School Drinking Fountains Test Lead and Chlorine Free

By Jin Heo and Noah Prozan, Business Manager and Managing Editor-in-Chief (respectively)

//Clean drinking water is necessary for humans. If water is contaminated with harmful pollutants or other dirty chemicals, it can cause illness or harm the immune system.

After news of lead contamination in the water supply of Flint, Michigan, a nationwide dirty-water phobia developed. As cases of contaminated water continues to bubble to the surface, the phobia intensifies.  With New Jersey and Washington becoming  the newest members of the dirty-water club.

In light of this ever-growing fear, Blueprint conducted tests of the water at Acalanes High School for potential pollutants which could pose a threat to student health.

Blueprint collected 11 water samples from water fountains on campus. With the help of Geology teacher Richard Kravitz, Blueprint used chemical reactions to test for the presence of lead and chlorine.

To test for lead, samples were mixed with potassium iodide (KI). To test for chlorine, samples were mixed with silver nitrate (AgNO3).

The control, distilled water, showed negative results when tested for lead and chlorine as expected. A positive test for lead would result in a yellow precipitate being formed while a positive test for chlorine would result in a white precipitate.

Blueprint’s tests of the water at Acalanes showed no visible presence of lead or chlorine.

The chemical tests, however, are only able to detect presence and are unable to determine how many parts of lead or chlorine per billion each sample contains.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency states that water containing more than 15 parts per billion of lead is unsafe to drink. The safe level for chlorine is four parts per million.

Most of the people who live in East Bay get their water supply from East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD). Majority of EBMUD’s water is extracted from the Sierra Foothills. To reach the East Bay, the water travels over 90 miles through three aqueducts where it is then stored in local terminal reservoirs. EBMUD tests its water on a weekly basis from one of the six EBMUD treatment plants and other locations in the supply system.

“Fortunately for EBMUD customers, they receive some of the best water available,”  Scott Hill,Manager of Watershed and Recreation for EBMUD, said.     “We are noted for having the highest water quality. Usually if you have visitors come to your house from out of town, they’ll comment on how good the water tastes.”

Blueprint’s findings, albeit reassuring, were by no means a surprise. Most students around the Acalanes community expected the water to be pristine.

“I never thought of our water at our school as possibly unsafe,” said senior Brooke Lennox. “I trust our staff to be aware and take care of that issue as many of the students, myself included, go to the water fountains multiple times a day.”

Kravitz offered similar comments on the matter.

“I wasn’t expecting there to be anything in the water and it’s reassuring to know my expectations were met,” Kravitz said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by the contamination of their drinking water. However, the students, faculty, and guests of Acalanes do not need to worry about safety hazards when they drink water on campus.


Adapted from Issue 8, Volume 77. Originally printed May 27, 2016.

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