Get the Lead Out

By Susan Lutz

Tests came back from our school’s water samples. The results indicated elevated levels of lead and copper in faucets throughout the system. Drinking fountains were shut off; signs posted. Our school initiated testing, something they did voluntarily. Many samples were “first draws,” from the water sitting in the faucets during the night. Fixing water supplies is a difficult and expensive task. I threw extra water bottles for my son into his backpack. He’d been in some of the rooms that tested positive. Water fountains are located right in many of the rooms. He loves drinking fountains. I’ve watched kids saunter up to fountains after a good romp on the playground. They are empowered, quenching their thirst on their terms and rewarding their body and mind for a job well done. Clear and cold, the water tasted great and at the same time, full of toxins.

Flint, Michigan. Once the words meant simple a town, now they spell a disaster. Many schools around the country report problems with their water supply. Old buildings mean aging pipes. Schools struggle with budgets to keep up everything from teachers to infrastructure. The story in Flint raised a flag of the dangers in our waters supply across the country.

I’ve always worried about toxins in water. When I lived in Central America, water was checked for the levels of cockroach droppings in it. Chlorine was a regular addition to many water supplies. I tried keeping up with buying bottled water, but news reports showed even that supply was tainted, and, the price kept going up. Bottled water adds yet another dimension to the environmental impact that fills the land with plastic. Many of the brands of bottled water are not better than the water from the tap and the cost can be 2000 times more than tap water. Yet, now what? Does bottled water now return as our water source? What do we do?

My son runs to a water fountain with such glee. The water flies out, and he takes a sip. I can’t always stop him. Even in school, signs are posted to not drink out of certain fountains. My child can’t read those yet. At the library, the shopping center, or any other public places, water now makes me worry. We make messes that become so hard to clean up. From the little plastic, disposable coffee K-cup, to the use of plastic bags, to glow-in-the dark plastic wands, I have a choice to consume these or not. Though not always easy to avoid, I feel maybe I have a fighting chance. With water, however, we as a nation must deal with it. We start with schools, and then we must move on to open our eyes and not ignore the problem that most likely is flowing everywhere we drink.

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