Water flushing causes water discoloration

by Lucy Turnipseed | 11/1/18 2:45am

Ashley Lewis ’22, a North Fayerweather Hall resident, was showering when she noticed a disturbing color change in the water.

“I stepped in the shower one afternoon and I looked at my hair as I was combing it, and there was a slight brown run-off,” Lewis said. “I could not tell if it was due to my hair or the water itself. I just assumed the problem was a New Hampshire thing, like in other countries water has different scents and hues. I trusted that whatever Dartmouth was doing was safe.”

Many students may have noticed water discoloration in their dorms over the past week as a result of the town of Hanover’s biannual water flushing. From Oct. 17 through Oct. 24, the town’s water lines were being flushed in order to keep the water supply clean, clearing the pipes of natural sediment build-up.

“We do flushing two times a year — it’s a spring and a fall activity — and it’s a common practice in [al]most every town I know,” Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said.

Hanover’s water comes from three reservoirs: the Fletcher and Parker Reservoirs, located in the Camp Brook watershed near Grasse Road, and the Jack Nelson Reservoir, which collects water from the Mink Brook watershed and contains sediments like iron and manganese, according to Griffin.

Water flushing consists of blasting water through sections of pipes to force out any possible contaminants so the water is as sediment and mineral-free as possible, Griffin said, adding that flushing also occurs in fire hydrants so that the pressure is as high as possible.

Griffin also noted that the town likes to notify its residents of the schedule before the flushing begins through its e-news service, website and The Valley News newspaper so residents will be aware to not run dishwashers or do laundry on the day their water is being flushed, just as a precaution for possible sediment staining.

The College informed students of the water flushing schedule when the town forwarded the information. On Oct. 17, Robin Guay, facilities work process manager for Facilities Operations and Management, sent out an announcement in the Vox News email because “Dartmouth considers [Vox] the effective system for getting news out,” Guay said.

Residential Operations also posted notices in laundry rooms, according to Guay.

Lewis said she did not see the Vox notice, citing the inundation of emails as a deterrent to read the fine print of the e-mail.

Typically, waiting around an hour and letting the water run for a bit cleans out faucets and gets rid of the discoloration. The discolored water should not be consumed, but after the hue clears it is safe to use.

“I went to boarding school in New Hampshire and sometimes the sink water became brown for an hour or so there too,” Billy Hobbs ’22 said. “I just waited a little and it was back to normal and I wasn’t scared to use it.”

In South Fayerweather Hall, Isabelle Kocher ’22, who did not know of the flushing schedule, attempted to wash her hands in the bathroom and fill up her water bottle at the basement water filler and was met with orange-tinted water.

“I was worried, but the janitor in my building explained that it just wasn’t drinkable at the moment and I just went back later,” Kocher said.

Little Hall resident Jonah Kahl ’22 said he did not notice any discoloration in his water and did not read the Vox announcement. However, Kahl said students should have been notified more directly about the potential water changes, noting that informing undergraduate advisors and asking them to warn their residents would likely have been more effective in spreading the news.

When Madeleine Schaffer ’22 noticed a difference in the water, she notified her UGA who, at the time, was also unaware of the flushing.

“I was going to take a shower before my 10 [class period] and the water came out dark brown,” Schaffer said. “It was definitely unexpected.”

Schaffer’s UGA told her to call Safety and Security or another department on campus that could possibly assist because both thought there was an issue with the water, she said.

Cadyn Davis ’21, who is a UGA for the first and second floors of North Fayerweather Hall, said she had two of her residents approach her with worries about the water.

“I didn’t know about [the water flushing], but I don’t think that was the College’s fault,” Davis said. “I was concerned, but then I went into the bathroom and tested the sinks and they started to run clear and the toilets were fixed later that day, so it was all fine.”

Lauren Pinchuk ’21 said she believes the College should make clearer announcements about events like the water flushing that could concern students.

“I usually skip over [Vox News emails],” Pinchuk said. “Putting up signs in bathroom stalls or posters around the school draws a larger crowd of readers.”