Western Washington University’s Fisher Fountain, located in Red Square, is one of the many gathering spots on campus. For some, the fountain presents a unique opportunity to live up to the stereotypical “crazy college life.”
While the fountain is virtually unsupervised, some students take the opportunity to take a quick dip. Whether the decision to jump in is spontaneous or planned, some students simply cannot say no. But with the fountain’s age and exposure to nature, is it smart for students to go in?
While Western intended Fisher Fountain, named after former Western president Charles Fisher, to be just an aesthetic addition to the school, some students believe they can see a deeper potential. Davi Henry, a third-year student at Western, recalls a night when he equated swimming in the fountain to living in the moment.
“I removed my shoes and waded for a bit, then fully submerged," Henry said. "I felt simultaneously stupid and free-spirited. After that day, I read online that many feel that the fountain is gross and should not be swam in. I would likely not jump in the fountain again.”
Although jumping in the fountain may seem fun in the moment, potential risks may make it less so in the long run. While Western’s Facilities Management chlorinates the fountain water, various bacteria could still be present.
If someone were to ingest the fountain water, they are at risk for contracting illnesses like giardia, salmonella and norovirus, said Ron Warner, the communications specialist at Whatcom County Health and Community Services.
“Most fountains in town use municipal water and drain to the municipal sewer,” Warner said. “Chlorine concentration in a municipal water system is much lower than in a pool or hot tub.”
The health of swimmers isn’t the only thing at risk when going into the fountain. Students going in can cause significant harm to the fountain. Amanda Cambre, director of facilities management at Western, said both the infrastructure of the fountain and the cleanliness of the water are at risk whenever someone decides to go in.
“The oils and lotions in the skin can make the pH off balance,” said Cambre. “It’s also an aging system, so any additional impacts to it could be detrimental.”
Luckily, the fountain is in good hands, Cambre said, adding that it receives service daily. Any debris is removed from the water and the pH level is checked to ensure stability.
Repairs are done to the fountains in the offseason, said Cambre. Since the fountain is shut off from late October until mid-March, there is plenty of time to fix any issues in the plumbing or the infrastructure, such as any chips or cracks.
Although the fountain is only on during warmer months, it is open to the public year-round. For those who would like to see the fountain without leaving their homes, there is a camera positioned in Bond Hall that livestreams a view of Red Square and the fountain, 24/7.
Aidan Hadley (he/him) is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a second-year student at WWU studying news/editorial journalism. Outside of reporting, Aidan enjoys baking, eating good food and finding a new TV show to watch. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.