A call for clean water

Consistent water problems spark the idea that the water systems on campus are outdated. Sonoma State University continues to issue proper safety precautions to provide safe drinking water to its 11,000 students, staff, and faculty.

Over the past few years Sonoma State has sent out numerous emails, cautioning people to not drink and cook with the water that the school provides in fountains and kitchen sinks due to a possible contamination to their well system. Specifically last spring semester members of Sonoma State that lived on campus were put into a tough spot when they were told to not drink the water for the “48 hour period.”

Supposedly the possible contamination was caused by a drop in water pressure. Therefore, the school had to run multiple tests that took “48 hours” to receive results and send out advisory emails. 

Unfortunately, members of the Sonoma State community have also received emails in the past, such as the one on Nov. 5, 2018 stating, “Due to a water line break and a valve malfunction this morning, significant parts of the campus experienced reduced water pressure or no water service. Crews have corrected the problem, and all water service has been restored.” 

There were no further emails sent advising students that tests were going to be conducted or that the water should be boiled before consuming even though there was “reduced water pressure.” Therefore, the 11,000 members that consumed Sonoma State’s water could very easily have been exposed to harmful contaminants and bacteria.

The emails were very contradictory in the sense that they advise everyone that it is safe to wash their hands and bathe with the tap water, but to also sanitize immediately after doing so. If one cannot wash their hands without using sanitizer afterwards, they probably should not be using the water at all.

Water contamination can cause severe health problems including neurological disorders, reproductive issues, and gastrointestinal illness. 

For such extreme possible side effects there should also be extreme precautionary measures taken in order to avoid and prevent water contamination.

The emails being sent out are untimely and usually sent after a majority of the people on campus have already consumed the possibly contaminated water. Sonoma State University should be sending out text message alerts immediately to ensure the safety of the students, staff, and faculty. 

The safety and health of the community should be the University’s number one priority. Instead, the members of this campus receive emails such as, “Yesterday I sent you an email where I shared three options to protect yourself during this ‘Boil Water Advisory’ - one of which was that it was ok to ‘use a Brita filter or other water purifying device.’  When I initially received information about the Advisory, I was informed a filter would suffice due to what we understood at the time about the quality of water on campus.  Since I received that tip about the filter, additional information was made available stating filtered water should still be boiled – which you received by email from the university.  Please accept an apology from myself and my supervisors for what I shared with you being outdated.”

Sadly, not only was the information outdated but so were the water bottles students received from the University. 

Sonoma State offered a measly one water bottle per student during this 48 hour testing period. The water bottles had an expiration date of Jun. 19, 2013. They claim that water bottle expiration dates are for quality not safety. While the water doesn’t go bad the plastic that incapsulates it does. The chemicals in the plastic will start seeping into the water once the expiration date has been surpassed. Sonoma State University is extremely unprepared for an issue in well contamination that  has been going on for years.

In a 2002 water assessment consumer report, “Wells #3 and #4 were identified as being vulnerable to contamination from sewage collection systems.” 

After receiving emails that provide inactive links and documentation that says it is from 2018 but provides data from 2002, it is safe to speculate that Sonoma State’s well system could possibly be deteriorating and outdated. 

The students, staff, and faculty at Sonoma State University deserve honesty and a reliable drinking source. There have been too many valve malfunctions, drops in water pressure, and line breaks over the past few years. It is time Sonoma State prioritizes the safety of the community and takes responsibility by making a change to their well system. Perhaps, some of the money students pay to have clean water should be used to make any updates and repairs that the water system needs.