How Healthy Schools Save Money

Water Quality

Water Quality

PHOTO © HQUALITY

“Water quality is becoming a global concern of increasing significance, as risks of degradation translate directly into social-economic impacts.” UN WATER (the United Nations inter-agency coordination mechanism for all freshwater related issues).

The World Health Organization (WHO) states: “…access to improved sources of water can result in better health and therefore better school attendance, with longer-term consequences for [student] … lives.”

While schools in the U.S. do not share the dire concerns affecting third-world countries, lead and other contaminants in school water translate into socio-economic impacts.

Given the uncertainly of water source quality, it’s vital to obtain your community’s annual Consumer Confidence Report if your school gets water from a municipality, and if the school has a well, to have the water from the well tested.

No matter where the water comes from (city or well), it’s also crucial to test what comes out of taps and fountains. Water contaminants may enter water closer to the point of use; e.g. from building supply pipes.

Get the Lead Out — Testing, Testing, 1,2,3

Understand three points about the importance of testing for lead:

  1. Even small amounts of ingested lead can affect behavior, impair learning and physical growth. High levels in the bloodstream can cause nerve problems, coma, convulsions and even death.
  2. EPA provides helpful guidance for preventing lead exposure and on how to test for lead in its 3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools guide.
  3. You can find a list of certified labs to test for lead and other contaminants on EPA’s site www.epa.gov.

Test First, Then Address the Issues

Assuming your water supply isn’t perfect, consider a Reverse Osmosis (RO), Ultraviolet Light (UV) or Ultrafiltration (UF) membrane filtration system for your school. Buying a system scaled for an entire school is not cheap, but having access to clean drinking water will pay dividends beyond the investment in purification (improved test scores, higher attendance and an untarnished reputation.)

What to Look For

Generally, vendors of industrial water purification systems will test your water and recommend the best solution or series of interventions, based on your water’s problems and the volume of water needed.

For example, UV systems are effective at killing microbes in water, while RO and UF are effective for removing particle and other contaminants. The vendor will help in determining the type and size of system based on your pollutant profile and how many gallons per day (GPD) you are likely to need.

Some systems can be powered by solar arrays, but you must have access to roofing or panel racks with a southern exposure.

Final Steps

Clean and disinfect water fountains, faucet screens and aerators regularly.

We urge you to submit your entry for the Healthy Facilities Award today. It’s not just a way to be recognized, but to further your progress on the path to health and prosperity.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.

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