9/23/20, Cary Quadrangle Sink

A picture of the water in Cary

Quadrangle was posted to Reddit last week.

After students returned to campus this fall, some have reported problems with the water quality in their dorms. University officials say a process necessitated by the summer slump, during which water stagnates, is to blame.

Reddit has been flooded the past few weeks with images of faucets in residence halls spurting different shades of brown water.

“On my move-in day, I went to go check the water to make sure it was working well,” said Angel Prince, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences living in Hillenbrand Residence Hall. “When I turned it on, the water was a bronze color for roughly five minutes. It was so thick that it wouldn’t even go down the drain.”

Another student, Anoria Webb, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said she experienced a similar problem in Purdue Village.

“The first day I turned on the water in my apartment, the water came out brown and lasted for a few moments,” she said. “It never came out like that again until a month later when maintenance was done.”

Indiana American Water Works Service, the company that oversees most of West Lafayette’s water, reported it has been flushing the area for routine water testing.

“We have been doing flow testing to calibrate our flow model for our distribution system in West Lafayette,” said Joseph Loughmiller, external affairs manager of Indiana American Water.

He suggests running tap water for three to five minutes, or until any cloudiness in the water clears up. Loughmiller added that the company has sent multiple emails to customers addressing the inconveniences.

The water stagnates over the summer when buildings are scarcely used, which has caused Purdue to resort to complete flushing of the plumbing, professor of civil and environmental and ecological engineering Andrew Whelton said.

But it can be difficult to determine the exact source of bad water quality without extensive research, he said. Because Whelton studies the effects of low occupancy on buildings, he said he has received many pictures from students inquiring as to what it was spurting from their faucets.

“I have not seen any data associated with what that actually is coming from the faucets,” Whelton said. “We have not tested that at this time.

“The source of that black or brown water is likely a combination of water movement in the building in the pipes and scale de-stabilization,” he added. “What’s in that is likely heavy metals — there’s definitely something wrong with it.”

The best course of actions for students, faculty and staff is to notify the University of the issue, Whelton said. He advised including pictures along with the complaint to give maintenance a point of reference.

There could be long-lasting effects to the buildings from the grime, he said.

“Without really knowing the cause,” he said, “you really can’t determine how long it’s gonna take to remove.”

“It’s important that they document it,” Whelton added. “It is important that they call for help to remediate or address the problem, and really it’s important to address the problem: What is the cause of this? Why does it keep happening?”

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