Located near the science wing (Test 3) was a nonfunctional fountain that did not work due to the lack of upkeep and cleaning. Covered in spider webs, algae, dirt and leaves, this drinking fountain is one of many similar on the AGHS campus.
Located near the science wing (Test 3) was a nonfunctional fountain that did not work due to the lack of upkeep and cleaning. Covered in spider webs, algae, dirt and leaves, this drinking fountain is one of many similar on the AGHS campus.
Emme Landers

H2 Oh No!

Exploring the biodiversity of AGHS drinking fountains.

IIn the average student’s 7-hour school day, many opt for lunch-line plastic water bottles, their reusable water bottle, or when in a rush, the school’s water fountains and hydration station, which if closely inspected might leave its drinkers with questions.

To truly understand the cleanliness of the water stations around campus, we compiled multiple tests, interviews, and photographs. 

The Visible Layer 

The hygiene of water fountains varies around campus, but the majority caught our eyes as not “right.” There’s visible calcification, algae, and other potential fungi.  

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“A lot of [the fountains] are pretty dirty,” said Hunter Olson (25’). 

The 500’s wing (Test 1) has green algae growing on the water fountain. This fountain is functional and frequently used by students throughout the school day. (Emme Landers)

 

 

 

 

Behind the 400’s (Test 2) the water fountain shows some erosion and lack of maintenance. (Emme Landers)

 

 

Located near the science wing (Test 3) was a nonfunctional fountain that did not work due to the lack of upkeep and cleaning. (Emme Landers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located in the back of the 500’s wing (Test 4), the fountain worked but had a chunk of beef jerky jammed in it. (Emme Landers)
Test 5 was conducted on the commonly used water refill station located in the office.
(Journey Simunich)
Test 6 was collected from the filtered water refilling station located in the math hall.
(Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hydration station located in the new 1000’s wing, (Test 7), the newest drinking fountain on campus was found covered in leaves and dirt covering the drain.
(Journey Simunich)
One of the igloo water dispensers the school provides for students to receive water from during break and lunch (Test 8). (Natalie Fink)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The water that comes out of those [referring to the drinking fountains] is the same water that you would get out of one of the sinks in the bathroom,” Lead Custodian, Jay Delory said.

“It’s all the same water. Domestic water.”

However, often just the sight of the quality of the water fountains is enough to deter students from drinking water.

“I know a lot of kids don’t want to use the water fountains, so they don’t fill up their water bottles all day, which is obviously not the best for their health,” said English teacher, Ashley Kim.

Many of the water fountains around campus are either non-accessible to students due to problems with the water pipes or improper maintenance which leads to clogging. The other available drinking fountains are coated in crust, dirt, algae, and leaves.

“If the school wants to encourage drinking water they should clean [the fountains] more,” Kim said.

Water Testing

In determining the healthiness of the water, testing must be initiated by the school. Water is tested before arriving at the school’s waterlines, what happens to the water from there is determined by the school. 

“We supply the water to the city. But then the city blends it with their water and delivers it to you guys,” County Chemist, Danielle Ruedas said.

“The county has no rights over [the school’s] water— so we don’t test any of [it],” Ruedas said.

In addition, reports of AGHS’s water quality are difficult to find. The most recent report on the city’s website shows the test results from 2017, over six years ago, when the state asked for testing.

2017 water report results. (Emme Landers)

In these tests, the water quality was reported as acceptable. However, without access to more recent results, we did some of our own testing. While we are not scientists and do not have degrees in any scientific field, we were able to conduct our own water tests with the help of the science faculty on campus.

Furthering our research, we decided to swab around the area the water comes out of various drinking fountains around the campus and allowed the bacteria to grow. We swabbed drinking fountains, water refill stations, and hydration stations. To conduct our tests, Petri dishes were prepared using agar gel, a gel used to detect pathogens like bacteria and fungi. The surfaces of the water fountains were then swabbed with a clean swab. The Petri dishes were then allowed to incubate for three days, without disruptions. 

In most of the samples, fungi growth appeared as well as plenty of bacteria.

Petri dish from Test 1, three days after having been incubated. (Journey Simunich)
Petri dish of Test 2 on day three of incubation. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petri dish of Test 3, three days after having been incubated (Journey Simunich)
Petri dish of Test 4, three days after having been incubated. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petri dish of Test 5, three days after having been incubated. (Journey Simunich)
Petri Dish of Test 6, three days after having been incubated. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petri dish of Test 7, three days after having been incubated for three days. (Journey Simunich)
Petri dish of Test 8, three days after incubation. Noticeably less bacteria formed compared to any of the other sources of water tested. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

Microscopic image of Test 1. (Emme Landers)
Microscopic image of Test 2. (Emme Landers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microscopic image of Test 3. (Journey Simunich)
Microscopic image of Test 4. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microscopic image of Test 5. (Journey Simunich)
Microscopic image of Test 6. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microscopic image of Test 7. (Journey Simunich)
Microscopic image of Test 8. Noticeably fewer bacterial colonies. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test 1 Petri dish 11 days after incubation. Bacterial colonies are very prominent. (Journey Simunich)
Petri dish from Test 2, 11 days after incubation. Formation of mold began, as well as visible amounts of bacterial colonies. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petri dish of Test 3, 11 days after incubation. Many bacteria colonies are shown. (Journey Simunich)
Petri Dish of Test 4, 11 days after incubation. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petri dish of Test 5, 7 days after incubation. Fungal growth is very apparent. (Journey Simunich)
Petri dish of Test 6, 7 days after incubation. Fungal growth and bacterial colonies are present. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petri dish of Test 7, 7 days after incubation. Fungal growth is very present. (Journey Simunich)
Petri dish of Test 8, 7 days after incubation. Very little bacterial growth. (Colby Schmidt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Crystal violet is a type of stain we use and we found that it [the samples taken from the Petri dishes] was gram-positive,” Clifford Traylor said in regard to the bacteria.

Gram-positive bacteria grow in clusters and chains and can result in health problems. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Gram-positive organisms accounted for gram-negative organisms accounted for 22 percent in 1995 and 14 percent in 2000.”

Microscopic image of Test 1 bacteria staining results. The arrow points to two bacteria colonies. (Journey Simunich)
Microscopic image of small bacteria colonies from Test 1 shown through the bacteria staining. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microscopic image of Test 6. The arrow points to a bacterial cluster. (Journey Simunich)
Microscopic image of bacteria staining on Test 6. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microscopic Image of bacteria staining done on Test 6. The small black dots are small colonies of bacteria. (Journey Simunich)
Microscopic image of bacteria staining on Test 6. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microscopic image of Test 7 from the bacteria staining. (Journey Simunich)

The pH of the school’s water tested at 8.2, which is within reasonable limits for drinkable water. Water safe to drink generally should be between 6.5 to 8.5. The ammonia levels tested came back with a result of 1.0 ppm, a safe level for drinking water as well. Nitrate levels were also tested, coming back at 0 ppm, also safe, yet a test for fecal coliform did test positive, something potentially harmful.

Nitrate test that was conducted on December 7th. The test results came back at 0ppm, a drinkable amount of nitrates. (Journey Simunich)
An ammonia test was conducted on December 7th. The results were 1.0 ppm, testing at a drinkable level. (Journey Simunich)
The pH test results were 8.2, which is within healthy drinking standards. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of the two tested locations, Test 4 returned with a positive result for fecal coliform. While it may seem strange only one of the two locations tested positive, the source of the water for the two locations might be different.  

“Fecal coliform is a bacteria and it’s going to come from feces, so that’s where the name comes from,” Science teacher Katie Boos said.

“The biggest issue with it is that it can cause stomach upset,” Boos said.

 

 

“[With a] campus is as old as ours— I don’t think anybody knows where [the pipes are] all at,” Architecture teacher, Mel Cozby said. 

Test 1 tested negative for fecal coliform. Test 4 tested positive for fecal coliform. (Journey Simunich)

Coliform bacteria are present in the digestive tracts of animals and humans and their wastes. Fecal coliform can cause stomach aches and other gastrointestinal diseases if consumed frequently.

“If [the water has] any total coliform, then fecal coliform could come off like E coli,” Ruedas said.

While it only tested positive in one of our tests, this is very concerning to many students on campus. 

“I think this should be fixed if we have feces contaminating our water,” Wesley Levesque (26’) said.

While interviewing students on campus, many were concerned with the numerous health potential risks from the consumption of fecal coliform. Many stated that they would no longer drink the water provided by the school.

Pipes

Finally, while investigating the water’s maintenance routines, we discovered shocking information about the pipes in the school.

“[Some pipes are] 67 years old,” Cozby said. “There’s a lot of corrosion and that’s just natural,” 

A cracked water pipe from near the BBQ pits was said to have been leaking for around 15 years, allowing rust to leak in and out of the pipe into the water pipe. (Journey Simunich)

While the pipes were old, we had to find out if that could impact the quality of water students drink. 

“That crack and that amount of rust that was in the soil was probably leaking for at least 15 years. It took that long for the water to break the surface,” Delory said.

Delory continued to elaborate on the cracked water pipe he witnessed two summers ago.

“The whole ground was saturated and no one even knew that that pipe was there,” Delory said.

The outside of the cracked pipe was covered in rust, which was let inside the cracked pipe for 15 years. (Journey Simunich)

 

 

 

While the effect of rust in water can vary, stagnant water in pipes being exposed to rust is harmful.

“Rust can give you stomach issues [or] you could get a locked jaw, symptoms like that,” Ruedas said.

With fecal coliform tests being positive, potential rust contamination, bacteria, and fungus infecting the area the water comes from the state of water on campus is concerning, to say the least.

“The problem is the condition of the drinking fountains,” Traylor said. “They need to be cleaned.”

It’s not just the staff that is passionate about the state of drinking water on campus, Scarlett Salter, President of the H2O Club, hopes these issues can be resolved.

“The school should definitely be responsible for keeping the water clean. Improving the water quality on campus [helps] keep our students—healthy.”

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About the Contributors
Emme Landers
Emme Landers, Managing Editor
Emme Landers is a Junior and figures since she already talks too much, she might as well get class credits for writing about those things. When she isn't at school, Emme likes reading, watching cringy romcoms, and stress-baking. She is so excited to be a part of the staff and is looking forward to sharing her articles with Arroyo Grande High School.
Journey Simunich
Journey Simunich, Reporter
Journey Simunich is a Reporter for the Eagle Times this year as a senior at Arroyo Grande High School. She is currently the Environmental Club President for Arroyo Grande as well as the secretary for Arroyo Grande High School FFA. In her free time Journey likes to be outdoors, cook and spend time with friends. Journeys goal as a staff member for the Eagle Times is to create positive change within the school community.
Natalie Fink
Natalie Fink, Reporter
Natalie Fink is a Senior at AGHS, and is a new member at the Eagle Times. She has a cat named Charlie, who is a fireball and drives her family crazy. She likes to read, go on hikes, hang out with family and friends, and watch movies. Her mom is her very best friend. She loves her job at Starbucks. She is very excited to be a part of the Eagle Times staff this school year.
Colby Schmidt
Colby Schmidt, Managing Editor
Colby Schmidt is a senior at Arroyo Grande High School. An avid member of robotics, and the team's VP of Engineering and head of strategy who finds enjoyment in simple things, and enjoys a good competition. Avid player of board, card, and video games, and a long-time D&D player. Not part of any sports, but still tries to stay active. A scientifically minded student who particularly enjoys chemistry.

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    Pattie Bottorff WileyDec 28, 2023 at 6:56 am

    I hope these results are going to the school board. Also many of the other schools in our district have pipes just as old that need to be checked as well. This is a serious issue.

    Reply
  • R

    Rosemary MenardDec 26, 2023 at 10:28 am

    As a drinking water professional with more than 40 years of experience, I’m terribly disturbed by this article. The response by the County staffer quoted in the article is technically correct but what you must do and what you can do are two different things. The students’ interest in the water quality at their school presented a wonderful opportunity to engage with young people about the important work of producing and delivering high quality drinking water as well as the challenges facing our communities in maintaining this critical service and adapting it to be resilient in the face of climate change that is already happening. Too bad, really, too bad.

    Reply