Student Circulates Clean Water Petition

In response to reports that the Cambridge Water Department failed to adequately inform residents of high levels of a contaminant in city water, a student is collecting signatures for a petition demanding that Harvard ensure students a safe water supply.

After learning that levels of trihalomethane (THM) in Cambridge's water approached twice the limit recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Laurie R. Belin '91 said she decided to take action.

"We...call on Harvard, an influential member of the Cambridge community, to push for quick action by the City of Cambridge to clean up its water supply," the petition reads in part.Berlin said she has already obtained more than 300signatures on the document.

Belin said Harvard "should make sure that thewater which is provided for us to drink is safe."

But John J. Cusack, Jr., the superintendent ofthe Cambridge Water Department, said he feels thatthe water problem has already been solved.

"Since we had the test results that gave us theelevated readings of THM, we have made correctionsat the water treatment plant and have doneadditional sampling and testing," said Cusack,"and the levels are now below the 100 parts perbillion level established by the state."

At one point last year the level reached 196parts per billion.

"If the contamination of the water is now at anacceptable level, then obviously Harvard shouldnot get off the Cambridge water supply," Belinsaid last week, adding that she would not pushfurther with her petition if the situation hasbeen rectified.

"We should send somebody to verify the story ofthe City of Cambridge. Since they concealed thesituation for a year and a half, I'm not willingto take their word for it now that the water issafe," she said.

Cambridge may be fined $19,000 by the DEP forits failure to notify residents of the problemquickly enough.

"We could request the test results," said PeterM. Bochnak, a senior safety engineer in Harvard'sDepartment of Environmental Health and Safety,adding that he has done so in the past.

"We will continue to monitor the CambridgeWater Department's quarterly test results...andwhat the City of Cambridge is doing to reduce thelevels of THM in the water supply," Bochnak said.

Cusack said that he feels that the waterproblem has been misrepresented. "You don't reallyhave a contamination incident until it is apermanent condition...these are erratic resultsthat were higher than normal," he said.

"It is well documented by the state that thereis no contamination," Cusack said