Water main break affects Brandeis
In the wake of a rupture in a 10-foot-wide water pipe in Weston, Mass. that left 2 million residents of the greater Boston area without clean running water, Brandeis is taking measures to ensure that students have an adequate supply of potable water.The pipe, which broke at approximately 10 a.m. last Saturday, was operational again as of 6 a.m. yesterday. However, until testing proves that the water is safe to drink, Waltham residents are advised to avoid ingesting any tap water before boiling it first. The water order is expected to be lifted within the next 48 hours, according to a statement on the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's website.
An e-mail was sent to the student body Saturday at 6:35 p.m., and an emergency broadcast was made to student room phones at 9:48 p.m., both of which alerted students of the incident and warned them that tap water had to be boiled before it could be drunk. Signs were also posted around campus, particularly over faucets and water fountains, alerting students not to drink tap water until further notice.
According to an e-mail sent Sunday by Senior Vice President for Communications Andrew Gully, bottles of water are available in the East, North, Massell and Ridgewood Quad offices for students who cannot boil water in their rooms or suites. Coolers of boiled water have also been set out in dining halls, Einstein Bros. Bagels and the Provisions on Demand Market. During Springfest, the outdoor concert on Chapels Field during which temperatures topped 85 degrees, coolers and bottles of water were set out for attendees.
However, Assistant Director of Concerts for Student Events Alyssa Folickman '10 said in an interview with the Justice that she was "not very pleased" with Aramark's handling of the water situation for Springfest. "We spoke to them Saturday night, and they assured us that they had enough water, and they certainly did not make good on that," she said. Folickman said that because the water canisters provided were much smaller than expected, were not filled often enough and were filled with very hot water, Student Events staff purchased water bottles with emergency fund money despite the fact that one of the bands' contracts specified that the band did not want water bottles distributed at the event. "It was easier to do that than to keep finding Aramark," said Folickman.
Director of Dining Services Michael Newmark could not be reached for comment by press time.
E-mails from Gully to the Brandeis community also explained that extra hand sanitizer has been set out across campus for students to use after washing their hands, which Co-Director of the Health Center Toby Walters recommended, particularly for washing hands immediately before eating. The Health Center website notes that while the water is safe for showering and laundry, it should not be used for brushing teeth, in coffee makers or for washing dishes.
According to Walters in an interview with the Justice, "[Brandeis is] following all of the recommendations recommended by the Boston Health Department." She added that "the main thing about these types of situations is really not to panic. The school is doing a very good job, and health services is aware of the problem, and we agree with what the school is doing." Walters said that students who ingested potentially contaminated water should "hold tight" and remain calm. "In terms of from what I've heard from the public health department, they're saying it's too early for any sort of [gastrointestinal] type of illnesses," she said. "It takes about seven days [to experience symptoms due to contaminated water], so anything going on now is totally different. If you wake up and you have a little bit of a stomachache, it's not related to the water."
In an interview with the Justice, Gully said, "I think Public Safety did a great job in getting the ball going as soon as [the situation] became clear." He said that the University compared the steps it was taking to peer institutions like Tufts University and added that a major goal of the University was to ensure that communication was clear and accurate.
"We try not to overcommunicate, because people sort of get that e-mail thing of 'I'm not going to pay attention because I'm getting too many [e-mails],'" he said. He said that the University communications system worked "very well."
Gully added that faculty and staff have not experienced any major problems due to the water contamination. Vice President of Campus Operations Mark Collins said in an interview with the Justice that "everyone was cooperative," noting that many Brandeis staff members brought their own bottled or boiled water from home.
Nicole Tiger '13 said in an interview with the Justice, "I don't think the administration acted fast enough." Tiger explained that at her concert for the campus a cappella group Up the Octave that took place Saturday at 7 p.m., "we had to tell people not to drink from the water fountains and not to wash their hands because they were not informed. An e-mail was not an efficient way to alert people about what had happened."
Kevin Monk '13 called the situation "really annoying." He said, "It's like, I'm thirsty, but I can't go to a water fountain. I have to go to Einstein's, or I have to go out of my way to get a bottle of water. . I still wash my hands, because I see the signs that say it's safe for hygiene."
-Fiona Lockyer, Harry Shipps and Nashrah Rahman contributed