From left, Royal Oak Schools Operations Manager Patrick Murphy; Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward, D-Royal Oak; and Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick stand beside a newly installed water filtration system at Upton Elementary School in Royal Oak July 30.

From left, Royal Oak Schools Operations Manager Patrick Murphy; Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward, D-Royal Oak; and Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick stand beside a newly installed water filtration system at Upton Elementary School in Royal Oak July 30.

Photo provided by Dave Woodward


Oakland County schools receive 650 new drinking water systems

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 20, 2018

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ROYAL OAK/CLAWSON — The summer installation of 650 modern filtered water bottle refilling stations in Oakland County schools is underway, with all set to be in place in time for the first day of school.

Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward, D-Royal Oak, led the Oakland County Kids’ Safe School Drinking Water initiative, or the large-scale replacement of water fountains in more than 20 districts across the county.

Woodward said the Flint water crisis alerted him to the potential for better water solutions.

“What we’ve found is that overwhelmingly (water contamination) occurs in the end-user side, the drinking foundation,” he said. “The fixture is where the problem occurs. In some cases, these things are 40 to 50 years old, and when they break down, composites end up in the water.”

Woodward said he worked with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Elin Warn Betanzo, who both helped uncover the Flint water crisis, to come up with the countywide initiative.

The three all attended the same grade at Kimball High School, now Royal Oak High School, and were involved in a student environmental club together. Woodward partially credited his interest in politics with his experience in high school.

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners allocated more than $500,000 to finance new water stations, and more than 20 public school districts, plus charter schools, in the county agreed to install and maintain them.

“We wanted to buy them all at the same time, because the bulk purchasing drove the cost down,” Woodward said. “These new stations have filtration units that make them unique that captures if there’s lead in the water or other dangerous chemicals and helps meet that safety need.”

Another benefit of the new water stations, he said, is the emphasis on promoting healthy habits. Each one comes equipped with a water bottle filling component, as well as a nozzle for drinking straight from the station.

“We know dehydration has negative impacts (on learning),” he said. “(The units also come with) a tracker that shows how many water bottles are being saved, so it’s preventing additional plastic bottles from going into the environment.”

Woodward said he hopes other counties across the country adopt a similar model to protect water against lead and other toxic chemicals.

Mary Beth Fitzpatrick, superintendent of Royal Oak Schools, said that the district was already in the process of replacing all of the drinking fountains in its elementary schools as part of its bond update. With the county’s help, she said, the district applied for and received 27 new water systems to bring the districtwide total to 40.

She said the district started with the elementary schools because there’s a higher number of water fountains in them.

“(With the county’s help, we’ll) finish off all of the fountains (in the elementary schools) and then we’ll continue, through bond money and our funds, to slowly change the rest of the fountains,” Fitzpatrick said. “These are an added layer of assurance that our students have access to the cleanest drinking water, and we’re thankful this initiative has been made a priority by the county.”

Andrea Hodges, president of the Clawson Board of Education, said the district will install the new water systems that it received from the county in its elementary schools and middle school.

Nine water stations will be installed at Schalm Elementary, seven at Kenwood Elementary, three at the Baker building and 15 at Clawson Middle School, according to Clawson Public Schools.

“One thing I do like about these is you can refill water bottles, and it helps recycling by promoting a reuse mentality,” Hodges said. “They’re really just more efficient, and you won’t have all the kids running for a sip of water.”

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