Study Reveals Students’ Concern about Water Quality Despite Staff Assurances

by Isabella Pilot ‘18 and Matthew Post ‘18

Some taste blood. Some blame lead. Some tie it back to an unknown substance floating on the Potomac River. Regardless of perceived flavor, a majority of students agree there is something wrong with Sherwood’s water.

Despite being a biological necessity, 54.2 percent of students refuse to drink Earth’s most plentiful compound if it flows from a Sherwood fountain. “There is green crust on a lot of the water fountains. It’s very unappealing to look at while you’re drinking from it,” remarked one survey respondent.

Students claim that some fountains are more of a concern than others. “Some of them taste fine. There is one in particular that has me concerned, though: the one in the Ertzman lobby,” said another respondent. “I have always thought that maybe it was just the pipes, but maybe there is something going on.”

Even if they do not personally experience the “bad taste,” an overwhelming 88.5 percent of students have heard others complain about the quality of the school’s water. This unspoken consensus regarding the unpalatable water has led some students to speculate the reasons behind the musty flavor. “It tastes like metal. Maybe there’s something wrong with the pH or there’s lead,” wondered junior Mac Mckee. “The water contains large amounts of fluoride,” warned senior Caden O’Connell. “Dead frogs are in the pipes,” explained another student.

An extensive Warrior investigation using a Test Assured Complete Water Analysis Kit uncovered the truth behind the fountains: there’s nothing wrong. Samples gathered from the lower K hall and upper H hall fountains tested negative for lead and pesticides, had an acceptable amount of iron, nitrates, chlorine, and copper, and a perfectly neutral pH. The hardness and alkalinity were also within an appropriate range.

Laura Dinerman, sponsor of Eco-Sherwood, dismissed the swirling rumors of neurotoxins and carcinogens. “Why does the pipe water here taste the way it does? I don’t know what’s dissolved in it, but likely it’s because it’s just sitting water with chlorine in it and just came through pipes that gave a little metallic taste to it,” she explained. “Water has a flavor that’s been given to it by whatever’s been dissolved in it.” Dinerman is confident in MCPS’s testing of the water, saying, “The monitoring for drinking water in schools is typically very good, especially in this area.”

In the mid-2000s, MCPS worked with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission to test and fix any lead-contaminated water. The project consisted of 35,000 tests and resulted in 1,500 replaced plumbing fixtures. Another test in 2014 found lead in the drinking water at both Laytonsville Elementary School and Indian Creek Lower and Middle School, but administration was quick to take action, immediately turning off the water fountains and supplying students with bottled water. Today, systemwide safety programs continue to monitor any potential health threats in schools.

So don’t fear, Warriors. Though we haven’t checked on that frog rumor yet, you can rest assured that hydrating yourself at school will not result in any undesired health conditions.