Instead of drinking tap water from regular fountains or buying disposable plastic water bottles, students have been able to make a simple trek to the nearest hydration station to drink cooled, filtered and dispensed water since last May. With a track record of 19,000 gallons of water saved so far, the hydration stations that provide cooled portable tap water have made substantial contributions to campus environmental sustainability.
“The hydration stations provide a way to obtain fresh water without contributing to waste associated with plastic water bottles that often end up in landfills. [They] are more energy efficient and have more sophisticated filter systems that provide a better quality of water,” said Casey Russo, Capital Project Manager, in an email to The Phillipian.
Over the course of last year, these stations have been installed by the Office of the Physical Plant (OPP) in various water fountains across campus, including the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), the Borden Gym, Morse Hall, Cochran Chapel, Pearson Hall, Graves Hall, Elbridge Stuart House, an upperclassmen boys’ dorm, and George Washington Hall. The first station was implemented last May, in the basement of Samuel Phillips Hall, with an Abbot Grant from Caroline Shipley ’16.
The common room sinks in the majority of the dorms have been modified to allow students to fill their water bottles, in an effort to reduce the number of disposable plastic water bottles.
“The design is also primarily to provide a water bottle filling station in addition to a typical water fountain,” Russo continued.
When plastic bottles are thrown into the garbage, which 90 percent percent are, they can take anywhere from 400 to 1,000 years to decay, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Each station has a counter that registers the amount of times a bottle is refilled. If we assume that each count equals one bottle diverted from the landfill, more than 25,000 bottles have been diverted since the first station was installed in May of 2014,” said Russo. 11,750 bottles and counting have been saved in the OWHL alone since last May, and about 62 bottles are diverted each day, according to Environmental Coordinating Officers (ECOs).
Elkay, the company that makes the hydration stations, says that its product reduces the “aesthetic chlorine, taste and odor, particulate class I, and lead,” according to its website.
According to Russo, each station costs $1,800 and additional costs vary depending upon the location in which it is installed.
Russo said, “When plastic bottles can no longer be recycled, they are often burned, which can also release chlorine and dioxin into the air which may also be harmful to humans and animals.”
He added that the process of recycling bottles takes a considerable amount of energy and creates greenhouse gases that may harm the environment.
“According to the Pacific Institute, the production process for one water bottle (including the plastic bottle, manufacturing, cap and packaging) requires approximately three liters of water,” said Russo.
Based on that data, Andover has saved over 19,000 gallons of water so far and has also prevented carbon dioxide emissions associated with plastic bottle production.
“The ECOs and the Eco Action Club plan to monitor the usage of the hydration stations and to develop an awareness campaign to ensure students are aware of this resource,” said Russo.
Russo said that the ECOs and the Eco Action Club plan to monitor the usage of the hydration stations and to develop an awareness campaign to ensure students are aware of them. He added that although there are no current plans for installations in the future, new stations would definitely be considered if necessary.