Red filter water fountains are safe– despite student belief

September 27, 2019


Jovana Kuzmanovic

Ashley Boak filling up her Hydro Flask knowing that the water at red fountain is safe to drink.

The Elkay water bottle filler stations have been popular throughout DGS ever since they were first installed about four years ago. Each fountain has a light either green, yellow or red that indicates the filter status of the fountain, which leads to the question of whether it is actually safe to drink the water coming out of the water bottle filler stations that have a red filter light.

Micheal Reyes, the supervisor of building and grounds at DGS gave some insight about the water bottle filler stations and filters.

Reyes states that the job of the filters is to remove particulates from the water. The filters aid mostly in removing lead, but lead isn’t a big problem for the DGS area. At the same time, the public works department of Downers Grove does come frequently to make sure that the water the fountains distribute is healthy for consumption.

The problem occurs that many students aren’t informed about how the fountains actually work. 

Junior Bennett Allendorfer walks past many of the crowded water fountains every day and states that she hesitates before drinking out of the stations that display a red light.

“I assume the quality of the water isn’t as good as it usually is, and I guess it’s technically not unhealthy, but it does make me think twice before using it,” Allendorfer said.

Reyes then clarified how the lights on the filters work and what they indicate.

“The way those [water bottle filling stations] operate to change the light from green, to yellow, to red, are actually looking at the water usage, it’s not looking at water pressure. Typically, on a filter you are looking at the differential pressure between the incoming water pressure and the outgoing water pressure, so if your pressure is low on the outside, it means that your filter is clogged,” Reyes said.

The water fountain lights run on the idea that the more the fountain is used, the more particulates are being stored, so the lights change based on this idea. 

Knowing information regarding the mechanics of the water fountain could assist in making students less confused about the quality of the water they are receiving from the fountains. 

Senior Kaylee Kushta, who drinks water at school daily, does not hesitate to drink out of any of the fountains.

“Through APES we learned where [our] water comes from and how clean our water source is…I have no issue drinking tap water or any water here just because I know it’s coming from a clean water source,” Kushta said.

However, she does believe that the red lights do scare some students from drinking the water from these fountains.

To help clarify the assumptions of the quality of water from the red fountains. Reyes spoke about the safety of drinking out of these fountains. 

“There’s no way that any of the particulates or material from the filter itself can actually just come out… It is still safe to drink because our filters they measure the usage so how many liters [of water] are actually coming out,” Reyes said.

Also, the Elkay customer service team did notify that the more usage the filter has, the more full it becomes, so it will only help to change the filter as soon as possible once it turns red, but how quick one should change it depends on the quality of their water source.

Downers Grove purchases water from the DuPage Water Commission. This water comes from Lake Michigan and according to the Village of Downers Grove website,

“The water supplied by the village meets all Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) standards, including those for lead.”

Therefore, the students and staff are safe to drink out of the red fountains, but to help get the filters replaced quicker a student can notify a teacher or staff member about the fountain in question and the adult can file a work order for the filter to be replaced.

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