The Water’s Safe. Really

Allan Appel PhotoAfter a decade, good potable water has started flowing again from the noble public fountain at the southeast corner of the New Haven Green. But so far more birds appear to know about it than do people, and the people who notice think the H2O isn’t safe.

Those results emerged from a highly unscientific test conducted by the Independent Monday at the fountain by the corner of Church and Chapel streets.

The city and the Proprietors of the Green this past winter cleaned the century-old fountain, which was a key element in the City Beautiful movement design that launched the look of the Green a century ago. (Click here for that story, with full views of the restored monument.)

That $30,000 cleaning effort came with a promise that the water would be turned on in the spring. So after a dry decade, the spigot went on last week.

To make that happen crews repaired existing water lines inside the monument, added new ones, staunched leaks, and replaced a shut-off valve to the street. Total cost: $7,600

“The water supply is the same as any other city water service,” City Plan Department landscape architect David Moser wrote in an email.

Someone tell the people. Without signage to announce this old/new potable source, few humans were using it Tuesday. Meanwhile, pigeons assembled at the quadruped basins below. In the gurgling elevated upper basin, six feet above the lions’ mouths, starlings and sparrows frolicked.

Some of the nine people interviewed-on-the-run hadn’t noticed the water was running. Only Tom Walsh would agree to drink from the fountain.

“Tastes fine,” the self-employed Deadhead and Phish-head proclaimed after a long gulp. “I’ve lived in Hollywood. The water [there] used to burn my skin.”

Far more typical was the response of a red-headed woman in lavender blouse and gray sweater, who gave her name as Bean. “I wouldn’t drink. It’s coming from that old lion’s mouth,” she said.

“I don’t think people know it [the fountain] exists,” remarked police Officer Ralph Consiglio as he strolled by. Asked if he would drink from it, the officer declined.

World War Two vet Kenneth Kelly observed the survey-in-progress from a bench near Church. He had been a crash rescue firefighter with the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. Still, he wouldn’t go near the water.

“It must be contaminated,” he said.

In his mind he associated the trickle of the water with those other amenities the city provides at the north end of the Green—several outhouses.

Would it make a difference if the city provided an inviting sign that explained the water is safe?

Absolutely, he said.

Future vet Nick Boyd, a 19-year-old Naval recruit out for a jog, concurred. Bearing a water bottle, he said he’d been aware of the fountain finally running but wouldn’t think of drinking. “I don’t know anything about the piping. Could be old [as the fountain]. It could be lead.”

When told that the water is as good as that from any city tap, Boyd filled up his bottle. His friend Joe Stokley added, “Put up a plaque: ‘Potable water.’”

The water will run from spring until fall, according to parks officials.

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posted by: anonymous on May 8, 2012  12:36pm

Everyone drinks from the fountains in Rome and they are very healthy.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 8, 2012  1:49pm

The long standing New Haven urban legend is that if you drink from that fountain, you will never be able to escape from New Haven.  Ever.

It is unclear whether the entrapping force is benevolent, or not….