Clearing the water

The truth behind the “dirty” water in freshman dorms

By Lucas Persechino

Social Media Editor

When Caitlyn O’Connor, ‘24 who lives in Alumni, wakes up in the morning and goes to the bathroom, she sees gray water pouring from the faucet.

“I wouldn’t drink from the tap water unless I was dying of thirst and Alliot was closed,” she said.
Since last year, students have complained of gray water pouring from the bathroom sinks in freshman dorms. These buildings include Ryan, Lyons, and Alumni. What students describe as a gray-ish fog in the water has led some to believe that the tap water is contaminated and unsafe to drink. With most water fountains on campus closed due to COVID-19, O’Connor’s main sources of drinking water are plastic gallons from Target. “I wish there were other sources of water on campus besides Alliot. As an athlete, it’s very inconvenient,” she said.

The reason behind the water’s gray tint, however is misleading. According to Benjamin Duffy, environmental health and laboratory safety manager at St. Michael’s, the problem resides in the aerators of each faucet.

“When functioning properly, aerators prevent air bubbles from forming as the water dispenses. There are no minerals or dirt, it’s just air bubbles,” Duffy said. When asked if he would test the water, Duffy said he doesn’t feel the need to. An aeration issue does not have the potential to contaminate the water. An aerator simply determines how much air is mixed with the water, he explained. Although the water is safe to drink, gray water running from the faucet is still an issue. To resolve this, Duffy has sent the “Master Plumber” to check all faucets and solve this aeration issue.

In a statement to the Defender, Declane McCabe, associate professor and chair of Biology, ensured that our tap water is safe to drink and is “held to a much higher standard than bottled water.” Professor McCabe explained that the Champlain Water District is the College’s source of water.
Joel Ribout, director of Facilities, was unaware of this issue until recently. He agrees that this is an aeration issue. “As for proof, we spoke to folks at the Champlain Water District and they agree that is most certainly the issue. We will be changing out all the faucet aerators,” he said. The question still remains as to why this is only an issue in freshman dorm buildings, and why these aerators are failing on such a large scale. “My guess is the freshman dorms were all changed at the same time,” Ribout explained.

Andrew Galvin ’24 , a resident in Lyons, is aware of the “murky’’ water. When asked if he drinks from the tap, he said, “I let it run before I drink from it. Sometimes you got to do what you got to do.” Galvin, like O’Connor, also relies on bottled water as his main source of drinking water.
The source of the tap water at St. Michael’s College, the Champlain Water District, is considered one of the best sources of drinking water in the United States. In 2015, the district won “Best of the Best” people’s choice water taste test. The Champlain Water District was also the first water supplier in the nation to receive the “Excellence in Water Treatment Award” for their completion of all four phases of the Partnership for Safe Water Program, according to Champlain Water District’s website.

“We have an excellent source of water, and we maintain the water quality because we do a great job distributing it to consumers,” said Mike Barsotti, Director of Water Quality and Production at the Champlain Water District.

Jay Nadeau, Retail Division Director at Champlain Water District, also agrees that the gray water is a result of faulty aerators. “Oftentimes, aerators will mix air in the water,” Nadeau said. “Within minutes, it clears.”. He also mentioned that aerators aren’t the only cause of gray water. When warm water is exposed to cold temperatures, or cold water is exposed to warm temperatures, air gets trapped in the water as a result and creates the gray look in the water, he explained. “It may be an aesthetic preference, but it will not affect anyone who drinks the water.” Nadeau said.

As misleading as this gray water may appear, it is still safe to drink. In fact, it’s safer than bottled water and more eco-friendly. To all residents living in Alumni or Lyons this year, and those unfortunate enough to quarantine in Ryan, you have no reason not to trust the tap water. If leaving the building seems too inconvenient, know that you can turn to the bathroom sinks for quick access to drinking water.