Student Perspective: Will Newton’s Public Fountains Reopen and be Safe?

Although it occurred over three years ago, the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan still remains relevant to this day. It was what prompted the Department of Public Works to increase testing water for lead beyond the state mandate, and over the past two years, lead in water has been an ongoing concern in Newton.

Last year, 42 public water fountains were shut down, 27 of which were previously in use, because testing revealed some evidence of lead, according to a letter to residents from the Department of Public Works.

The City committed to further testing and launched a survey to determine how important access to public fountains was to the public. As evaluation continues, the City is temporarily distributing water in portable water fountains at recreational outdoor facilities where it has a legal obligation, or from MWRA mobile water trucks during city-sponsored events.

As of now, the City has no solid long-term plan to address this problem, but “…hopes to make a decision before the mayor leaves office,” according to Chief Administrative Officer Dori Zaleznik. The findings from test results have revealed a more complex problem regarding the causes of lead in some of the water fountains. In order to plan effectively for a solution that will continue to provide public access to water in the parks, the city staff are considering a number of creative options which they plan to disclose once a decision has been made.

To take the next step, however, the City has recently created a second survey for residents, which includes questions regarding the use of public water fountains. Although many residents responded ‘yes’ to wanting water fountains in parks in the first survey, the City is hoping for further clarification regarding actual use of public water fountains.

City Councilor Alison Leary said she hopes that the city will seek to obtain grants from the MWRA to replace old lead pipes connecting to public water fountains just as they obtained a grant to offer “no-interest” loans to fund replacement of lead pipes in homes.

by Lucy Lu, GN Summer Intern

GN summer interns Lucy Lu & Seika Ghavidel working with Cory Alperstein

If you have a student grades 6-12 interested in joining Students for a Greener World please contact Margaret Ford at [email protected].