The water fountain and bottle refilling station stands unused in the third floor hallway.

Photo by Michael Moriarty

The water fountain debate: Is drinking from a red light safe?

April 11, 2019

If you’ve recently walked down the halls of York, you may have noticed the fairly new water bottle fillers adorning the water fountains. You may have also noticed that many of the fountains’ filter statuses are red and stay that way for days on end. This issue has caught the concern of many students and faculty across the school, leaving many to stop using the fountain and bottle filler altogether out of fear that it is unsafe.

 

The fountains have three statuses, green, yellow and red, each indicating a different stage in the life of the filter.

 

Photo by Michael Moriarty
Water from a fountain with a red filter status is often avoided by staff and students.

 

“Green,” according to the water fountain company Halsey Taylor’s representative Michelle Hickey, “[indicates]  The filter is doing its job, providing you with a cleaner, fresher drink. Yellow [indicates] the water is still being filtered but will need to be replaced shortly. Red [indicates] the filter has reached 100% of its usable life and should be replaced promptly.”

 

Many students are concerned with drinking the water when the filter is red and some even avoid filling up at stations displaying the red light. In fact only 57.1% of students surveyed think that it is safe to use the water fountain when the filter status is red.

 

“There’s levels to this,” one student said. “When taking a few quick sips, sure. Go ahead, it can’t hurt. Filling an entire water bottle? Think twice.”

 

On the manufacturer’s website, it states that the filters need to be replaced every 3,000 gallons. This may seem like a lot of water but with over 2,500 students in attendance at York and the many staff members who also use the water fountains, it does not take long for the filter status to change from green to red.

 

Photo by Michael Moriarty
The red light filter status indicates that the filter needs to be replaced.

 

They wouldn’t let us drink it [the water from a red filter status] if it wasn’t safe” another student said. “But I’d prefer not to drink it.”

 

The simplest solution to guarantee you are getting the purest filtered water at school is filling up from water filling stations displaying the green light.

 

Drinking from a fountain displaying the yellow or red light will not harm you; the water just won’t be as thoroughly filtered. All the red light means is that the water coming out of the fountain is no different from tap water, which in the area we live in, the tap water, sourced from Lake Michigan, is safe to drink.

 

“It is still safe to drink from (when the filter status light shines red). We still have safe tap water.”  McGuire said.

 

If a student notices that a water fountain has a red water filter status they should contact maintenance or Mr. McGuire and he will notify maintenance that the filter needs to be changed.

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