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  • Writer's pictureThe Beacon Today

Water main break brings new meaning to PBA's "dry campus"

In order to convey the urgency of the present situation, PBA faculty and staff have placed signs warning students against water consumption throughout campus facilities. (Photo courtesy of Brenna Brown)

Imagine you've reached the end of a long day, typical of a college student, that was nothing short of draining. Work shifts, back-to-back classes and a to-do list that keeps on growing have pushed you to your limits.

At this point, all you want to do is take a steaming hot shower, pull on your well-loved pajamas, brush your teeth and call it a night.

Little do you know just how unrealistic those expectations are.

On Thursday, Feb. 4, the resident students of Palm Beach Atlantic University were startled awake by the sound of rattling pipes and a shocking realization: their running water was gone.

Some managed to get a short trickle from their faucets and showerheads earlier that evening, while others experienced total water loss.

At 5:40 a.m. the following day, PBA's electronic alert system sent out a campus-wide email addressing the situation, stating “Boil water alert for Palm Beach Campus due to water main break. Do not use water for drinking or brushing teeth.”

In a matter of minutes, the student body found that their water supply was being drained from each of the buildings due to contamination. The email system immediately released an additional alert declaring all tap water unfit for consumption or food use until further notice.

Despite the current water shortage on-campus, students continue to proceed with their scheduled classes, assignments and social activities. (Photo courtesy of Brenna Brown)

Prior to receiving the alerts, Lee Baker, a PBA junior, knew something was going on when his roommate mentioned that the water pressure in their room was acting strange.

Thinking it was just a fluke, which would resolve itself that evening, Baker awoke the next morning to find that he could not even complete a basic hygienic task, like brushing his teeth.

“I woke up this morning and was like ‘Oh, I guess I can’t just do things,’” Baker said.

Joe Peduzzi, a West Palm Beach city commissioner, sent an email to local residents later that morning, identifying a water main break as the cause for the "Precautionary Boil Water Notice."

Until the city issued a “Rescission Notice,” individuals residing in the City of West Palm Beach, Town of Palm Beach, and Town of South Palm Beach were expected to heed the safety warnings.

Prior to being given the "all clear" with the rest of the city, PBA’s faculty and staff had to be quick and resourceful when brainstorming safe ways to move forward.

George Suarez, Executive Chef of the Fraser Dining Hall, is one of many PBA employees who took the brunt of the local water shortage. Unable to cook or utilize any of the school’s water sources, Suarez and his team found alternative ways to keep students safe and well-fed.

The team’s most successful idea was to sanitize the dining hall’s AirPods—containers typically used to hold coffee—and fill them with bottled water.

This method gave them access to a sufficient water supply, allowing them to wash their hands and continue safely preparing food for students and faculty.

“The best thing about it is that all of us work together to make things happen,” Suarez said. “Between the school and Aramark, we made sure everything happened perfectly.”

Floriza Desrosiers, a junior majoring in Cinema Arts, genuinely related to the challenges Suarez and his staff faced during the water shortage.

As a barista at the campus’ new cafe, Jack’s Coffee, Desrosiers emphasizes just how difficult it was to keep the coffee bar afloat when its primary selling point was out of commission.

“It’s been a little difficult to work without water because water is needed for coffee,” said Desrosiers. “It’s crazy how you don’t realize how much water is needed for everyday life.”

Despite the water crisis bringing a literal meaning to PBA’s famous “dry campus” label, students and faculty alike worked hand-in-hand to make the best of a bad situation.

Having been given the official go-ahead to use water on Monday, Feb. 8, the school and surrounding areas of WPB have since acknowledged the basic necessities of life and moved forward with an attitude of gratitude.

By Brenna Brown

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