! Bottled water is awful for the environment. http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/

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