No water contamination detected after students said they were hospitalized from water

The university disinfected and changed the filters on all the water fountains in Annenberg Hall.

Sophomore theater major Dana Liu drinks from a water fountain in Annenberg Hall on Saturday. Students reported becoming ill after drinking from the fountains. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

UPDATE at 4:35 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2018

Temple’s Environmental Health and Radiation Safety department tested water samples out of an abundance of caution from the two stations in Annenberg and Tomlinson Halls, after several students said they were hospitalized after drinking from water filters in the buildings.

“The samples were absent for total coliforms and E. coli, meaning that neither was detected,” university spokesman Brandon Lausch said in an email.

These tests were beyond routine tests conducted by the City of Philadelphia, Lausch added.

The university changed filters and disinfected all bottle-refilling stations after intial reports of illness from students and their families. Facilities Management is examining all water filters across campus for issues, and University Housing and residential Life increased its frequency of disinfecting and replacing filters in all residence halls.

Sophomore film and media arts major Kaila Shields said that on Jan. 24 she felt dizzy and nauseous and began to vomit after drinking water from Annenberg Hall. She called Temple Police, which brought her to Temple University Hospital.

“I was completely fine until I drank the water that day,” Shields said. “The water made me gag and then I threw up.”

“We continue to monitor the water quality in the building and will make any additional changes, should the need arise,” a university spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Temple News.

The university was unable to explain how water quality is monitored at the time of this article.

Sophomore media studies and production major Ava Sullivan has experienced similar symptoms. She and two friends drank water from the Randall Theater fountain on Jan. 26, and the three all felt nauseous afterward. Sullivan went to the emergency room after being unable to stop vomiting.

“It felt like I was carsick, but worse,” Sullivan said.

Neither Shields nor Sullivan has been given medication other than anti-nausea pills and neither of them have been diagnosed with what caused their sickness.

Sullivan said after she alerted Temple’s administration, the fountain in Randall Theater was disinfected. After the disinfection, she said another student fell ill. Now there is an “out of order” sign on the fountain. Shields emailed President Richard Englert, but was redirected to an office assistant in for the university’s chief operating officer, Kevin Clark.

A university spokesperson said the university has not received any complaints after the filters were changed.

Sophomore film and media arts major Marcelle O’Brien said she has witnessed visibly dirty water in 1300 Residence Hall.

“I passed by and saw something that looked like a pile of dirt in the fountain,” she said.

According to the university, the fountains in Annenberg Hall have been disinfected, “out of an abundance of caution.” Fountains in other buildings have not received the same treatment.

Shields and Sullivan said this is not enough, after at least five students reportedly fell ill.

“I don’t feel like they’re handling it well, especially since so many students are getting sick,” Shields said. “It makes me really uncomfortable because they haven’t said anything about it outwardly. They’re not telling people you could get sick from it.”

“I really wish Temple would test the water, because it could always be the pipes,” Sullivan said. “There could be something that the filter can’t handle that’s contaminating the water.”

Shields said she no longer trusts the fountains on campus.

“I think I’ve been getting worse since the first day,” she said. “I will not be drinking from the fountains anymore.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include the university’s most recent actions regarding water safety on campus.

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