Student government debates water situation

By Peter Baugher
Staff Writer

Clean water and accountability dominated the conversation during the Franciscan University Student Government (FUSG) meeting on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

During comments for the good of the order, freshman Sen. Andrew VanDevere said that he believes the university administration is not keeping the student body informed on the cleanliness of water on campus. He said that student health is a concern of FUSG and that the university is concealing facts from students.

“On Feb. 15, I found out … that toxic chemicals had been discovered in the Ohio River, yet this is a fact that WTRF (Wheeling, West Virginia, News and Weather) reports that the city has known since the seventh (of February),” said VanDevere. “Still, a week later, and fifteen days after Weirton informed Steubenville of this, there has been no disclosure of this information to the student body at large. Instead, we are told that ‘our drinking water is safe.’”

A report on Feb. 15 from WTRF entitled “Ohio city says butyl acrylate tested positive in water intake,” reports that the chemical butyl acrylate was detected in the Ohio River in Weirton, West Virginia, on Feb. 7 and that Weirton officials informed Steubenville of this discovery on Feb 8.

On Feb. 15, the Student Life Bulletin, addressed from the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR and university president, reported that “(The Steubenville Water Department’s) tests show that the treatment is successful and that our drinking water is safe.”

Pivonka said the city is continuing “to follow the recommended carbon and chlorine treatments to remove any chemicals from the Ohio River water.”

Further, VanDevere said the city of Cincinnati recommended the course of treatment used by Steubenville. Also, VanDevere said Cincinnati shut down its own water intake.

According to a Feb. 17 release by the City of Cincinnati, “Out of an abundance of caution, (Greater Cincinnati Water Works) will shut off the Ohio River intake ahead of the anticipated arrival of the last detectable chemical concentration in the river.”

VanDevere suggested that the university provide students all information as the university receives it and allow “well-educated college students” to make their own decisions.

Some senators disagreed. Justice Emilia DeGroat said that students should be filtering water anyway, even before the chemicals were found.

Justice Ben Ries said the university did inform the student body and parents that butyl acrylate was found in the river and that the process to remove the chemicals was effective, which is important to keep in mind.

Ries also expressed willingness to work with upperclassmen to test the water for dangerous chemicals himself, agreeing to report back to FUSG within a week.

Sen. Magdalena Kyne said testing will take a long time and agreed with VanDevere that transparency of information is more important than testing the presence of chemicals.

President Jared Johnson suggested discussing with Resident Life on the best course of action, while FUSG’s adviser David Schmiesing said the best course of action is to list priorities and recommendations to submit to the proper university administrators.

FUSG meets every Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the St. Leo Room of the J.C. Williams Center.