Shepherdstown – Thanks to a $36,720 REAP Recycling Assistance Grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, access to clean drinking water will become more accessible throughout the Shepherd campus.
Shelley Shaffer, actual plant manager; Sittel Murphy, Assistant Professor of Physics; Dr.. Dr. Heidi Hanrahan, Professor of English, worked with Madge Morningstar, Director of the Office of Funded Programs, to secure the grant that would cover the cost of purchasing and installing 10 outdoor frost-free filling stations and 20 indoor ones.
While the campus already has a few indoor plants, this will allow more access to clean drinking water – both indoors and outdoors.
“We are very happy to receive this scholarship,” Murphy said. Part of Shepherd’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to shut down all water fountains across campus, limiting access to clean drinking water. We are so happy we can help return this access to Shepherd.”
Murphy said the new filling stations will provide the campus community with more healthy water than is found in old fountains and help reduce plastic waste.
“This project is one of the projects I am most proud of, being involved in while working at Shepherd, due to its direct impact on the entire campus community. I was part of a group of people from across campus who came together to bring safe drinking water to campus. “I like that the solution found is very environmentally friendly.”
In addition to the purchase and installation of gas stations, the grant will cover signage that will promote the use of the stations and provide information on health and environmental benefits. Murphy expects to install all 30 new water bottling stations before the end of 2022.
“Available studies show that water from water fountains carries numerous health risks due to heavy metals and microbial contaminants, making it likely unsafe,” Murphy added. Currently the alternative available for water fountains is water bottles. The water bottling station will allow for easy refilling of reusable bottles and reduce waste from single use bottles. Thus, water bottling stations are an environmentally friendly option for providing drinking water to the campus community that can be filtered and sterilized, significantly reducing health risks.”
For Hanrahan, the scholarship is most exciting given the importance of a sustainable source of drinking water on campus.
“When we had to shut down the fountains on campus, I found myself carrying a huge reusable water bottle to the campus every day. It’s kind of a hassle. I see students and colleagues doing the same or relying on water from plastic bottles, which certainly is,” Hanrahan said. Not environmentally friendly.”
There is also additional excitement about the scholarship, Hanrahan added, as it is the product of a cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental collaboration.
“I am a professor of English, but I love working with colleagues from other departments and offices on campus to make our university stronger. These opportunities and the team that makes them speak are what makes Shepherd so special,” Hanrahan said. “The idea for this scholarship literally started when you called me, my dear friend from Physics, one summer evening, when I realized that the water fountains would never come back.’OK. What can we do?’ I asked her and she said, ‘Maybe a grant? We started brainstorming right away, and thanks to Madge and Shelley too, we now have a funded solution.’