Editorial: Hilltop water issues raise concerns

The Hilltop Apartments have come under fire for the quality of their water. It has been tested and cleared to be safe, for now. (File photo)

Recently, high levels of copper raised concerns over the quality of water in Hilltop Apartments. The water was tested in a state-certified laboratory and was determined to be safe to drink. While it has been determined that students were not at risk, incidents like this and a similar one involving brown water at the Novello Building of Hilltop Apartments has increased concerns about water quality for a number of students. As evidenced by the ongoing tragedy in Flint, Michigan, being vigilant about the safety of water can prevent harm to a lot of people.

Concern about this issue is by no means paranoia. Lead and copper can cause many health complications when ingested in large enough amounts, and it is estimated that a number of water treatment plants around the country may have deficiencies. For example, an Associated Press report found that 39 out of 1,082 water systems across Connecticut have not been in compliance with federal levels at least once since January 2013. Thankfully, state and federal agencies have been working hard to ensure that any facility that is noncompliant is identified and the appropriate actions are taken. Likewise, UConn moved quickly and efficiently to investigate copper levels at Hilltop, while providing students with bottled water.

However, questions still remain. So far, it has not determined why copper was in the water in the first place. It is possible that because it was prevalent in the hot water that the copper pipes were being dissolved. It has been difficult to find out why copper has been found in a higher concentration. If students notice problems, they have been advised to run their faucets for 30 to 60 seconds, especially if the pipes have been inactive for a long period of time. In addition, using cold water instead of hot water should cut down the risk of copper dissolving in the water.

It is imperative that the university continue to monitor the water quality at Hilltop and around the campus. The potential for widespread harm is always there, and past events have shown us that problems can go undiscovered; or worse, unaddressed. It is not only continued monitoring, but also a commitment to improve water treatment facilities whenever necessary. It costs much less to find and resolve problems early on, but the cost can increase exponentially as time goes on. UConn has shown in the past weeks that it is up to the challenge, and hopefully the university will continue to be on top of this issue going forward.