Students were warned against drinking water and showering as a result of a possible contamination of the main water supply on Saturday night. Before 2 a.m. Sunday morning students were notified that water was once again safe for use.

When UR Facilities was upgrading the chilled water main for air conditioning and research labs, water from the domestic line was diverted into the chilled water line on Friday afternoon, according to Director of Public Relations Robert Kraus. A number of valves broke on the water line, however, causing a rust-inhibiting chemical — sodium trolyltriazole — to enter the main water supply.

“It was at a very low level,” Kraus said of the chemical. “Even at a higher level it’s not toxic and it was way below that.”

Some students noticed the smell Saturday morning before they were notified in the evening.

“I was sitting in my lounge when my suitemates and I began to engage in a conversation about the rare smell coming out of the shower,” senior Residential Advisor Ariel De Leon said. “We mutually agreed that it smelled something along the line of maple syrup and funk.”

After another suitemate confirmed that there was an odd smell coming from the shower, De Leon said she “immediately began to spread the word to anyone [she] came across.”

Once Facilities discovered the problem, they contacted the Residential Life Area Coordinator on call, Koren Bakkegard on Saturday evening. Graduate Housing Residents contacted RAs, who left voice messages on their phones.

“I received a voice mail from my GHR on Saturday night at 8 p.m.,” junior and RA Sheila Vakharia said. “Fortunately, I was in my room around that time and noticed that my message light was on. The message wasn’t very detailed, he just said that the water was possibly contaminated and that notice.”

Continuing, she said, “I grabbed some paper and tape and stuck little notes on my water fountain, in the kitchen, in the shower stalls, and bathroom sinks. I knocked on the doors on my hall and told whoever was around the news.”

Some RAs, however, were not in their rooms when the message was sent. “I was out for most of the day and found out when I came back from China Nite, at that point I sent a voice mail, email, and went door to door with the notification to not use the water,” senior RA Romeo Galang said.

“Once [Bakkegard] sent the word that the water was safe, I sent out another voice mail with the go,” he said.

UR Security also notified students by informing on-call RAs and sending Security Aids to Towers, Hill Court, Spurrier Gym and the Fraternity Quad, according to Kraus.

At 1:45 a.m. Sunday, Facilities successful repaired the pipeline and flushed the system.

Student reaction”My roommate was sick, so he was trying to drink a lot of tea and water,” sophomore Brian Shenker, who wasn’t notified until after 9 p.m., said. “He was having a hard time with it.”

Sophomore Bridget Baran didn’t get out of softball practice until 8:30 p.m.

“By the time I got back, I couldn’t shower, so I had to shower at a friend’s house,” she said.

Freshman Alexandra Cornwall works for the Medical Emergency Response Team, and said that they heard about the water situation as soon as their shift started at 8 p.m. She also said that they received calls from students that were sick who had heard about the possible contamination.

Some students were unaffected by the water disruption.

“I didn’t really need to use it much when it wasn’t available,” junior Paul Hortiatis said.

Schnee can be reached at cschnee@campustimes.org.



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