UPDATE: Nine TEC fountains now have filters

A year in the making, a Pirateer story brings fresh water to students.
Two journeyman plumbers from Foster Plumbing spent hours installing the white canisters to the left side of the fountains near the high school gym, in the Commons, and in the ELA hallway. The workers said the installation process took roughly 30 minutes each.
Two journeyman plumbers from Foster Plumbing spent hours installing the white canisters to the left side of the fountains near the high school gym, in the Commons, and in the ELA hallway. The workers said the installation process took roughly 30 minutes each.
Hailey Rae Darras

UPDATE:

Finally! Students cheered the morning the water changed at Englewood. Water filters can now be found on nine water fountains across the TEC campus. You may have heard the impact drill sounds echoing through the halls. 

Two journeyman plumbers from Foster Plumbing spent hours installing the white canisters to the left side of the fountains near the high school gym, in the Commons, and in the ELA hallway. The workers said the installation process took roughly 30 minutes each. 

Two journeyman plumbers from Foster Plumbing spent hours installing the white canisters to the left side of the fountains near the high school gym, in the Commons, and in the ELA hallway. The workers said the installation process took roughly 30 minutes each.
(Hailey Rae Darras)

On October 10, 2023, the workers arrived at 7:15 to get started with the project that had been one year in the making. 

You will also notice the posters hanging with the new filters above the fountains. They are there to educate students about the cost and importance of the new addition. 

We learned that the plumbers are highly qualified and well-educated in their craft. The workers have a combined 20 years of experience. They said they attended Plumbers Local 3, taking classes twice a week, while working full time. The education from Plumbers Local 3 in Aurora is free and they plumbers make over 6-figures in salary. Click on the link above to learn more about the school. 

The water coming out of the new filters is ice-cold and clear. It also has a few bubbles that may indicate its effectiveness. 

This is the first set of three installations that will take place over the course of the next five years. 

__________________________________________________________

“Kinda like there is something in it, like musty,” said freshman Ophelia Durgin, when interviewed about the water fountains on the Englewood High School campus a year ago. 

Now, we have an update that will soon deliver fresh, filtered water to students. 

It was September of 2022 when The Pirateer brought attention to the unfiltered water coming from many of the fountains around the school. We learned several things at that time. First, the fountains around the TEC campus were installed when the schools were rebuilt nearly ten years ago and the actual filter system was not included in many of the installs, despite the green light that may look like the water is being filtered into your bottles. Second, the water for Englewood originates in the mountains. You may assume that it is pure, but it goes through a water delivery system of pipes that are more than 70 years old. According to the city, the taste and odor can worsen as pipes get older.

On the city side, two huge projects are in the works that will replace old pipes and refresh our water system. They are called the Big Dry Creek Diversion Project and the Flow it Forward Project. You can learn more about these programs here.

The water issue at the TEC campus caught the attention of the superintendent who recently stopped by The Pirateer classroom to give a highly anticipated update. We have now learned filters are just weeks away. 

Joanna Polzin was accompanied by Ariel Ramos, the Operations and Maintenance Director for Englewood Public School District. When the initial story came out last year, Polzin wanted to get started right away on finding a solution, but due to budget issues and numerous district projects, a solution was postponed.

Superintendent Joanna Polzin led the charge to fix the issue surrounding the non-filtered water after it was brought to her attention by the staff of The Pirateer. Standing by one set of fountains that will get a new filter are Polzin and Ariel Ramos, the Operations and Maintenance Director for Englewood Public School District. Ramos spent time researching plumbing companies and getting bids.
(Michael Marquis)

To move the water filter project forward, Ramos, who had to search for funding and get bids, had a lot on his plate. “He oversaw the construction of all four elementary schools, the early childhood center at Maddox, as well as the renovation at the Roscoe Davison Administration building,” said Polzin. 

“I was here through all the construction, from the old building into the new building. The water-filtered fountains don’t have filters and I know why that process didn’t happen during construction. The bottle fillers were kind of a new thing at that time; the plumbers had a very difficult time getting those to fit inside the existing fountains that were chosen during the project of this build,” said Ramos.  

Ramos was the head facility manager for EHS when it opened. When he started working here, he noticed the water issue. “It doesn’t taste good. I remember the first time that I started here back in 2014, and I drank out of one of the fountains, and I was like, Oh my goodness, no, I cannot drink out of this fountain every day.”

To fix the issue and bring clean, filtered water to students and staff, Ramos says, it is necessary to mount all these filters on the outside of the fountains or next to the fountains. “These are going to be out where the kids can touch them, they can be vandalized.”

Our new filters
Signs will go up where the new filters are located
Signs will go up where the new filters are located

The filters are being installed on the walls near the fountains, and they are open to vandalism. That is concerning to Superintendent Joanna Polzin and Operations and Maintenance Director Ariel Ramos. You will start seeing signs up around the fountains so you know which stations are filtered.

"Ariel (Mr. Ramos) has a budget for the Englewood campus concerning operations and maintenance and every time something happens here, whether it's an accident or whether it's on purpose, it takes money out of that budget to get it fixed. To do the cleanup after the flood that was caused by too much toilet paper being put in the toilet it takes more money out of his budget to fix it. So it puts things like the rest of the drinking fountain on the back burner because it's not an immediate need for the building," said Polzin. 

 

The water fountains in the Commons will be fitted with new filters on October 10, 2023.
The water fountains in the Commons will be fitted with new filters on October 10, 2023. (Serenity Gambrell)
Students react to new filters - Story by LaMarr Sykes

A year after the Pirateer brought the water filters to our attention, it still seems to be a problem affecting both the students and athletes. 

“After hard work of practice, the team needs fresh water to rehydrate and should be able to rely on the school for that,” said Senior Dane Quintana. 

The water issue is making things more and more difficult for students to hydrate when the water they need doesn’t taste good. 

“The water at this school is important for athletes who need to hydrate, but have no water of their own. But some students would rather not drink anything than drink this water,” said Junior Cameron Meade.

When told about the water issue being corrected soon, students are excited, “Feels nice to know the taste of the water is finally being corrected to help the students and athletes at this school,” said Quintana. 

“I’m finally happy because the water here has been nasty for years. And it’s good that it’s finally changing,” said Sophomore Hernan Martinez.

“The water here doesn’t taste very good, But I’m glad it’s being updated to fit the needs of students,” said Junior Nayla Johnson.

When Ramos was researching solutions he found the costs for filters were way more expensive than before COVID. That means the district needs to take into consideration which fountains students prioritize. “It would cost us about $10,000 to have all of the fountains done. It gets pretty expensive when it comes to labor.” 

Ramos and Polzin pointed out that in this district, there are limited funds for buildings and projects. They emphasized that money from last year could have been used to update the filters, however, because the bathrooms were vandalized, and toilets were clogged on purpose, it caused thousands of dollars in damage. “And it takes away from the budget to be able to put in things like water filters,” said Polzin.  

We learned that there are working filters on a few fountains around the school including the set by the girls’ locker room, as well as the fountain on the lower level in the middle school, outside of the Northfield house. “There is filtered water in the building, just not at every location,” said Ramos. 

On September 20, the district awarded the contract to install filters on nine fountains to Foster Plumbing. The company ordered the filters which have a two-week lead time. 

“I’m looking at doing three groups of fountains, which will be outside the Southfield house, the ones on the upper level of ELA, and then the cafeteria ones,” said Ramos. 

The rest of the filters will be installed in the coming years, “We would do nine fountains this year, and then we do maybe five fountains next year and so on, till they’re all done.”

The installation date has been scheduled for October 10.

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