Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Protect the key to your health: water


Imagine not being able to drink water unless it was purified and bottled first. Some people don’t trust Amherst tap water, but I’ve never gotten sick from it and neither has anyone that I know. It may taste different from bottled water, but it is safe.

Some areas of the country and the world are not as lucky.

Recently, I went to Sicily. There, the water’s high calcium concentration means that if you drink more than a couple cups a day, you can get sick. Everywhere we went, we had to pay for bottled water, whether it was just to drink while walking around or while eating out at a restaurant. And in Sicily, there is no such thing as free water during meals at restaurants there, unlike in the US.

Rachel Carson researched and published many works about pollution in the water (and the air, which affects water). While bottled water was before Carson’s time, it is interesting to think about what she would have thought about bottled water in terms of its purity.  Maybe the company takes it from their tap and fills up plastic bottles in mass amounts. People usually think it is safe to drink their own water, whether we get it out of the faucet or pour it from a purifier. However, it is important to sometimes investigate where you get your water from, as it could be polluted without anyone knowing.

The movie “A Civil Action” is based on a true story that takes place in Woburn, MA in the early 1980s. Many children in the town had unexpectedly died from the 1960s to 1980s because of leukemia. No one was sure why the cancer deaths in town increased by 17 percent. Jan Schlichtmann, a Univeristy of Massachusetts alumnus, worked the case. It took him an indescribable amount of persistence to get the case through and to bring the leather company who contaminated the water to justice. In the film, it is said that an apology, when it comes to law, is essentially money, but it shouldn’t be. There is really no way for a company to show their sincere remorse when they hand over millions of dollars to pay for their actions, but there has to be a way for compensation to be completed.


The water used to be fine, just as ours is now. But the water was contaminated without them knowing., For a while, there was no way of proving that the leather company had dumped silicon into it, bet eventually the residents proved it. Even with the money the residents and town received from the lawsuit, it is incredibly expensive and time-consuming to clean out the well systems from which residents receive water. It is important for residents to be aware that any sort of contaminant could intoxicate their water at any time. It’s a rarity, but you never know when you might need to rush out to the store to buy some bottled water.


A few years ago in Washington DC, a major pipe ruptured due to low temperatures, so homes near the Dupont Circle neighborhood no longer had access to water, according to Charles Duhigg’s article in The New York Times,. ( This situation – which required  bottled water quickly turned expensive much like Sicily. In order to stay hydrated you must purchase your water since it’s needed for practically everything.


Water pipes break often. State and federal studies have found that thousands of water and sewer systems may be too old to function properly. This presents a problem because not only is there a potential water shortage, but the solution requires so much construction that it would look like what’s going on in front of Dickinson on campus, but even worse because it would stretch far beyond just the size of one building. Many water infrastructure-related problems occur because pipes are old or were not carefully made. This can cause huge problems anywhere because water pipes run just about everywhere.


George S. Hawkins, an environmentalist who leads the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority said, “You can go a day without a phone or TV, but you can’t go a day without water.”


You can only survive three to five days without water in your body. Other life functions that require the earth’s liquid: showering, cooking, flushing the toilet, washing your hands, and many other life essentials could be jeopardized in an instant if the water is contaminated or worse, if there isn’t any.

Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].


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