Eckerd College has around 300 water bottle filters systems to help its students and faculty remain hydrated. In 2018, the school received a $115,124 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program to encourage the rapid growth of these systems around campus. Keeping the water bottle systems running is a task, but the community at Eckerd can do its part to support this process overseen by the maintenance staff.
As Eckerd strives to become a more sustainable campus, these water bottle filters are a helpful component. The systems fight not only dehydration, but also the reliance on single-use plastic water bottles. It is convenient enough for a student to pass down any hall and refill a reusable bottle instead.
Drinking water is derived from sources originating in rivers, lakes, streams, reservoirs, springs and wells. The movement of the water dissolves minerals and radioactive material which is harmful if consumed. Contaminates and particulate matter present in unfiltered water could include viruses and bacteria, salts, metals, pesticides, volatile organic compounds as well as naturally occurring radioactive substances. Although trace amounts of contaminants are even discovered in bottled water, large amounts will pose a health risk.
Filtration of tap and source water is encouraged by Pinellas County’s Water quality report of 2019 to avoid harmful byproducts.
Peter Clairmont, Eckerd's maintenance, repair and operations support specialist, oversees Eckerd’s water bottle systems as part of his duties. His career brought him to Eckerd for nearly 10 years, during which Clairmont has been a part of four different management companies who have been hired to oversee maintenance at Eckerd. During his employment, he has witnessed the progress of the water bottle systems and said that every year there seems to be more of them popping up all over campus.
He outlined the struggles that came along with rapid change and growth in filtration systems.
With the increase of filters also brings an increase in the upkeep and replacement of old or damaged parts. Each replacement filter is around $80. Therefore, to change a filter on every system once a year would be approximately $24,000. This price does not include the initial installment or cases in which a whole unit needs to be replaced. Although the staff generally knows what has gone wrong it is not always inherently simple to correct the issue.
The campus is supporting three different generations of water bottles. Some filters are still under warranty and can be worked on by the manufacturing company, but the older systems are handled by the employees on campus. Additionally, older generation parts can take 10 working days to ship from the day the order is approved by facilities.
The campus has had an increase in water bottle fillers this year. The maintenance staff, however, has decreased to seven, whereas it used to have 12 employees.
Students and staff can take advantage of easy water access, while supporting sustainability goals. There is reasonable concern for the water bottle filters that are out of commission. Finding a water bottle system that cannot be used after completing physical activity can cause frustration.
Avi Kapuler, a first year student who frequents the fitness center, has concerns about the water bottle filters.
“Just being able to fill up my water bottle on the spot and seeing that the filter light is green and not red, needing to be changed, is very relieving,” Kapuler said.
Maintenance does not have the numbers to routinely check all 300 systems to make sure the filter does not need to be changed while keeping up with their other work. However, there is a way to assist the staff in monitoring the situation to make timely repairs. Clairmont says if a water bottle filter is broken, then report it.
“The dispatch at the facilities office can be called into. They will take down the information, the basic who, what, when and where. Then they create a ticket and assign it to a technician to go investigate the situation,” Clairmont said.
As a community, we can help Eckerd’s maintenance staff to better help us with the water bottle filters.