Drinking fresh, clean water from a fountain has been curtailed for Central Heights students and staff since the beginning of 2018.
But that is about to change. Brian Spencer, Central Heights superintendent, said Thursday the fountains will again sprout clean water by the end of the week, after filters were installed.
“We should be able to drink the water out of the fountains and cook with the water in the kitchen again,” Spencer said. “We are putting a mask on the problem.”
The water problem started during the Christmas break when the pipes froze. After the pipes were thawed, the water tested high for concentrations of copper.
“I wish I could tell you it was all behind us,” Spencer said. “We have not solved the root of the problem. We don’t know why we are continuing to have elevated copper levels. The last time we tested, we still have some spots that are awfully high.”
Spencer said students and staff have been drinking bottled water provided by the school district.
“We have not drank water out of a water fountain here since Dec. 17,” Spencer said. “We buy water by the pallet from Orscheln [Farm & Home]. It takes two pallets [or 3,000 bottles] to get through a week of school. To cook with, we buy water by the gallon. We did receive a grant for $20,000.”
Spencer has been hopeful of finding a solution the past four months.
“They don’t teach you about water quality in superintendent’s school,” he said. “We have had lots of people that said, “I bet I can solve that problem.’ They come and look for two-and-a-half hours, they scratch their head and say ‘I don’t have any idea?’ We are still searching for the source.”
Spencer said an engineer is coming out next week to look at the situation.
“Less and less people are getting in line to come and look,” Spencer said. “Hopefully this engineer coming next week has a solution. It is going to take a place [or somebody] that just deals with this sort of thing and have seen it before.”
Spencer cited variables that effect testing as to how high or low the copper levels are in the building.
“It depends on building usage or what time of day you test,” he said. “The more you run the less copper there is. Dilution is the solution. The more it is diluted, the less copper there is when it comes out of the spigot. If you test first thing in the morning and you have not flushed, it is pretty high. At the end of the day, you test [and] it is not nearly as high. There are times and places where it tests really high today. We would flush and do the things you have to do to get a legit test then go test tomorrow and it might be half or even under the minimum level. We can’t keep it there.”
Spencer said the past few months have been frustrating at times.
“It has been incredibly challenging,” he said. “We have problem-solved quite well at Central Heights this year. We have worked our way through some actual problems. All things considered, it is spring time, school is open, life is good and the kids are great. We have had some challenges, but we will get through it all.”