For those living in the Wheaton bubble, discolored water from the hydrant flushing is a bi-annual reminder of our inclusion in the greater Norton community. In a campus-wide email on April 13, Wheaton’s Student Government Association (SGA) announced plans to install filtered bottle fillers in 11 locations around campus.
These locations include Watson, Meneely, Knapton, Clark, McIntire, Young, Meadows Center, Craigin, Stanton, Everett and Beard. “These locations were chosen based on density or greatest resident count and the filters will be located on the first floor or in a location that is accessible to all”, said Senator-at-Large Grace Kelly ’16.
Kelly said that she got involved in this project during freshman year in Professor of Geology Geoff Collin’s class. “I did an end of term…we examined Wheaton’s water and the local aquifers and compared a whole range of factors, including sediment, metallic content,” said Kelly, “We also had a meeting with Water Department for the Town of Norton and discovered that the water in the Norton Reservoir is cleaner than that coming out of faucets, primarily due to old pipes.”
According to the Norton Town website, flushing is the use of high velocity water to scour the inside surfaces of the water mains. This process flushes out iron and manganese particles, and also results in water that varies from pale yellow to dark brown and may include iron particles. The website also recommended using caution when using filtering systems, washing machines, dishwashers etc.
In response to student concerns about the quality of this water, SGA has spent $20,150 from its holding account to install these filtered bottle-fillers. The holding account is made up of the overflow funds that are allocated to clubs and organizations by SGA every year, which are not used. At the end of the year, the funds are cleared from accounts and are transferred to holding to be used for projects such as this one.
Wheaton students are not the only ones who are unhappy with this flushing process. The Sun Chronicle in 2013 reported that the town’s hydrant flushing had gone “haywire” and had “residents seeing red”. A Facebook group titled ‘Sick of Dirty Water in Norton, Massachusetts’ has over 500 participants, some of whom post complaints and pictures about the copper-colored water. “Clean drinking water is one of the most basic rights,” said Kelly on the motivation behind obtaining the new filter systems.