William Wilburn stood sweating Wednesday afternoon over hundreds of gallons of water boiling in a huge vat in the kitchen of the Sodexo cafeteria in the Memorial Union. His perspiration wasn’t from nerves, but from boiling water for the 60 seconds required by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The campus--and the rest of Emporia--was sent scrambling for safe water after the City of Emporia issued a boil advisory at 11:40 a.m., following a mechanical failure at the municipal water plant. With tap water no longer considered safe to drink, bottled water quickly disappeared from store shelves. The Starbucks in the Union closed hours early and although the cafeteria remained open, managers were still debating whether the cafeteria would open for business as usual today.
Wilburn, food operations manager, said Sodexo was prepared for the emergency.
“It’s a piece of cake,” Wilburn said. “We have stored water on campus just for the students.”
In addition to the 150 gallons of water Wilburn was boiling, he said the cafeteria also keeps 20 to 30 cases of bottled water on hand.
Starbucks closed four hours early at 5 p.m. because most of the drinks are water based and therefore expired, while the Hornets Nest and the dining hall remain open serving pop and lemonade.
“Due to lack of water, all of our drinks are expired about now,” said Zach Mundy, Sodexo supervisor.
Cass Coughlin, director of residential services, ordered 1,008 bottles of water from Coca-Cola totaling $1,200 which he is only expecting to cover the minimum for students.
“The idea behind that is that it’s supplemental,” Coughlin said. “Most students have bottled water, tea, pop, whatever in their room, and so what we’re aiming to do is to provide students kind of a supplement to what they have in their rooms already.”
Drinking water is only a small portion.
“In terms of showering, bathing, the KDHE guidelines was part of the university release and expectations there... Showers can continue unless people drink water while they shower, in which case we don’t advise that,” Coughlin said.