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Results from the School’s Water

What is causing our school's drinking water to look yellow, and what is being done to address this issue?

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Students bring their water bottles to school each day, and when they are empty, students go to the drinking fountain to refill them. Hoping for nice clean water, students instead find dirty, rusty yellow water. What is causing this? What could the school do to make this better?

Mrs. Brooks, in the Student Services Offices stated, “When they flush the [system] of hydrogen, it gets rustier, creating the yellowish color. Most of the offices use bottled water at work. I’ve worked in the building for many years, and I’m not afraid to drink the water. It’s not harmful.”

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One teacher revealed, “When I first got a drink from the faucet, I took a drink and I spit it back out right away. From then on I don’t drink the water from the school.” She’s not alone in avoiding our drinking water.  “I haven’t drunk the water from this school since 2000,” said Mrs. Maguire.

After testing the water from the second floor drinking fountain using a free water testing kit from Home Depot, the reason why Mrs. Maguire spit it out is likely because the mineral content in some of our drinking water tests as high.  As part of a class project, sophomore Nick Nobis tested the water and discovered that the mineral content found in the school’s drinking water is higher than usual.  “I got the results from the tests over the phone. They tested for total dissolved solids and mineral content. With total dissolved solids, they want the water to run at a six to a seven. It was running between a 300 to 308. The mineral content should be running seven grams per gallon, which is the highest recommended level. Ours tested at 58 grams per gallon.” But what exactly does this mean?

With these results in hand, we reached out to the Ionia Public Utilities Department to learn more about where Ionia High School’s water comes from. The Water Department of Ionia County is located right behind Burger King.  In our meeting with Mr. Chris Kenyon, Utilities Director,  we learned that they test water everyday for fluoride and chlorine. They have fluoride in the water for teeth and bone structure. Chlorine the water department put in the water is five times stronger than the bleach you would buy at the store, this is to make sure there is no bacteria in our water.

If bacteria is found in the drinking water, there is a series of tests and actions that our Water Department takes.  However, this has not happened in our area for many, many years.  In the event that bacteria is found, the Water Department will issue a boil water notice to everyone who is in the specific area of the water where they found bacteria in. This means that before using the water to cook or drink, residents would have to boil the water to make sure to kill the bacteria that may be in it, so it won’t harm anyone. If this comes the case and there is bacteria found in the water, the water department will have to re-sample the water to make sure it wasn’t the sample that caused it, or the environment.

Mr. Kenyon also let us know that Ionia Public Utilities tests the water at the point where it comes into each resident or building.  The water coming into Ionia High School is free of anything harmful. This might mean is that the age of our pipes could be causing the yellowish color we see at our drinking fountain.

Mr. Avery, Ionia Public Schools Facilities and Ground Director, helps to insure that our water is drinkable in our buildings.  Each year our school’s water is tested for lead levels and our water has tested safe.  However, we still need to figure out why our water is discolored.  We will keep updating, but the water won’t harm you if you drink it.

UPDATE: Mr. Avery finally got back to me today and said; “After receiving your e-mail regarding your Home Depot water test for Total Dissolved Solids, I took a sample and sent it by courier to a lab in Grand Rapids that we use, to get a second measurement.  Because I do not hold a degree in water analysis, I have contacted someone in that field to review the report and explain the results to me.  As soon as I have a good understanding of the test results I will be in touch.”

 

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Results from the School’s Water