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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Water Problem Not Going Away

Lurking in the shadows of more prominent recent university news is a problem that many are unaware of. Behind locked doors below Healey Library, the Science and McCormack Buildings, red rubber garden hoses attached to broken water filtering units have wasted over 2.5 million gallons of water since the Spring ’01’ semester.

The hoses were attached February of 2001 following a Mass Media article that revealed extremely unhealthy levels of contaminates in drinking water samples taken from UMB bubblers. According to a representative at the UMB Office of Environmental Health and Safety, the hoses were attached and turned on to keep water circulating through the pipes at a steady rate to prevent stagnant water from leaching lead from the soldered pipes below UMB. The three hoses drain at a constant, combined rate of 4.6 gallons per minute. That translates to 345 gallons per class on any Tuesday or Thursday in the last year.

Though no one can say exactly when the filtering units broke down, the estimated cost of fixing them is in the range of $100,000. The hoses were sought to provide a temporary, cheap solution to the contamination in the water. A year ago this may have been the best available means of solving the problem, but as more and more time goes by UMB will find the price tag attached to fixing the problem permanently will be grossly higher than if they had fixed the problem the right way in the first place. The price tag at this point is growing linearly: $100,000 to fix the units plus the daily growing price of the unused water being dumped, approximated at over $20,000 to date. However, that figure is based on UMB’s water consumption for the ’00’-’01’ year, accounting for one semester of normal use and one semester of dumping. Since the water has flowed constantly throughout the current academic year, the cost for the ’01’-’02’ year will be substantially higher.

Simply stated, wasting millions upon millions of gallons of unused drinking water to avoid paying a hefty sum to fix the filtering units properly is bad policy. Not only will the inevitable repairs eventually cost substantially more in the long run, but the question arises: who will pay? The parking garage remained in disrepair for almost twenty years before significant steps were taken to ensure it wouldn’t collapse, and students were left with the burden of flipping the bill.

In light of recent budget cuts and the fee increases that followed, it is clear UMB is facing a financial crunch. But putting off the water problem will only cost more in the end. And the question still remains: is it ethically prudent for budget concerns alone to dictate inaction that could save thousands of gallons of water from being wasted everyday?

Editor’s Note: To ensure the water problem will not be overlooked, beginning this week the Mass Media will include a graphic displaying the approximated amounts of water wasted in gallons and cost.