Testing the Waters: Is it Safe?

Emily Molden

Riley Sims, Co-Editor-in-Chief

It’s the middle of the day, you’re at school and in desperate need of water. The only option is the water from the fountain. When you bend down to take a sip, you notice that the water comes out a different color, which raises the question: Is the school’s water safe to drink? We decided to test the fountains in the 100 and 400 halls to find out.

The first test was to detect the presence of fecal coliform, or poop, in the water. If fecal coliform is found, that means that there is untreated sewage and harmful pathogens in the water. High counts of fecal coliform are typically found in lake water and can cause diseases such as typhoid fever, hepatitis and ear infections. The students and staff will be relieved to know that fecal coliform was not found in the water that we tested.

Another test was conducted to see the amount of nitrates and phosphates found in the water. Nitrates limit the nutrients for plant growth, and phosphates limit the nutrients for aquatic plants’ growth. High nitrate levels suggest there may be a presence of disease-causing organisms and pesticides. The level of nitrates found in the school’s water was between zero and four parts-per notation, which deems it safe. There are no known health effects caused by phosphate. However, the water at the school only had one part-per notation, which deems it as safe.

The final test conducted was the pH test, which determines its acidity. A high acidity means that there is evidence of pollution and toxins, which can cause stomach aches and fatigue. The pH level found in the water in school was a six, which is a safe level.

“Some of the things we didn’t test for were heavy metals,” said AP Environmental Science teacher Jennifer Ly. “We did test for fecal coliform, but we didn’t test for E. coli or microorganisms simply because we don’t have the tests to test for those things.”

Based on the tests conducted, the water is sanitary. However, the water fountain itself could contain germs, so it’s best to take certain precautions, like looking at the color of the water or not putting your mouth of the faucet, when drinking the water. Fountains are an easy way to spread illnesses among people.

“They should, first of all, make sure it has some type of filter system, and make sure it is not discolored in any way,” Nurse Dawn Sexton said.

An alternative to drinking water from the water fountain would be bringing your own water from home. However, try to not use plastic water bottles.

“I would also encourage using reusable water bottles instead of the plastic water bottles, because those are only tested by the FDA, not the EPA,” said Ly. “Recently there has been a study that showed there are microplastics found in plastic water bottles as well, so it is not as clean or pure as people think it is.”

Emily Molden