Hydration station filters lead to overflow of questions, concerns


Marian students use the water fountain units and filling stations on a daily basis, but many have noticed that the water filters, meant to keep the student body healthy, may not be at peak performance. Water fountain filtering systems have been seeing more red lights than ever, but what is Marian doing to fix this issue?

The filters are designed to give the community cleaner, healthier water. However, with most filter station lights on red, are they really doing their job? Since the beginning of August, the drinking portions have been blocked off, but water-filling stations are still being used.

According to the Elkay (the system manufacturer)website, all of the filters are made with activated carbon designed to improve the taste and odor of the water. The filters are NSF certified to NSF/ANSI 42 and 53 for reduction of lead, chlorine, taste and odor, which permits the filters to decrease contaminant levels for health benefits. Health effects are set in this standard as regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The filters are considered class one particulate in water filtration; in other words, they are ranked top class in removing a large amount of particles safely and efficiently. Elkay filters are supposed to be easy to connect and have self-contained replaceable cartridges, limiting exposure to contaminated media. Most parts manufactured are ISO 9001 registered and meet strict customer service health standards.

Head of Indoor Maintenance Mr. Eric Phipps explained that the reason behind the filter lights’ red glow was a timer system. “The filters get changed when the red light comes on and that varies depending on usage. This year has been unusual because of COVID-19,” Phipps said. “I’m sure everyone has noticed [that] the red lights have been on since school started. The reason for that is in addition to the fountain keeping count of water usage, it also has a timer built in that will turn the light red after so many days regardless of activity,” he said. 

Since most filters and fountains were not used during the last quarter of the 2019-2020 school year and the following summer, the filters were not as worn down as they usually would be. The filters were green, but due to the automatic timer, they turned red even when nobody was here to use the fountains. The filters were replaced over Thanksgiving break. 

“I think Marian has been applauded [since] the first water fountain was put in the quad. It was somewhat new technology at the time and the girls really used it!” Phipps said. One aspect of these machines is a water counter that provides a number for the amount of bottles filled. “[However] the counter doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of bottles filled at that fountain, and due to an error, the counter was reset at around 175,000 bottles filled,” Phipps said.

To go further in depth about the different filter status, the green LED light stands for 100 percent to 20 percent, yellow light stands for 20 percent to 1 percent and red light indicates that the filter needs to be replaced. 

Senior Bridget Gerards said she is “an adamant water drinker and frequently [uses] the water fountains at school. I noticed many of the filters were red and wondered if my water isn’t being filtered all the way.” While not putting a huge importance on the situation, she said she would prefer cleaner drinking water. “I think the filter status is an important part to keeping Marian students safe and healthy,” Gerards said. 

Freshman Phoebe Meier said she “didn’t really know what the lights on the fountains were…[and] just guessed the filter needed cleaning or something fixed.” Even after hearing talk about the lights, Meier said she “still continued to drink out of the stations,” trusting Marian maintenance to keep the water cool and clean. 

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