Students dodge dirty water

Students went largely without tap water for three days last week after the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a Boil Water Advisory for the College and its surrounding community.

The DEP urged citizens of Trenton, Ewing Township and Lawrence Township to boil their tap water before consuming it from Monday Oct. 4 to Thursday Oct. 7. The department deemed the water potentially hazardous after flooding of the Delaware River led to shutdowns at Trenton Water Works’ pumping station.

The DEP issued the warning as a “precaution” for Trenton Water Works customers, after it “determined that a potential or actual threat to the quality of water being provided currently exists,” according to an e-mail TCNJ Facilities and Administrative Services sent to students by at 10:42 p.m. Monday Oct. 4.

As a result, members of the College community were forced to adapt to the lack of clean tap water available. This required a number of adjustments to student services. Dining Services and Residential Education, or ResEd, were two of the most significantly impacted.

Eddie Cole, supervisor at Eickhoff Hall, remarked upon the dining hall’s substitution to tap water – bottled Aquafina, shipped in from PepsiCo, the College’s provider.

“It’s a lot of water,” Cole said. “We’re going through two to three pallets a day. And there are 50 or 60 cases in a pallet, 24 bottles in a case. That’s just here – I don’t know what they’re doing at the other places.”

Eickhoff Hall began distributing free water bottles to students on Tuesday Oct. 5. Employees also cooked with bottled water at the dining hall. The staff used bottled water instead of boiled tap water to cook as a “precaution,” one supervisor said.

No fountain drinks or coffee was available at any dining location during the advisory’s three-day span. Eickhoff Hall employees provided iced tea and lemonade made with bottled water to students.

Water bottles were also distributed at residence halls and sold at other dining locations for a discounted rate while the advisory was in effect.

“Once we realized this was going to extend beyond a very short window, we began distributing water in the dining halls,” said Matt Golden, executive director of Public Relations and Communications. “Once it carried into a second day, we determined we’d start ordering extra waters to bring them to the dining hall so students could brush their teeth … They were ordering 4,000 bottles at a time.”

Facilities and Administrative Services notified students of updates in the Boil Water Advisory via e-mail. The first e-mail went out at 12:40 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4, telling students of a water pressure drop due to area flooding that affected the Trenton Water Works pumping station.

The City of Trenton issued a press release at 4 p.m. and a citywide e-mail at 5 p.m. Monday warning residents to boil their water before using it. The first College-wide e-mail detailing the advisory went out at 11:44 p.m. that night.

The advisory was lifted in Trenton at 4:30 p.m. Thursday Oct. 7. Although Ewing Township posted a Twitter update reading “Boil water advisory – it is no longer necessary for customers of Trenton Water Works in Ewing Township to boil their water before use,” at 11:57 a.m. that day, the advisory wasn’t considered officially lifted in Ewing until 10:10 p.m. Friday Oct. 8, according to Mercer County’s website.

Students at the College received an e-mail saying the advisory had been lifted at 12:02 a.m. Friday Oct. 8.

Administrators and students alike were relieved to have water back.

“You don’t realize how much water you use ’til you don’t use it,” said Michelle Marchese, sophomore biology major.

“It’s a relief to have the water advisory lifted,” Golden said. “This represented a challenge for the institution and the students and faculty who were on campus during this period.”

One challenge that pained many a student was the sudden lack of coffee available. Sophomore biology major Billy Cavallo felt the strain acutely.

“I was falling asleep in my classes because I didn’t have my coffee,” Cavallo said. “It was very good to get the coffee back.”

Emily Brill can be reached at brill3@tcnj.edu