News Feature | December 27, 2017

Water Fountain At EPA Headquarters Spews Black Sewage

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

In an ironic incident that bolstered critics of the agency, water fountains at the U.S. EPA headquarters were spewing black sewage earlier this month.

“Around 9:00 a.m., employees at the agency’s Washington offices were alerted via email of the leaking gunk,” according to Newsweek. “The sludge was eventually cleaned up by early afternoon… Drinking fountain woes are reportedly commonplace at the agency, a former agency official who worked on the third floor, told E&E.”

The company email traced the issue to a water line back up. Because of the irony of such a drastic flaw in the drinking water at a federal body charged with keeping the country’s drinking water safe, images of the faulty fountains quickly went viral. Though not necessarily indicative of any larger issues, the contrast was celebrated by critics of the current administration’s decisions at the EPA.

“Scott Pruitt joyfully gutted the EPA in 2017, making drastic cuts to their budget and defunding critical science research,” according to Mashable. “And the nomination for the best tragic metaphor of 2017 goes to … [this] fountain.”

But problems with water and/or wastewater services are not exactly uncommon at the EPA.

“This isn’t the agency’s first run-in with sewage problems; however, the past incidents were reportedly caused by an angry employee,” per Newsweek. “In late 2013, the EPA’s Denver office experienced a number of employee complaints, citing vandalism throughout the building.”

A memo following that incident noted that an individual had clogged the office’s toilets with paper towels.

Image credit: "EPA Building,” Mike, 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/