Schools Respond to Water Crisis

After a large water main break on Saturday left Boston without drinkable tap water for three days, Harvard schools and affiliates in the city are reflecting on their responses to the water crisis.

As a result of the potential water contamination—which would not have affected Cambridge’s water supply—the state issued a “boil-water” order for 30 Boston-area communities.

While the ban ended early yesterday after Mass. Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 announced that water flowing through the pipes was now safe to drink, some of Harvard’s schools felt lingering effects throughout the day.

An administrator at the Harvard School of Public Health, which was in the process of clearing water taps and reconnecting ice machines yesterday, said that the crisis had been a good test for the school’s emergency management team.

“I think it was obviously an inconvenience, but, more importantly, it was a good drill in seeing how quickly we could mobilize to ensure that our school was as safe as it could be from a possible contamination,” said Paul S. Riccardi, the school’s chief operating officer.

While the school brought in coffee from Cambridge and closed its salad bar while the “boil water” order was in effect, Riccardi said that lab work was largely unaffected.

Harvard Business School echoed Riccardi’s sentiment, saying its plans had been effective.

“The hard work and cooperation of a team of individuals representing numerous departments at HBS helped us manage through this situation with as little disruption as possible,” said Andrew F. O’Brien, the Business School’s chief of operations.

Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, would not lift its ban on tap water use before staff members had flushed the system, according to a memo sent to staff members this morning. Ensuring the safety of patients was the hospital’s primary concern, the memo said.

Harvard’s teaching hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area were not affected by the boil-water order, as officials were able to redirect the water supply to keep clean water available in the neighborhood.

The Harvard University Department of Athletics brought in Cambridge water for athletes in its facilities in Allston, according to Director of Athletic Communications Kurt K. Svoboda.

The department reported that drinking water had been restored by 2 p.m. yesterday, in time for many afternoon practices.

“We have treated all our water sources here and are up and running again,” Svoboda wrote in an e-mail. “All-in-all, we were well taken care of.”

—Staff writer William N. White can be reached at wwhite@fas.harvard.edu.

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