As students left for Thanksgiving break, a broken water line in the Angell College Center caused Plattsburgh State’s maintanence to shut-off the water for the entire building.
Clinton County Health Department’s Senior Public Health Sanitarian Tim Simonette said maintenance in the ACC called the department’s office to issue a boil-water order.
“Any time there’s a broken water line, it means there’s a loss of pressure in that line,” Simonette said. “Once you lose that pressure, [there’s] potential for contaminants to get into that water line.”
Simonette said the order is a precaution to make sure the water is properly cleaned when the repairs are made.
The order was in effect on Nov. 21 and remained until Nov. 28.
Simonette said once two bacterial tests are performed on the water by the city water department on back-to-back days, they must come back negative in order for CCHD to lift the order.
The tests look for total coliform and E. coli bacteria, two common bacterias found in contaminated water. In water systems, their presence indicates the possibility of other more harmful pathogens that could cause illness.
“If somebody drank that water, and it did have total coliform in it, they wouldn’t necessarily get sick,” Simonette said. “Total coliform bacteria is so prevalent in our environment that it doesn’t get many people sick. If [the test] had been E coli. positive, that could be more serious.”
Maintenance Manager and Maintenance Supervisor Pat Farrell and Burt Doria said the break occurred under the sidewalk in front of the ACC. Doria said the line broke the night of Nov. 20. The water was first noticed in the basement of the ACC.
“In this case, we think it followed some electrical and data conduits right into the building,” Farrell said.
Doria confirmed the CCHD’s water-system procedure. Any time water is shut-off to a building, maintenance is required to call the county health department to file a boil-water notice in order to ensure the water is safe for food or drink purposes.
“Basically, the pipes are getting old, and being underground, they get weak and fracture,” Doria said. “Most of this campus was built in the ‘60s.”
Normally, a boil-water order lasts roughly two days, according to Farrell. With the Thanksgiving holiday, the next business day for the city water department to perform bacteria tests wouldn’t occur until the following week, leaving the ACC without drinkable water for longer than usual while both students and faculty were away on break.
Simonette also said PSUC is on the City of Plattsburgh’s water district.
“That water is chlorinated, so there’s a chlorine residual in the water that helps kill that bacteria if it were present,” Simonette said.
Although the water was not confirmed as contaminated two weeks ago, the boil-water order was put in place to ensure a bacteria-free ACC. A broken water-line can occur based on multiple factors, and one possibility might simply be a change in the weather.
“Once the winter season comes in and the ground starts to shift and heave, we tend to find more [breaks,]” Farrell said. “Things tend to happen.”
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