Filter First, child at drinking fountain

Filter First Approach

So, how can schools provide a safe, lead-free source of water? Some school districts in Michigan have started to phase in filtered drinking water stations. These filtered water stations are drinking water fountains and bottle filling stations with certified filters that reduce dangerous lead contamination and other impurities (i.e. chlorine and odors). These systems can replace old drinking fountains, be retrofitted for existing fountains, or be installed independently

Filtered hydration station units can cost anywhere from $600 to $3,000, with installation, ancillary, and removal fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the project. After installation, schools also need a budget for maintenance costs, including replacement filters. Filters cost around $100 each and need to be replaced every year or as soon as the 3,000-gallon capacity is reached. 

To ensure adequate access to clean, lead-free water, schools should install 1 unit per every 100 students enrolled. Successfully implementing filtered water stations in a school requires ongoing support and maintenance, appropriate signage, culture and habit modification, verification, sampling, timely transparency and communication, and funding. 

Filtered hydration stations will be used to filter out lead in school water for students, faculty, and staff in Detroit, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Birmingham public schools. 

In 2018, Detroit Public Schools voluntarily tested its drinking water and found elevated lead levels in 57 schools. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti then announced that the school would be installing 818 hydration stations across 106 schools. Detroit is one of the largest districts to adopt this technology. The district raised the nearly $3 million needed for the project through community and private donors. Students get their own reusable water bottles in order to take full advantage of the stations. Principals and school engineers are being trained to monitor systems and replace filters as needed.