BROOKE THAMES; Editor-in-Chief; thamesbe@plu.edu

Water fountain fixtures across Pacific Lutheran University’s campus were covered with tape Dec. 1 in an act of protest against the construction of the Liquid Natural Gas pipeline in Washington state.

The collective, a student advocacy group, conducted the protest in response to “fracking on local indigenous land” for the LNG pipeline. The group taped over water fountain spouts and attached “out of order” signs that stated the LNG pipeline had exploded and contaminated PLU’s water. The signs demanded that PLU administration take a public stance against its construction.

“Water is life. What will you do to protect our human rights?” the collective’s sign read.

The protest was enacted in residence halls across campus, including Harstad, Ordal, Tingelstad and Stuen. The signs startled and confused students who noted their appearance Friday morning.

Sophomore and Harstad Residence Assistant Susan Schowalter said the protest caused confusion amongst her residents.

“There was definitely a concern of [students] not knowing where to fill up [their] water bottles,” she said.

Schowalter said she herself was confused when she took note of the signs. At first, she thought it was a response to a clog that had been affecting a water fountain on her floor. After investigating more, Schowalter realized the signs were part of a protest act by the collective.

“It seemed very planned as opposed to someone writing on a piece of paper that [the fountain is] out of order,” Schowalter said.

Schowalter then searched the internet for news of the LNG pipeline explosion advertised on the sign, but found no relevant reports. “So, I was confused as to whether or not this was real,” she said.

The protest caused alarm for sophomore Bailey Chen when she first noted a sign on a water fountain in Stuen around midnight Dec. 1. Chen said she thought the water had in fact been contaminated, and she promptly poured out the water she had used to fill her tea kettle. She and a friend then began to wonder if all campus water, including sink and shower water, was unsafe to use.

“It was a combination of a shock factor and [questions about] why there wasn’t a campus email about this if this was really happening,” Chen said. “It really did affect the way we were approaching the night.”

Chen said she realized the sign was a protest act after speaking to someone she observed attaching the flyers to water fountains. Chen said this individual explained that the act intended to bring awareness to fracking on local indigenous lands.

Assistant Director of Campus Safety (CSAF) Ronald Giddings said CSAF received numerous calls about the signs. CSAF, in conjunction with residence hall staff and facilities personnel, removed the posters from affected water fountains.

A recent article from King 5 news reports that the Puyallup Tribe has filed a complaint with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency concerning an LNG plant in Tacoma. According to King 5, the Puyallup Tribe has accused PSE of beginning construction near their reservation without proper permits.

Schowalter said the protest, though inconvenient, effectively brought awareness to possible dangers posed by the LNG pipeline.

“[The protest might] reflect poorly on PLU I think, especially with students who are reporting back to parents. But I think it’s effective way to get students to think about something they wouldn’t normally think about,” Schowalter said.

Chen said the act alerted her to the situation surrounding the LNG pipeline and potential threats to water safety.

“I searched it up to see what was happening, and it made me realize how important having a reliable, clean source of water is,” Chen said. “Water has such a big impact on our lives, but we’re not taking care of it the way we should be.”

This is a developing story. ◼︎

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